Folk Fest Chats: Q&A with Brown Bird

MorganEve Swain and David Lamb, the multitalented local musicians of Brown Bird, took a few minutes to chat about their second Newport Folk Festival performance, new music, touring and more.


How did this year at the Newport Folk Festival compare to your first appearance last year?

David Lamb: It was a total letdown. Just kidding. It was awesome. Obviously we were on the bigger stage. Last year we were on the harbor stage, which was great. It has its own intimate feel, and that was really exciting and fun. This one was a totally different experience. It was our first time on a jumbotron, and that was cool. It feels like you’re in one of those old music concert movies of like Pink Floyd or something.

The crowd was also really awesome this year. I have no idea how many people were out there, but it was probably the biggest we’ve had. If not the biggest, probably close.

You’ve been on a national tour for the past year. Did you get any large crowds then?

DL: We’ve been doing a lot of touring with bands like Trampled by Turtles and Yonder Mountain String Band, and those guys definitely draw in big crowds in big venues. Usually like 1,000 to 1500. I would say this was beyond that.

How long have you been back home from the tour?

MorganEve Swain: We’ve been back since mid-June. But we’ve done stuff here and there. Some local New England stuff, and we flew out to Utah and North Carolina.

DL: At the Nature Center and the Olympic Whitewater Rafting Training Center. They were two very bizarre shows, but they were very fun.

Where did you receive the best reception on the tour?

DL: Denver, Colorado, was pretty mind-blowing, I thought.

MES: And Chico, California.

DL: That was one of the smaller ones, but was one of the shows we headlined and the response from the crowd, yeah, that was probably number one. After the first song they cheered as if it were the last one. They just kept clapping; it was awesome.

Have you mostly been promoting Salt for Salt on the tour?

MES: Yeah. But we’re working on a new record, and we’ll be recording it this winter at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket.

I’ve heard that a lot of inspiration came from your work at a shipyard, David. Where are you getting inspiration now that this is your full-time gig?

DL: More inside the mind, I would say. It’s not so much the surroundings anymore. It’s more internal.

You played three new songs today, one of which was instrumental. Will there be a lot of songs like that on the new album?

DL: That’s what I mean by inside the mind. It’s so inside the mind that you can’t even hear what the lyrics are about. [Laughs.] We’ve been enjoying a lot of instrumental music, as always a lot of Eastern European, gypsy, Mediterranean. And those same influences come out in the other new ones. Indian, a bit of surf rock, actually.

Why did you decide to take those types of music on?

MES: It’s just what we listen to. He picked up this record, what is it called?

DL: Folk and Pop Songs of Pakistan from 1966 to 1976. It’s phenomenal.

MES: Dave has this disease. He like buys records constantly. Almost every day there’s a new package from Amazon. It’s like what now? [Laughs.]

Are there any other influences that make their way into your music?

DL: Lately some of the stuff I’ve been reading has made its way in. I don’t know if there’s anything I want to say out loud. [Laughs.]

MES: We have joked that we’re going to write a song about [HBO series] “Game of Thrones.”

DL: But if we do, you won’t know it! But there are some books on more of a philosophical side, like the philosophy of music. Not that I’m all that smart, don’t get me wrong. I just like reading about smart people.

Back to the Folk Fest: Did you see anyone today that is worth noting?

DL: We got to see a little bit of the Alabama Shakes.

MES: And the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

What about on Sunday?

DL: We’re definitely going to catch Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons on Sunday. He’s a Warren musician that’s a really, really good friend of ours.

MES: And Trampled by Turtles. We’re excited to seem them again.

Now that festival weekend is almost over, are you going to take some time off, or…

DL: Nope!

MES: We’ve got some stuff around here, and at the end of August we’re flying out to the West Coast again for three weeks.

Where can we see you next?

DL: August 16 at the RISD Museum. It’s a free show. We’re excited about that.

Are you excited to be performing back home?

MES: Yeah, it’s always nice to come home.

DL: You’ve got people in the crowd singing along, and it’s always a really warm welcome.

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