Friends with Benefits: Brushfire Records
Two years earlier, despite the modest success from his cover of Jack’s “Rodeo Clowns,” G. Love wasn’t getting the support he thought he deserved from his record label. At the time, Epic was funneling all of its energy and dollars into breaking the neo-soul rocker Macy Gray. “I had Jack in the studio,” says G. “I said to Michael Kaplan, my A&R guy [at Epic] who signed a bunch of people, ‘Man, you oughtta make a record with this guy. He’s great. He’s got a hit record in him—I’ve heard every song.’ ‘Well, is he a rockstar?’ ‘Well, not like Elvis or something.’ He obviously turned out to be one of the biggest rockstars there is.”
Plunier launched the indie label Enjoy! to release Brushfire Fairytales in 2001. As luck would have it, Enjoy! was forced to change its name, too—it became Everloving and has since released records from Metric, Joseph Arthur, Cornelius and The Entrance Band, among others.
The album’s popularity exploded across the country and abroad. What was it about this surf-soaked folk rock and its unassuming, if shy, creator that was so appealing? “We always knew Jack was really good,” says ALO keyboardist Zach Gill, a longtime friend of Johnson’s who’s known him since their UC Santa Barbara days where their first musical collaborations took place and much of Brushfire was written. “Whatever happened at that moment”—the skyrocketing success of the album—“it was what people wanted. It was right after September 11th and I think people were looking for something that was soothing or calming—something that spoke to them.”
The same year, Emmett and his brother Brendan released their first major motion picture, Out Cold, a skiing-based, Animal House -like comedy that saw Zach Galifianakis’ film debut. Emmett included three of Jack’s songs on the soundtrack—“Posters,” “Bubble Toes” and “Fall Line” —which were sequenced between artists like Weezer, The Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World and Sum 41.
To complete the trifecta for the year, Jack released a surf documentary that he directed called The September Sessions. In turn, the film precipitated its own trio of events: the film company, The Moonshine Conspiracy was renamed Woodshed Films, the soundtrack (and subsequent films’ soundtracks) became available to the public and a new record label headed by Jack and Emmett, Brushfire, was launched to release said soundtracks.
After releasing Jack’s sophomore effort, On and On (2003), Brushfire—with a distribution deal from Universal—found itself in a position to help some of its friends.
When Sony dropped G. Love after five albums, Brushfire tossed its hat in the ring to pick him up. After long discussions with Sanctuary and Lost Highway, the hip-hop infused blues artist went with Brushfire, releasing his label debut The Hustle in 2004.
Shortly after, Jack extended a hand to his teenage surfing buddy Donovan Frankenreiter who had been making music for years. His self-titled debut, with the Jack-fueled single “Free,” dropped in 2004.
“The idea was helping out friends,” says Jack. “With both those guys, we felt like it could just be this—we might be a three-artist label.” But after Jack asked his college buddy Zach Gill from ALO to play accordion and piano on his third album, In Between Dreams (2005), and invited him out on the road along with his band ALO to open shows, Brushfire soon added a fourth artist. ALO’s Fly Between Falls was released in 2005. Even then, Brushfire seemed strictly familial, if for no other reason than because of its artists’ similar sound and vibe.
The tipping point for Brushfire as a “real” label came with its next signing, Rogue Wave. The band’s frontman, Zach Rogue, had met Jack years earlier through their then-girlfriends (now wives) who were best friends from childhood. “I think I was actually at the first Rogue Wave show up in San Francisco,” Jack chuckles noting that he’d seen Rogue’s previous projects. “We went to Laguna Seca Daze [festival] one time and we saw Phish shows together in college.”
Emmett and Jack found themselves in a similar situation—possibly signing a friend who’s music they believed in—but this time the music, sounded very different from the rest of the Brushfire artists. “Are we the right fit?” Emmett recalls of the basic question. “Is what we’re going to offer helpful to you? We all trust and respect each other, but is it going to work?” Two albums later—_Asleep at Heaven’s Gate_ (2007), Permalight (2010)—the answer seems to be yes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
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