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QRD #40 - Happy Father's Day! - June 2009
about this issue
interviews with:
Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton
Shaun Sandor of Promute
Jeremy M Lange, photographer
Chris Bonner of THe BAcksliders
Matthew Kendall of Rogue Motel
BevanHurdof The VeryFoundation
Michael Jarmer of Here Comes Everybody
Chris Williams of Maple Stave
Brian John Mitchell of Remora
Kyle Monday of Carta
Bill Tollner of Amadan
Sacha Galvagna of Carta
RobertBrownof Northern Valentine
Benjamin LÝzninger of LÝzninger
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Interview with Robert Brown of Northern Valentine 
June 2009

We’ve been friends with Robert Brown, the leader of Philadelphia’s indie ambient outfit Northern Valentine, for about a year.  His daughter Daphne is just a couple months old.

Name: Robert Brown
Band: Northern Valentine
Website: northernvalentine.com

QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?

Bob – I think I was about 15 when it hit me & I got a guitar, but I didn’t see my way to acting on any of those impulses to create my own music & do something about it until I was about 22.

QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?

Bob – The biggest highlight is being able to play music with my wife, Amy.  It’s wonderful to have such a strong, common thread that runs with both of us... it’s a lifelong endeavor for us.  Being able to play music with friends is a highlight as well.  Some musical highlights for me would include: being one of the first people to play music in a tiny little church off the coast of Reykjavik, Iceland & our two tours with our Icelandic friends For a Minor Reflection; improvising music live & touring/playing with performers/bands like P.D. Wilder - Hotel, Hotel - Jesse Beaman (My Empty Phantom) - Aydin - Jon Attwood (yellow6) - Lunch with Beardo - Jeff Barsky (Insect Factory), & Ben Fleury-Steiner (who is a highlight & a kindred spirit in & of himself) & simply traveling & meeting people who feel as strongly about music as I do.

QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?

Bob – Somewhere in my mid-twenties I remember thinking that I think I’d like to be a father someday so that there would be a little person to look after & spend time with doing “dad stuff.”

QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?

Bob – Scheduling the balance between “life” & “music life” can be a challenge, because I want to support both my family & our music.  Both are important parts of my life.  I do feel blessed to have the time & resources to do all that we do.

QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?

Bob – Some of the late shows, night after night on a tour, can start to take a toll.
I like to break it up & give a day or two off when we do a tour... just to unwind from anything that can pop up when you’re on the road day after day, sleeping in new places.  I think for a positive impact, playing live more frequently has made us stronger musicians & more in sync with each other.  We’re more selective in the scope of what projects we take on at anytime. 

QRD – Has your daughter effected the music you make &/or listen to?

Bob – We still listen to the same music & we’ll share a lot of it with our daughter when the time is right.  I think she’ll also enjoy some, or all, of what we’ve done musically.

QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?

Bob – Not really.  Amy & I both have jobs outside of playing music & they afford us the opportunity to do a lot of what we’ve done with our music.  It would always be welcome to have a steady income drawn from the music.  We keep taking steps to get closer to that point.

QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?

Bob – Probably not.  I was not comfortable performing for the longest time & I hated driving much more back then.  Having a family just means that you find a way to make it all work & balance your time.  As we go, our daughter will likely be with us in some (or all) of our travels as we play.

QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?

Bob – I think that being a father is probably more of an impact on your immediate community, where you spend most of your time.  A musician can have a local impact, though I see it as a global impact, as we still receive feedback & support from people here in the US & overseas.

QRD – Would you rather see your daughter eventually become a musician or parent?

Bob – Both actually, because it is possible.

QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in.  How do you end up dividing your time?

Bob – As carefully as possible, so as to make sure I do not ignore one or the other.  I try very hard to keep balance & make it all come together.  I’d say right now the scales are tipped heavily in favor of our daughter for most of my time.  I’m focusing more right now on the quality, not the quantity, of what we’re doing musically. 

QRD – What does your daughter think of your music?

Bob – Right now, she’s only 10 weeks old, so I can only assume she likes it.  It doesn’t make her cry, so she must enjoy it!

QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your child?

Bob – Yes, I’ve got my fingers crossed for that & I believe that we’ll be able to do that someday.  She’ll hear a lot of music & it will hopefully sway her to embrace a lot of styles & influences.

QRD – Any words of advice to young people?

Bob – Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make music or that you’re “doing it wrong.”  Everyone can make music & it’s all around you.  If you spend time listening to a lot of different styles of music, you’ll hear the possibilities in anyone & everything around you to make music.

Other QRD interviews with Northern Valentine:
Couples interview with Robert & Amy of Northern Valentine (February 2007)
Northern Valentine interview (March 2009)