with Chris Brokaw of The New Year
Name: Chris Brokaw
Bands: (Currently): The Lemonheads, The New Year, Wrekmeister Harmonies, The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries; & solo
QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?
Chris – I guess when I was 13 or 14 I knew I really wanted to pursue this. But it wasn’t until I was 37 (in 2002) that I decided to go for it as a fulltime job.
QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?
Chris – The records I made with Codeine, Come, Pullman, Consonant, Dirtmusic & numerous other collaborative bands. The most fully realized of my solo albums: Red Cities, Incredible Love, Gamblers Ecstasy, The Periscope Twins, VDSQ Solo Acoustic Volume III. Playing at Lincoln Center with Rhys Chatham in a 200 guitar ensemble. Playing as one of 77 drummers with the Boredoms in a park in Brooklyn. Performing at the Festival in the Desert in Essakane, Mali & returning a year later to make an album in Bamako.
QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?
Chris – I didn’t! But in 2013 I married a woman with a son, now 17, who has become my stepson.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?
Chris – I think I’m looking more towards finding work I can do at home, like film scoring & maybe doing less touring, which is my primary source of income. I see this as a positive influence, though I still love touring & have no bad connotations with it.
QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?
Chris – Probably the worst thing is just being away a lot. On the other hand, I’ve made lots of friends overseas, some of whom we will stay with soon on a family vacation!
QRD – Have your children effected the music you make &/or listen to?
Chris – My stepson is really into hip-hop, which I barely know at all, so I’ve heard some new music through him. He’s also really into Frank Sinatra, which is always a good reminder that I should listen to him more. Whether any of this is effecting my music at all remains to be seen. I think my wife has inspired some of my first genuine out & out love songs that I’m proud of & quite happy with; I literally think she has inspired some of my best work.
QRD – Do you think being involved in music has made your children different than their piers?
Chris – I hope it’s made him more open-minded about careers in the arts & sort of alternate-careers in general. Working for yourself, being your own boss. Perhaps it’s exposed him to things his friends haven’t seen. I think his own pursuits of the arts, entirely independent of any influence of mine, have made him different from his peers.
QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?
Chris – Not in a desperate or pressing way; but, sure, it would be comforting to have more steady or predictable revenue streams. But I don’t think this has really created problems, per se, in maintaining a household that feels secure.
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?
Chris – I’ve been touring pretty steadily since 1992. I guess I prioritized that over having a family (& many other things). Having a real family, wife & stepson, is fairly new for me & so I’m learning & re-assessing what my priorities & goals are now. Those change over life & that’s fine. I think we all came together with knowledge & acceptance of what I do, but I think my own goals are changing as a result of having a family & will probably continue to change & evolve.
QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?
Chris – That’s very difficult to weigh. I think the art I do has a positive impact on the people who like it. But, if I can have a positive effect in the raising of my stepson, perhaps that’s a greater gift.
QRD – Would you rather see your stepson eventually become a musician or parent?
Chris – Whatever he wants is fine with me. I think he’d be a great parent. He is already a great artist & I’d certainly support him 100% in pursuing that.
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?
Chris – I spend a lot of time with my wife & stepson. They’re really the center of my life & certainly the main people I spend time with here in Seattle. There’s more I’d like to do on a social level with my stepson, but he’s at the age where he really wants to spend more time with friends. We all try to do stuff together. We all travel together a lot & that’s always fun & positive.
QRD – What does your stepson think of your music?
Chris – I think he likes some of it. Some more than others. I think he has a great deal of respect & admiration for what I do & how I’ve crafted my career.
QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your stepson?
Chris – I’d love to. It’s not easy to imagine, right off the bat; it’s hard to imagine incorporating him into the music I do. But I’d be thrilled to participate in anything he initiated & would love to collaborate with him on some level. He’s a really smart, funny, insightful kid (& artist - primarily visual).
QRD – Any words of advice to young people?
Chris – If you are interested (which is to say wildly driven) in pursuing the arts: go for it. It can be something you do just for yourself or those around you or for the whole world. Making art (music, etc.) is worthwhile just on its own; it can be great for you & may be for others too. It’s a very difficult thing to make a living at & you should have few expectations on that level. If you find music exciting, try to hear as much as you can - there are so many fascinating styles of music out there, it may take a while before you find the thing that resonates most with you. Collaborating with others on art/music can be one of the most surprising & fulfilling things you ever do - that’s certainly been the case for me. Share what you know with others & hopefully they’ll do the same.
QRD – Anything else?
Chris – Nope. Thank you for asking me in on this!