Bryan has been a singer for as long as he can remember but began writing songs when he was in college. His first show was performing for a special Olympics Dance. "I had been water skiing at Enid Lake for a day or two before and was crazy sunburned. After the dance was over the kids were real excited and appreciative. One of them came up and, very enthusiastically, patted me on the shoulder. It hurt like hell! But I couldn’t have felt better."
Bryan has had a lot different experiences in his musical career thus far. He used to play in a band called Halfacre Gunroom, of which he has both good and bad memories. Some of his highlights from this band include recording the album Wrecked at the old Easley-McCain studio before it burned down, and having that album become popular, "the kind of validation every musician dreams of." "For the most part, the Gunroom days were pretty magical. We made a great album and toured all over the country. It wasn't always easy, and honestly, it wasn't always fun. But it was something so many people dream of doing, and I do not take it for granted that I was able to live that dream."
After Halfacre Gunroom, Bryan was playing music solo or as a duo with John Paul Shaffer. He went on his first solo tours in 2009 (once in May and again in September) and toured through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. "It was a little scary to be so far away from home with just my guitar, but it was so worthwhile. Plus, I got to travel with my good buddy DS Yancey, a truck-driving, rambling troubadour from Phoenix. DS is a true believer."
Bryan started Bryan Hartley Industries (BHI for short) later that year when he met Jessica Jones. Jessica now drums, records, and does album art for BHI. According to Bryan, "After Gunroom, I was a little burnt out on bands and Jessica made it fun again." Other members of BHI include John Paul Shaffer, Jon Hart, and Dirk Kitterlin.
Bryan's fondest memories of BHI are from playing SXSW this past year and the "Version of the Future" show at Odessa in December 2009. When talking about the Odessa show, Bryan says, "I don’t know exactly how it happened but we had the largest crowd they’d ever had there at that point. When people are packed in and singing along there isn’t a much better feeling in the world."
Since then, BHI has been busy playing shows all over town. They just had a show at Otherlands where they released a new demo. Right now, Bryan is working on finding a place to record a BHI album and booking more shows in town. Additionally, he is in the early stages of planning a couple solo tours for later this summer and fall to CO and the midwest. Bryan also hopes to take the full band on tour in the future.
For Bryan, the best part about being a musician is connecting with strangers while performing songs he wrote. "That's so special. We can live pretty isolated lives sometimes and feel like we are the only ones who feel a certain way. Then I sing a song and someone else responds like, 'me too.' And it's nice to know we all go through the same struggles and feel the same joys."
Memphis and the south have a big impact on Bryan and his music. Born and raised in Memphis, he has lived here most of his life with the exception of 2 years when he lived in Nashville. "I am a country songwriter who plays with a rock and roll band so I attribute everything about my music to Memphis and the south! I only have one tattoo, and it is a Sun Records label. I love the combination of Mississippi blues and hillbilly country music. And personally, there is such an attachment and a deep well of history in this area for me to go to when I am writing. Both sides of my family have strong North Mississippi roots and that’s a big influence on me."
Other than music, Bryan works on the facilities and banquet staff at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. He enjoys listening to records--currently a lot of Morrissey and Kathleen Edwards. He also loves sports, especially baseball, although he says the Grizzlies are his favorite team. Additionally, Bryan loves to read (mainly literary fiction and social sciences), runs often, and has strong interests in celebrity gossip and amateur psychology. Oh and street tacos…he's way into street tacos.
Bryan Hartley's Memphis Recommendations
Place to Eat:
La Gaudalupana, The Rendezvous
Place to be Enlightened:
"The whole city is such a great place to get enlightened. You just have to venture a little outside your cultural comfort zone and you can be in a whole different world here. Memphis is really big. It’s easy to forget that when you stay focused on your little area."
"I probably shouldn’t recommend this, but if you want to have a good time doing real Memphis things then you can’t go wrong with a little light day drinking followed by thrift store shopping in Raleigh."
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