The Brook & The Bluff doesn’t know how they won Birmingham’s “Best Local Band,” but members of the four-man band are pretty pumped about it. From the Magic City to Nashville and now touring nationwide, Joseph Settine, Alec Bolton, John Canada and Fred Lankford have made a name for themselves, and their success was recently awarded by Birmingham Magazine. The Brook & The Bluff was named Birmingham’s “Best Local Band,” edging out St. Paul and the Broken Bones and others, by the publication.
“It’s an honor for us because we all love Birmingham,” the band said. “We really enjoy it, we loved growing up there, it’s the best place to grow up. So being recognized where we grew up for all the work we’ve been doing the past two years was really, really, really cool.”
The Brook & The Bluff is so Birmingham that it’s name is literally based on the city. Starting as a two-man acoustic group several years ago in Auburn, The Brook & The Bluff’s name comes from Settine’s hometown of Bluff Park and Bolton hailing from Mountain Brook. (Canada and Lankford are also from Mountain Brook.)
Despite being Iron City made, The Brook & The Bluff made a business decision to move to Nashville and left Birmingham early this year.
“It was like, ‘OK, new year, new city,’” the group said. “That move was motivated by wanting to be more in the industry that we’re in. There’s a lot going on in Nashville obviously. Whether it’s booking agencies, management agencies, labels, the whole deal, there’s a lot more of a community of musicians up there doing what we’re doing than in Birmingham. We love Birmingham, but Nashville is definitely the place for us to be. But Nashville is close to home, so that’s why we chose it over some of the other industry cities. It’s been really good to us so far.”
The Brook & The Bluff already have a self-titled EP that was released in August 2018 and they continue traveling the U.S. When they do visit their hometowns, it’s a big event.
Here are 10 things you should know about The Brook & The Bluff:
1. Birmingham’s influence on The Brook & The Bluff runs deep
Birmingham’s influence on The Brook & The Bluff obviously starts with the band’s name. But there’s much more than that.
The Brook & The Bluff has a sound that was influenced by the Magic City and other bands with Alabama roots, such as Alabama Shakes and St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
“Our general feeling that Birmingham is home, that feeling of being home is really important, and having a place that feels like home, that will always be Birmingham. It’s really special that we draw from this city in those ways,” the group said.
2. The Brook & The Bluff opened for Judah and the Lion at last year’s Kentucky Derby
The Brook & The Bluff have been all over the country, and each member has their favorite venues, but the collective favorite show was opening for Judah and the Lion at the Kentucky Derby in May.
3. The Brook & The Bluff shows are like going ‘through another world’
Shows are described in two ways:
“You know how in the Chronicles of Narnia when they find the closet and they go through it to another world? That’s what our shows are like,” the band said.
They added: “Realistically, we try do every show and come out and have a lot of energy just so the crowd can have energy too. When I think of going to a show I want to sing and dance and have a good time, so that’s what we’re about first and foremost.”
The Brook & The Bluff include an acoustic section in each performance, so the crowd “can tap into those feels if you want.” The best word to describe the show with is dynamic. The group said they tell the sound guy, “Vocals hot in the house” every night, so they walk away feeling good.
It’s quite a show.
4. Birmingham shows are the best
The Birmingham shows are obviously the biggest. With friends and family of The Brook & The Bluff in the crowd, the shows typically turn into a party – sort of.
“It’s still a show, but it does have more of a crazy atmosphere. It’s almost a show with 1/10th of a tailgating atmosphere sometimes. We definitely don’t want it to be a college tailgate. There’s just a lot of friends and you feel at home. The comfort level is definitely the biggest difference. Birmingham is definitely our favorite place to play,” they said.
And friends love their shows here, too.
“The energy at their shows is infectious – you can’t go to a show and not have fun. They’re some of the best to come out of Birmingham since St. Paul and the Broken Bones,” said Shelby Cathers.
5. The Brook & The Bluff has won approximately $14 million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
You need to find things to do when traveling all the time. For The Brook & The Bluff, trivia is one of many ways the band fills its time. They say they’ve won about $14 million at this point, and, of course, Settine, Canada, Lankford and Bolton hope that money will one day become real.
Along with trivia, The Brook & The Bluff have listened to all the murder-mystery podcasts, love doing accents and impressions and recently have a newfound love of stand-up comedy, especially that of Mike Burbiglia.
“The Brook & The Bluff on the road is more delusional with every day that passes. We have to come up with more and more crazier and shock-value ways to entertain ourselves,” the group said. “We drive all day long. It’s driving, it’s Pilot gas stations and it’s venues.”
6. There’s never a dull moment on the road
Settine, Bolton, Canada and Lankford spend a lot of time together, especially when they’re on the road. But despite the many hours spend traveling, these guys keep the jokes rolling and have a good time. Even when asked a simple question like ‘How would you describe yourself?’ Settine’s answer of being an introvert and enjoying staying home and hanging out with his dog Elvis, turns into him describing Lankford as “a dad at heart and a cowgirl on the outside.”
But wait – there’s more.
Lankford, Canada and Bolton joined in on the fun.
“John and Alec are actually one person that just move back and forth between each other so fast that it creates the elusion of two people – similar to the Olsen twins. We are on to them,” Lankford said.
John added, “Alec and I reached a breaking point in Birmingham, when we almost became the same person. We would wake up, work out at the same time, wear the same clothes, we’re the same height, the same everything. So, yeah … I don’t really have any individual characteristics from Alec.”
Yep, never a dull moment.
7. The Brook & The Bluff were choir nerds, so everything revolves around vocals
The Brook & The Bluff really put an emphasis on high-quality vocals in their songs, making some of their top influences other great vocalists. This list includes Kacey Musgraves, John Mayer, Frank Ocean, the Beatles and Bon Iver.
“Just people like that – people that are able to make really, really, really good songs, great songwriters. That’s what we really go for.”
8. The Brook & The Bluff logo is literally a brook and a bluff
When deciding on a logo, why not make it literally the name of the band?
Mountain Brook native Sam Reese designed The Brook & The Bluff’s logo. The sleek design is literally that of the band’s name.
“It kind of looks like a shark fin at first glance, but it’s pretty literally. It looks kind of abstract if you don’t know what The Brook & The Bluff is,” the band said.
9. The Brook & The Bluff loves experiencing local beer and food on tour
Touring isn’t necessarily easy, but The Brook & The Bluff says the best thing about touring is getting a different experience with each city and show. They say traveling is one of the best ways to learn about the world – and the group does it for a living.
“I wouldn’t really call this a job because it doesn’t feel like work,” the band said.
10. New music is coming in 2019
The Brook & The Bluff is finishing some tour dates around Thanksgiving before spending the remainder of 2018 in the studio working on their first full-length album. They’re hoping the album will be released in Spring 2019 and have a goal to play 150 shows that year.
“Just get out and play as much as possible,” the band said. “We’re starting the year with a national support tour, so we’ll be playing basically every major city so hopefully, you know, people will come on our and see us.”
You can learn more about The Brook & The Bluff on their website here.
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