Jake Brown Gives us a Peek into #NASHVILLE with 'Behind the Boards'

URBAN CRAFT Magazine had the honor of interviewing world-renowned author Jake Brown prior to the release of his milestone 50th book 'Beh...

URBAN CRAFT Magazine had the honor of interviewing world-renowned author Jake Brown prior to the release of his milestone 50th book 'Behind the Boards: Nashville'.

The book features behind the scenes interviews from 30 of country music’s top producers and artists such as Tim McGraw, Miranda Lambert, George Strait, Clint Black, Taylor Swift, and more. 

Below is how our very enlightening exchange went down........

This book happens to be your 50th, how much of a milestone is it to you yourself as an author?  

Yeah, when I moved here from New York 18 years ago in 2003, I had TWO books out, and made it sort of a longer-term ambition to hit 50 before I’d lived here 20 years, but beyond the number, I’m very fortunate to have a catalog that spans 11 countries, 20 publishers, a couple hundred thousand books in print, and with digital, have been lucky to have that potential reading audience expand even further with new formats like the audiobooks I read for Blackstone Audio, e-books, etc. I’m nowhere near as sophisticated with social media as my hipper, younger competition of fellow writers, but I’ve also been lucky to build up a fairly loyal reading audience over the past two decades within my niche of music biographies, so it’s just something I keep working as hard as I ever did at because that’s the only way I figure to keep doing it for another 20 years, where hopefully I’ll cross the 100 mark line. 

This book really is a love letter to my hometown too, which has given me so much. I’m also a songwriter/producer like everyone in this town, lol, and have been fortunate to sign publishing deals through Streets Music in London for worldwide and David Gersham Co through South Africa, and have been lucky to work with great engineers like Aaron Harmon and Ray Riddle week in and out for the past 10 years, so the fact that I’m myself a rock/alt-rock producer gives me a little more first-hand insight into the studio process to draw from when writing these books.  NOT in any way that I’m trying to compare my indie music stuff to the massive mainstream successes these amazing producers and songwriters and star artists and bands I’ve been lucky enough to write these books with, but it gives me a more natural reference point and understanding of the process in the way I write narrative for readers. The idea is to make this extremely cosmic and complicated creative process as accessible and exciting as possible for readers, which can be a challenge when you’re talking about drum micing, lol.  So we have a balance that I have an easier time striking because these producers, for instance, in BEHIND THE BOARDS: NASHVILLE, are so great at not only making records, but talking about the process as well.  These guys have been here for DECADES making country records, and many of them started out playing on them before they were behind the boards producing them, so there’s an incredible wealth of history to pull from in telling their stories in these individual producer profiles.  Whether you want to be sitting in the studio next to Willie Nelson or Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood or George Strait, they’re all here.

Out of the numerous behind-the-scenes experiences that you share in this book, which ones struck you the most and why?

I began writing the BEHIND THE BOARDS series when I first moved here in the early 2000s with Rock record producers, and its pretty definitive between the first 2 volumes Hal Leonard released in 2012 and 2014, from legends like Bones Howe to Jack Douglas, Eddie Kramer to Bob Ezrin, High Padham to Butch Vig and on and on, so that was a lot of fun, and then a trade-marked series I write called IN THE STUDIO, where I co-wrote books with Ann and Nancy Wilson of HEART, the late, great Lemmy Kilmister with Motorhead, the Tupac Shakur estate, and that book series has books on Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre, Tori Amos, so some really cool artists and bands where we take fans inside the studio and chronicle the making of each record and hit, interviewing producers, band members, etc, and that kind of was my training ground over the first 15 years I wrote books to arrive at Joe Satriani’s memoir STRANGE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC in 2014, and the first Nashville Songwriter books over the last few years, so that along with Beyond the Beats has I feel like all been practice to writing this opus, which encompasses 600 pages and 30 producers.  So, in answer to your original question, DEFINITELY this book packs some powerful, poignant, and MANY instructional moments on both the process of record making Nashville-style, how Country’s biggest stars and bands work behind the scenes in the studio, and how 300 beloved # 1 hits were created over the past 40 years. Whether you’re a fan of 70s Honky Tonk, 80s or 90s Country, or grew up listening as a fan in the Millennium, we have every great star of the genre covered. 

At the end of the day, what do you hope the average reader will be able to take away upon reading this book in particular?

Well, first and foremost, as I mentioned above, if you’re a fan of Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan, Lady A, Chris Stapleton, Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Clint Black, Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville”, Florida Georgia Line, Reba McEntire, Lionel Richie’s “Tuskegee” album, A Star is Born Soundtrack starring Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper, Brad Paisley, Sam Hunt, Blake Shelton, Trisha Yearwood, Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban, Alabama, Jason Isbell, George Jones, Jewel, Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Lori McKenna, Midland, Faith Hill, Steve Earle, Hank Williams Jr., Lyle Lovett, Thomas Rhett, Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Brett Eldredge, Martina McBride, The Dixie Chicks, The Band Perry, Shooter Jennings, Jake Owen, Big & Rich, Jon Pardi, the Nitty Gritty Band, Scotty McCreery, Darius Rucker, Moe Bandy, The Eagles, and the great Merle Haggard among others, we have you covered in this book.  I’m proud of that coverage spread, because it hopefully means the book has something for everyone – whether you’re reading or listening from the fan side or the aspiring engineer/producer/artist side of the spectrum.

After 50 successful releases, is there anything still left in the tank for you, more importantly, anything that you feel you still need to achieve?  

Thankfully, I write several books at once so it never gets boring.  Right now I’m working on the third installment of my NASHVILLE SONGWRITER book series, there were 60 writers between the first two books, which came out in 2014 and 2018, and in the fall of 2021, NASHVILLE SONGWRITER III hits stores with 30 more legendary songwriters, so I’m excited to continue that series.  Then there’s a 2nd volume to a Rock Drummers series I write titled BEYOND THE BEATS that – in similar fashion to NASHVILLE SONGWRITER and BEHIND THE BOARDS: NASHVILLE – features chapter-length interviews with 30 of the most influential drummers across all sub-genres, including The Police, The Clash, Iron Maiden, The Pixies, Huey Lewis and the News, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Dream Theatre, Eric Clapton, MC5, Sly and the Family Stone, John Lennon, the Misfits, just on and on.  So I’m excited for that, which follows up Vol 1, which had the drummers from Motley Crue, Metallica, Aerosmith, Journey, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Foo Fighters, Bon Jovi, Smashing Pumpkins, Guns N Roses, Jane’s Addiction, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Then there’s a book due out at Christmas, The Spree of ’83: The Life and Times of Freddy Powers, which is also in film development with a screenplay done, and audiobooks including Prince in the Studio: The Hits – 1977 – 1994, Scientists of Sound Vol. II: The 80s, and 2Pac in the Studio. Oh, there’s also a Behind the Boards Vol. 4 that focuses the spotlight back on a new generation of rock and metal producers, and a book I’m writing with the family who ran this amazing summer camp I attended for 6 years as a kid, 40 Legends.  So lots of irons in the fire. That’s the advice I always give the young writers that those of us in our 40s and 50s still working I think all live by: ALWAYS BE WRITING. It’s true at the front-end of your career and stays that way throughout if you want to stay relevant because there’s always a new generation of talent chomping at your heels.  

What do you feel is the 'secret' to your longevity. Any tips for aspiring authors?

Well, as an extension of the driving philosophy I have steered by, along with always be writing, try to work on multiple projects at once, which keeps that muscle that is the writing mind always working out, so to speak, it keeps you sharp to be able to write across multiple genres.  If you want to specialize, try to make it in a particular field of writing, for instance mine is categorized as Music Biographer because I write both memoirs and these anthology-style books where you get 20 or 30 even in the case of BEHIND THE BOARDS: NASHVILLE musical memoirs in one book.  You get both the personal backstories behind the producers or songwriters in the case of my NASHVILLE SONGWRITER book series or BEYOND THE BEATS for drummers, and then covers the stories behind the creation of their greatest hits in the studio, as well as technique, production approach, how individual stars work behind the scenes, just the whole creative world that is record making.  My goal is to bring the reader into the recording studio, sit them down behind the console next to the producer and feel like there right there as the hit is being produced.  That’s ambitious, but it’s the balance of detail and excitement my publisher, the producers or songwriters or artists I interview, all try to go for in these books – is to give fans a 3-D, insider, definitive look with the curtain pulled back on how their favorite hits by their favorite country stars, in the case of this latest book, were created.  The care that was taken, the 24-hour work-ethic it takes to stay on top, the feel involved in knowing when you have a keeper take of a # 1 to come, just the whole 9 of this fascinating creative process that is the business of music making.  

Being an author, how have you managed to maneuver through the current global pandemic and resultant quarantine?

Lol, I work from home anyway, so its been easier for me.  Thankfully, the studio I record audiobooks at each week stayed open too, but I was otherwise pretty locked down like everyone else.  Frankly, when you see the awful impact this virus had on our beloved town and business, I’m just hopeful that once all these protests die down and everyone feels safe to re-open fully and things are as “back to normal,” so to speak, as possible, that Nashville will be back to its glorious old self again. I can point for one example to the devastating financial impact this shutdown has had on musicians in this town who make their living touring in the summer, let alone studios and labels being closed, so there isn’t a person I know who works in the record industry – or any really – that this hasn’t adversely affected.  Nashville too, don’t forget, got hit this year with the triple hit of a tornado, then the Corona virus shut down, then these riots.  So it’s really just a time where we hope a book like this one is something those still at home for the summer enjoy as part of their reading or audiobook listening collection, and if they’re a country fan, put it down at the end of the book feeling like they have a fuller understanding on how their greatest hits and favorite stars work with these amazing producers behind the scenes in the studio making these catalogs of classics, and if you’re someone aspiring to follow in the same footsteps as these amazing talents, that you have this book as a reference guide of sorts – along I’m sure with a lot of other great books about navigating the Nashville music business (including the Nashville Songwriter book series I hope () – to help you find your own path toward whatever dream you have, whether behind the boards or on the live stage or as a songwriter.  A lot of the producers in this book came to Nashville with different initial intentions – to be a star instead of a songwriter or producer – and wound up finding their calling after enough years of sticking to it.  That was one inspiring lesson that ran as a common thread and theme throughout these stories: NEVER GIVE UP on your dream.  As cliché as it might sound, that was a bedrock morale of each of these superstar producers’ amazing success stories, from Shane McAnally to Tony Brown, Buddy Cannon to Clint Black, and everyone in-between! 




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Urban Craft Magazine: Jake Brown Gives us a Peek into #NASHVILLE with 'Behind the Boards'
Jake Brown Gives us a Peek into #NASHVILLE with 'Behind the Boards'
Urban Craft Magazine
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