A Conversation with Brother Elsey: Lineage, Lyrics and Love
Updated: Feb 2, 2020
Brother Elsey's name isn't the only familial thing about them. The fabric of their music stitches together three brothers, each a separate piece of fabric sewn into a rich tapestry of folk, rock and raw emotion. Named for their family patriarch, their great grandfather Elsey, this musical trio has learned a lot about risking the familiar in order to chase and craft the songs and stories they love. Learning to lean on each other rather than look outwards, this unique band of brothers has enabled themselves to spin some of the most heartfelt tracks coming out of Michigan right now.
Their start in music happened when they were about ten, busking in Detroit while their dad worked an office job in the city. They'd play covers and eventually started writing their own songs to bring out on the sidewalks with them.
It wasn't always just the three of them though. Somewhere along the way, they began playing with other people and bringing other musicians into the mix. In fact, these three brothers- Brady, Jack and Beau- have been at their music for years. It wasn't until two years ago they decided to go back to their roots and make music with just the three of them again:
"We were so terrified to drop the other band members...that was the final thing, like 'oh shit we're finally on our own.'" Brady says. "We're in this by ourselves."
"And we're lucky because it's three of us," Jack chimes in. "We're not really on our own."
The result? That first year was huge. Writing truly good songs on their own and ditching the old tracks created a small catalogue of work that has allowed Brother Elsey to not only gain momentum but also create some of their best music to date.
Roots in the Great Lakes State
All that being said, those first years playing music were formative nonetheless. Brother Elsey credits much of their early success and growth to a vibrant Detroit music scene. While there wasn't exactly a niche for the type of music they were playing at the time, Brother Elsey managed to get their music out in a widely pop-punk Detroit with gigs across the city. Fusion Shows (concerts put on by a local promoter) allowed B.E. to pair up with bigger bands as openers and get their sound out there.
However, it was interesting to note that Brother Elsey really wasn't serving up what the rest of that music scene was. "Our dad was never really a rock dad, you know? He never blasted AC/DC. So we weren't really influenced by bands like that... like so many of our classmates whose parents liked that kind of music." Rather, Bruce Springsteen and TimMcGraw were the norms around the house. Brother Elsey grew up with a lot of 90s country which, if you listen enough you can hear a touch in their music. Fast forward a few years and they would be into Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon. Just like that, they were laying down a circle of musical influence that still affects their music to this day.
What's in a Song
Brother Elsey's music has certainly tapped into something unique and emotional. Written primarily by Brady, the songs are then brought to Jack and Beau who each add a personal touch as well as their quintessential three-part harmonies that bring a whole new depth to the songs. "Brady's really good at writing about something sad and making you feel like you want to be in it." Jack says and I have to agree. With lyrics that aren't difficult to decipher, the band wears their hearts on their sleeves, making the songs refreshingly simple to access and feel. Check out their Matador EP to hear what I mean.
As I sit talking to the three brothers, they're preparing to headline a show at Rum Runners in London. Toronto is their highest streaming city on Spotify. They're being managed by Jay Emmons, the guitarist for one of Canada's most pre-eminent rock bands. Canada has welcomed the band with open arms. So what's resonating with those of us north of the border so strongly?
Other than the great breaks- being a featured new band on Spotify Canada, opening up for The Glorious Sons- the band really doesn't have an explanation. Perhaps it's the way their lyrics tap into the most blue shades of sadness like Joni Mitchell's did. Maybe it's the slow and melodious guitar like Neil's. Maybe it's just the recognition of kindred spirits.
Be sure to check out the band's music on Spotify, including their newest release "Taker".
Peace, Love & History.