Houston Calling

SXSW preview: Bosque Brown

February 20th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Denton, Texas-based indie folk band Bosque Brown got its start after singer Mara Lee Miller’s husband handed off a tape of his wife’s demos to indie troubadour Damien Jurado, who liked her songs so much he helped get her a record deal. The resulting EP, Bosque Brown Plays Mara Lee Miller (Burnt Toast Vinyl), showcased the singer’s subdued yet enticing vocal style and her classic songwriting style.

On the cusp of the release of Baby, Bosque Brown’s debut full-length album, singer Mara Lee Miller recently answered some questions for Houston Calling.

Houston Calling: How did you feel when your music was noticed by Damien Jurado and received such a warm response?

MLM: I should have probably felt it on my own but the most honest response would be validated. He was the first person other than a handful of friends and family who had heard anything so it made me feel like it was real. I was also very grateful, of course, that he actually took the time to listen to the CD my husband handed to him and let me know his thoughts — still means a great deal to me.

HC: Have you played during South By Southwest before? If so, how was that experience? Anything memorable stick out?

MLM: I have played SXSW two other times. I am really not a huge fan of playing SXSW because I feel like it is the most nerve wracking show — there is always so much build up to it and who might be there. I am not a fan of “pressure” shows, but I do love Austin and I think it is great to be able to see so many people in the same place.

The first year we played we were in a room with a hardcore band next door. There was no real door, only a sliding wall so you could hear the other band through the whole show. People kept asking us if we were pissed but really I didn’t mind at all [it] made me feel like it wasn’t so quiet with everyone staring at me.

HC: What are you hoping to get out of this year’s SXSW? What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?

MLM: SXSW will only be our 4th show in almost two years so I really just hope to get a decent show out of it and see old friends. We have struggled to find enough time to prepare for playing again and I would have loved to have had more time to get ready, but with a drummer in Austin, another member in Denton, and my sister with a child we are grateful for what we get. I am not sure what to want from it other than a good set.

The main thing i look forward to about SXSW is eating…Austin has the best food.

HC: Obviously, your religious upbringing plays a big part in your lyrics, but musically it owes more to early popular country music and sixties folk (in my opinion). What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do you think they play into your songs?

MLM: I am primarily influenced by my upbringing which was gospel, old musicals and old movies, and of course, even though I hated it at times, old country music. So voices like Judy Garland and Hank Williams were very much a part of my past. But then closer to when I began writing songs I was influenced by people like Townes Van Zandt for the simplicity and Texas background, Josh Pearson from Lift to Experience, who brought a new sound to “Texas” music, and in my younger years bands like At The Drive-In really attracted me because they were so passionate vocally. My dad was a big fan of old bands like Chad and Jeremy, The Byrds, and Gram Parsons, all who were people that wrote simple but in my opinion difficult songs because they were so perfect.

HC: Similarly, your voice has been compared to Cat Power, Hope Sandoval, and Jolie Holland (to name a few). I think it’s more unique than that — what’s your take?

MLM: I see similarities in my voice and all the singers named…but I have never felt my voice sounds like any of them at all really, so I am always surprised those same three names come up so often. Lyrically and musically I feel that what I do is quite different as well, so I tend to think there is not a large pool of women singers so there are limitations when trying to compare. Also, once one person compares you to someone seems as though everyone else jumps on the same wagon — I am not influenced my too many other women singers and I often think that I shouldn’t just be compared to women singers. I draw a lot of my influence from male vocalists.

HC: Being based in Denton, there’s obviously a great musical community there. Bands like The Baptist Generals and Midlake are two that stand out — what are some of your local favorites?

MLM: Well, I am obviously a fan of both The Baptist Generals and Midlake but there are also some newer bands who are quite good — Fight Bite, Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, to name a couple. The first two Denton bands I fell in love with were Centro-Matic and Lift to Experience.

HC: Your new full-length, Baby, comes out in early March. Are you pleased with the results? Did you achieve what you had hoped with the songs that make up the album?

MLM: I am completely pleased with the results. No matter what ends up happening with the album I feel that we brought out the best in the songs and the arrangements made the songs more powerful. Chris Flemmons (of The Baptist Generals) put his heart in the album as we all did and I feel that that is heard. We are not a perfect band and we did not set out to make a perfect record and that is exactly what happened.

HC: What are some of the bands you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s SXSW?

MLM: I would love to see Daniel Johnston, Beach House, The Wooden Birds, and American Analog Set, but honestly I haven’t had a chance to get a good look at the full line-up. We will see when we get there, I suppose — that is always fun.

Bosque Brown plays its official SXSW showcase on Saturday, 3.21.09, at Habana (708 E 6th St.). The band also plays a day party on Friday, 3.20.09, at the Force Field PR & Asthmatic Kitty Day Party at Okay Mountain (1312 East Cesar Chavez, Ste. B).

Visit Bosque Brown online at www.bosquebrown.com. Baby will be available on March 3rd.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

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