You know, in the first few seconds of listening, Brack Cantrell has it. Whatever “it” may mean to you, know it’s something big. After stints in Texas Hardcore outfit Sky Eats Airplane, and later moving on to a lighter genre as guitarist for Pop/Electro fueled PlayRadioPlay! All the while working on his current solo works under the moniker Balance Problems, this singer/songwriter has a long career ahead of him.
He has been hard at work at the forthcoming full length Morning Sun to be released March 12. You can also get you hands on There’s Life In The Trees via his website: brackcantrell.com. Both works are available on Amazon.com and iTunes.
High Voltage: What was you first musical memory? How did that influence how you perceive music today?
Balance Problems: My first musical memory had to be from when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My older sister would let me into her bedroom while she worked on homework and played different bands she liked for me on her stereo. This is where I first got introduced to bands like Smashing Pumpkins, 311, Green Day, and Beck. I remember being very excited about the music and almost obsessing over it. I would study it, listen to every little sonic detail, and then ask for her to play songs I especially liked over and over again. I remember listening to the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “1979” probably a hundred times over the course of a week; it’s still one of my favorites today.
HVM: After playing with both Sky Eats Airplane and PlayRadioPlay!, do you find that you thrive better solo or within a group?
BP: To tell you the truth I really do enjoy having the freedom to write music on my own, just how I want to hear it. Sometimes I do miss having someone to collaborate on ideas with, but I am glad that the music I write can be solely an expression of my own thoughts and creativity. Both Sky Eats Airplane and PlayRadioPlay weren’t exactly the traditional “band” experience. With Sky Eats Airplane, I still got to write a lot on my own while Lee helped add and shape the songs. I didn’t get to help write anything with PlayRadioPlay. I’ve found that writing music on my own has given me a lot of happiness and peace, it’s almost a therapeutic thing for me now. I feel like maybe I write music for a lot different reasons than most artists do.
HVM: While listening to your work over the past year or so I noticed there’s a bit of “layering” (if that makes any sense at all) within the songs, and I wondered how that came about. What’s you process when writing?
BP: When it comes to writing and recording, I’m very detail oriented. I really enjoy the small touches that can shape the overall mood of a piece. My songwriting process usually consists of recalling/researching an event, taking mental notes about the main points I want to include, coming up with a chord progression or melody I like, and writing words to the music.
HVM: Why write music, why not just leave it at poetry?
BP: Songwriting is simply the best outlet for me to express what I want. Although I very much enjoy reading or writing short stories and poems, songs have always conveyed far more meaning and emotion to me. It combines my two favorite art forms — music and words — into one package that you can hear as well as feel.
HVM: I’ve found your songs easy to relate to. Do you write from personal experience or do you lend yourself to friends’ situations?
BP: Often times the songs I write come from personal experiences. I take past memories or recent occurrences and try to shape them into an artistic form that I can relate to. Songwriting has sort of become my personal diary. If I look back at songs I’ve written they form a timeline of important people, places, and events that I’ve experienced over the years. Things that happen with my friends or people I love has also inspired me and produced some songs. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part I like to write about what I know. And what I know best is my own life.
HVM: Your songs seem to be literal, so the listener can see/feel what’s going on in that moment. Was that your intention?
BP: A lot of my songs deal with events that have happened in my life. I try to write about them in such a way that people can understand the experience along with my thoughts, opinions, and reactions. My life is the best source of inspiration, so I try to use what I am given.
HVM: The music scene in Texas seems to be growing rapidly. Do you feel that it’s a scene that’s supportive?
BP: The Texas music scene is diverse. The people are into lots of different types of music, and that’s a good thing. It’s supportive to musicians like myself, and caters to a wide variety of sounds. However, the main trend is still hardcore. You won’t see an indie rock show selling out a venue here.
HVM: Who do you feel is someone we should keep our eye on?
BP: I’ve recently had the privelege to play with (and soon record) a band by the name of Soft Machines. In my opinion they are by far the best thing to recently come up out of the Dallas/Fort Worth music scene, and I enjoy their music the most. They are great people, great musicians, and work hard at what they do. (Go check them out at myspace.com/softmachinesmusic)
HVM: I’ve found a lot of similarities in the music coming from Texas, does that make it harder to stand out?
BP: I get frustrated when I see kids throwing together a group for reasons other than making music. It has almost become a popularity contest or a social statement, not an art form. If I could offer advice to anyone, I would say step back and look at what you’re doing. If you’re not in music for the right reasons, for the sake of creating something you love, you should seriously reconsider your actions.
HVM: What’s next for you? Anything else you want to share with us?
BP: I’m not quite sure what is next for me. I guess it all depends on what happens here in the next couple of years. I hope to continue creating music while I go to school in the fall and spring, and tour during the summer. If it’s received well enough, then there is definitely a chance that I would start writing and touring full time. So all I can ask is for your love and support, and hopefully I will get to meet all of you very soon. I also just want to say thank you to the people that have already given my music a chance. It really does mean the world to me.