Brian Laidlaw
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Brian Laidlaw

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE

Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States | INDIE
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



""Our New Band Crush""

Our new “band crush”

February 27, 2013

Here at Hymie’s we get the worst band crushes. Sometimes we can hardly wait to see them again, and we worry about what to wear to their next show or how we can impress them by playing awesome records when they come into the shop. Our regular customers just go along with it, and bless ‘em for putting up with us playing Buffalo Moon‘s Selva Surreal every day for an entire winter and the first Is/Is album until we wore our copy out last summer.

So ever since they played in the shop last Friday night, Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade have been our latest crush. Don’t tell ‘em though because we’re super embarrassed that we’ve been playing their new disc, Whiskey with Goliath, every day. We already know about half the words, and yes we sing along.

Whiskey with Goliath opens with just about the perfect roadtrip track to come out of the midwest since Dave Dudley passed away a decade ago. “Drugstore Hucksters” gives even us comfortable homebodies a mean case of white line fever, and establishes the band’s earthy charm. Here and throughout the disc Laidlaw’s rich voice is backed by Very Small Animal’s Tim Harlan-Marks, who also plays bass, and Ashley Hanson, who also plays ukulele. Becky Gaunt provides the rootsy flavor with her sometimes raw/sometimes sweet fiddle accompaniment, and drummer Sean Geraty provides a full sound that keeps the band from the languid quagmires of folk-rock.

Laidlaw’s clever wordplay take center stage in several tracks, and his laid back performance alternates between the comfortable sound of 90s country rock and “outsider” folksies like the late Vic Chesnutt (who Laidlaw seems to channel in the idiosyncratic “Idioms”). There’s a little bit of Robert Hunter’s epic sweep in Laidlaw’s lyrics, and a little of Jeff Tweedy’s down-to-earth expressionsism that’s made Wilco enduring into the end of their second decade. The rockin’ road song “Setup” has been getting play on the Current (request it, will ya?) and it’s a fun send-up in the spirit of Run DMC’s “You Talk too Much” and the Ramones’ “Loudmouth.” Maybe it’s a little less mean.

They have a show booked for March 22nd at Cause Spirits and Soundbar on the other side of Lake Street, so until then you’ll have to settle for Whiskey with Goliath. You can click on the band’s website up above, or you can come by the shop for a copy. If you find buy a copy from them, maybe you could find out if they like us too, ’cause we’re super into them. - Hymie's Vintage Records

""The Band to Know and the Place to Be""

The Band to Know and the Place to Be
By Ellen Burkhardt

It’s one thing to be in a band. It’s another to be in three (or is it four?). But that’s how Brian Laidlaw likes it. The poet/songwriter got a grant from the Jerome Fellowship last summer to traverse the ghost towns of California’s Gold Country and write about it, song style. The result: Whiskey with Goliath, the debut EP of Brian Laidlaw & The Family Trade, the band Laidlaw heads. The other members include Tim Harlan-Marks (bass), Ashley Hanson (ukulele), Greg Byers (cello), Bex Gaunt (violin), and Sean Geraty (drums). Together, the six also are the members of such Twin Cities bands as Very Small Animal, Dusty Porch Sisters, and BGGBz. They're one big family; they're folk-y, but in a softer, more melodic way; they very well may be the next big thing.

Colin Kopp Photography
How’d you end up in Minnesota?

Brian Laidlaw: I grew up in San Francisco and got into songwriting through poetry. I was an English major at Stanford, and while I was there I started putting my poems to music and playing guitar in a couple bands. After I graduated, I toured around the Sierra’s playing before moving to Minneapolis in 2008 to get my MFA at the U of M. That’s where I met and started playing with the members of Yes!Lets Collective.
What/who exactly is Yes!Lets Collective?

BL: We’re a group of songwriters who get together and jam. At first, it sounded pretty sloppy and messy and was just for fun, but then we started sounding good enough to call ourselves a band. We’re actually several bands with shared members: Very Small Animal, Dusty Porch Sisters, The Family Trade. The concept is sort of like Doomtree, but folk and Americana. Each band has a different lead songwriter, and we stagger releases and support each other.
Do the bands all sound the same, since they have a lot of the same members?

BL: Not at all. Since each has a different writer, they each sound different and have different listeners. The more we play, the better we all get—each band becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
How did Whiskey With Goliath come about?

BL: After I got the grant, I set out in the Sierra Nevada mountains—by myself for sections of it, and with a couple musician/writer friends in California for moral support and safety for other parts. We were in some pretty weird territory, driving for hours and hours on dirt roads or no road; hiking to these abandoned towns. It was pretty crazy.
Why did you choose to focus on ghost towns?

BL: I grew up learning about the gold rush—it’s at the root of California’s identity. Even now the echoes of the gold rush are so much a part of what it is to live in California. People still go there to strike it rich and make it big. It’s the same spirit and cycle with booms and busts. The recent recession following the boom of the ’90s? That was totally foretold by the gold rush.
Is there something in particular about the gold rush that draws you?

BL: The tall tales and the self-mythologizing; the lies and nonsense and misinformation. That’s an important part of songwriting, lying.
What are you looking forward to about your show this Friday?

BL: The most special thing about our band is the energy of our live shows. It’s tremendously exuberant and joyful and it often reminds me of what it’s like to sing songs around a campfire—earnest and playful. Each show ends up being a really special emotional experience. The audience can feel that, too. We’re having a great time, and are generous with our spirit. The tunes are a little different each time we play them. This EP release is a celebration, and we are going to be uncommonly celebratory in spirit.

Brian Laidlaw & The Family Trade EP Release Party, along with Chastity Brown and Bomba De Luz
Friday, January 25
10 p.m.
Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls. - Minnesota Monthly

"Album Preview / Profile from Paper Darts"

A Family History

Performing frequently around the Twin Cities, poet and songwriter Brian Laidlaw pairs his music and lyrics with the enthusiasm and talents of The Family Trade. An ethereal gift to the eardrums, Brian Laidlaw and the Family Trade are like waking up on a Saturday morning, where every position is comfortable and cozy. With a mandolin, violin, cello, ukulele, guitar, bass, and drums in tow, their folksy jams are songs you can sing along to after only one listen. Laidlaw’s lyrics lay out smooth against the background of so many strings, ebbing and flowing with each crescendo and diminuendo. On stage, the band members swell with the music as they strum and sing along.

First things first, how does a big ol’ band like The Family Trade come to be? Slowly, naturally, progressively, it would seem. “At the time when this band formed, I was living in a very musical house. We’d often find ourselves hosting impromptu song-swaps on our porch, with a cast of local songwriters sharing their works-in-progress and other folks jumping in, singing harmonies on the fly, adding other instruments, and so on,” Laidlaw says. “The Family Trade arose from those informal sing-alongs; after several of my musician friends knew how to play my songs, the ‘sing-alongs’ shifted almost imperceptibly into ‘rehearsals.’ Pretty soon we were playing at venues bigger than the front porch.”

It was an incredible blessing to discover an awesome band hiding right inside my circle of closest friends.

Hailing from California, Laidlaw had his own band back in San Francisco. But when he moved to Minneapolis to pursue his MFA in poetry at the U of M, he missed the joys of performing and writing music. “When The Family Trade took shape, it was an incredible blessing to discover an awesome band hiding right inside my circle of closest friends,” Laidlaw explains.

Laidlaw remembers the band forming officially early in 2011, which is how long ago the email chains had started. “At that point, we had just decided that we were going to be a real band, and we were writing back and forth for awhile, trying to pick a band-name. There are some strong contenders in that chain,” says Laidlaw. “‘The Cabin Walls’ and ‘The Prairie Sound’ are among the ones I still really like.”

Of course with a band of such size and talent, there is bound to be turn around as members’ lives sync and fade with the demands of being in a musical group, and Laidlaw admits that “we’ve had some turnover in the personnel, but we keep recruiting new friends to fill in when old ones go off adventuring.”

Having experience in bands before and having come together so organically, with a big group of talented musicians, writing each song for The Family Trade is an interesting balance. “I write all the songs. But the arrangements are wonderfully collaborative; my chords and lyrics simply provide a framework for the harmonies, rhythm section, and strings players to work their magic,” says Laidlaw.

Every single member of [The Family Trade] is also an accomplished songwriter in his or her own right.

But, he is quick to add that “every single member of [The Family Trade] is also an accomplished songwriter in his or her own right. Ashley Hanson writes and performs with the Dusty Porch Sisters; Tim Harlan-Marks writes and performs with Very Small Animal; Sean Geraty writes and performs with a Nashville band called Spark Fire; Becky Gaunt and Greg Byers write and perform as a duo called the BGGBz.”

Of course, not every song starts out the same way. As a poet, Laidlaw has a unique perspective on the songwriting process. “I almost always end up writing the lyrics first. My poetry has become increasingly fragmentary and experimental in the last few years…so songwriting is my perpetual playground for rhyme and meter. I usually write a full set of lyrics in my notebook, in silence, and then pick up an instrument and build a melody that suits the meter and contour of the lines,” Laidlaw said. “I’ve written songs that way for nearly a decade, but it was only in the last few months that I realized how atypical my method is. I teach songwriting at McNally Smith College of Music, and the vast majority of my students seem to compose with a guitar in their hands. I’ve been experimenting some with that ‘music-first’ approach recently, and it’s resulted in more energetic melodies and less linguistically dense content.”

The Family trade, as well as the other bands the members are involved in, are part of a Twin Cities arts and music cohort called the Yes!Lets Collective. This musical collective is kind of a gathering of who’s who in the Twin Cities Music scene, boasting:

“The Yes!Lets Collective is a cohort of Twin Cities musicians, artists and organizers. With an ethos of unwavering enthusiasm, we seek to unite ‘performer’ and ‘audience’ through events based on community building and collaborative art-making. Our goal is to foster an environment in which all participants, regardless of their artistic backgrounds, can share equally in the joy of creation. Our roster is made up of member artists and bands who create and perform in the spirit of the collective."

In their work as members of the Yes!Let’s Collective, the band has been able to perform many unique shows, one of which was known as a “Dark Show.” At this show, “The Family Trade performed in total darkness in the basement of The Third Place gallery. It was a wild experience for everyone involved, hearing disembodied instruments and voices rise out of nothingness,” said Laidlaw.

Laidlaw’s first public performances were outdoors around campfires, like many guitar-toting hopefuls. And that’s still his favorite venue to play. “I will admit that I still love performing outdoors, unamplified, around a bonfire. [The Family Trade] had the opportunity to play in that format at the Walker Art Center a couple times this year and at other festivals around the state.”

Laidlaw also admits that playing the recent Internet Cat Video Festival was an “outstanding contender for ‘strangest gig of all time.’”

Coming up, Brian Laidlaw and The Family Trade have an EP release. Titled Whiskey with Goliath, the new mini-album is the first collection released by the band as a group. It has seven tracks full of strings and soothing vocals and lyrics that stick with you long after the stereo falls silent.

To be kept in the loop on upcoming shows, you can check out The Family Trade on their Facebook page, and on the Yes!Let’s Collective site. You can also buy previous albums (listed under Brian Laidlaw) on iTunes, etc. If you're looking to catch this lively group in person, they've got a show coming up on halloween night at the 400 bar.

And of course, The big release party for their new EP, "Whiskey With Goliath," will be at Icehouse on Friday, January 25, with Chasity Brown. - Paper Darts Magazine

"Show Review / Profile from (Amsterdam Residency)"

There’s nothing I dread more than February, the middle of winter, other than perhaps Wednesdays, the middle of the week… until now.

Early last week good old Facebook informed me that Brian Laidlaw and friends from Yes!Let’s Collective have an outstanding gig (a residency called “February Colonization”) at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in downtown St. Paul every Wednesday of February. Thank goodness someone else realized how badly we need something to look forward to on the lamest day of the week during the grayest month of the year.

The music feels like folk/folk-rock, but don’t let the easy listening (the kind that makes you want to sing along) fool you. Brian is an obviously talented writer whose poetic, geographic, and rather intellectual lyrics carry the listener along a true narrative arc. These musicians love to play, and the joy they so clearly take from their art is contagious.

Amsterdam Bar & Hall is spacious enough to not feel crowded, designed with acoustics in mind allowing for conversation (not shouting!) while musicians are on stage, and offers a selection of Dutch-inspired beverages and snacks sure to warm the body while the music warms the soul. Its high ceilings and industrial dark interior seem a little cold at first, but the atmosphere is colored with warmth and intimacy once the music starts.

I am now looking forward to every Wednesday this month and am no longer counting down the days until February is over. Brian has also handpicked other local musicians to play with each night – musicians that had inspired him when he first came onto the Twin Cities music scene. The final Wednesday, that magical extra leap year day Feb. 29th, is promised to be a big celebration with all sorts of musical collaborations from the entire Yes!Let’s Collective and special guest Lucy Michelle. -

"Album Preview / Profile from Knight Arts"

Now hear this: singer/songwriter Brian Laidlaw

Published on November 7, 2011 by Susannah Schouweiler in Music, Poetry, St. Paul

A few weeks ago, during an end-of-summer outdoor arts festival presented by (where I work for my day job), I heard Brian Laidlaw for the first time. He was closing out the day’s performances with an acoustic set around the campfire, playing with the Family Trade, one of a handful of ensembles and solo musicians with whom Laidlaw performs regularly.

He’s got a buttery, singer-songwriter sort of lilt and an easy, fluid hand on the guitar. His deft take on the indie folk sound is appealing, no doubt, but his lyrics — intelligent, sometimes poignant, sometimes witty and often unabashedly and refreshingly earnest — are what have driven me to seek out more of his work. Turns out, he’s got a new CD coming out shortly: “wolf wolf wolf.”

That he’s also a poet (really – he’s got an MFA in poetry from the University of Minnesota), is evident from the carefully crafted narrative line in each song on the new album. In fact, “wolf wolf wolf” is billed as an “audio counterpart to his master’s thesis.” He claims the work of another fine lyricist, Neil Young’s “Harvest”, as his inspiration for the new suite of songs; Laidlaw and his band recorded the songs for the new album live, in one room, and tracked the entire CD over the course of three days with producer Brett Bullion (who’s known for his similarly stripped down work with musicians like Haley Bonar, Dark Dark Dark, and Halloween, Alaska).

As I listen, I find myself struck by the gentle but insistent old-fashioned decency and community spirit behind these tracks. They’re a composite anthem to the Heartland in hard times, revealing the soul of an idealist, albeit a melancholy one. From “Shorebird:” “lift all the safety latches/we’re gonna turn into ashes sometime/they said it’s not the smartest/I said I’m gonna be an artist/I’m gonna pay it forward/sometime.”

It’s no surprise, really, that Laidlaw is also a member of a new project, the Yes!Let’s Collective — a collaborative effort by a number of like-minded musicians and artists who play and make work together. I’m charmed by the group’s indefatigable hopefulness and “we can do something so cool together!” spirit; and the collective’s various members’ musical talents are pretty impressive as well.

The video up top features a song by Laidlaw and Ashley Hanson as part of the new duo Alpenglow. Start the player just below the video to listen to a number of tracks from the new CD, courtesy of the artist and SoundCloud.

Laidlaw will celebrate his CD release for “wolf wolf wolf” with a big show on Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Turf Club, 1601 University Ave., in St. Paul, Minn. Tickets are $6; doors at 9 p.m. In addition to Laidlaw and some other artists from the Yes!Let’s Collective, Martin Devaney Band and Bella Ruse will also perform. - Knight Arts

"Wolf Wolf Wolf Feature on KFAI's "Minneculture""

California native Brian Laidlaw considers himself a poet first and musician second. After several years of touring, Laidlaw settled in Minneapolis to earn his Masters of Fine Art in poetry at the University of Minnesota. He wrote the album "wolf wolf wolf" as the audio counterpart to his masters' thesis and released it in the fall of 2011. In this edition of Live from Minnesota, Laidlaw shares his poetry, music and insight on blending of these art forms. For more information, go to - KFAI


Whiskey With Goliath - EP, 2013
Wolf Wolf Wolf - Full length, 2011
No Horse Town - EP, 2010
Sparrow Songs - Full length w/ book of poems, 2009
Fond Memories of Sound - Full length, 2007
Why Did We Come Here Together? - EP, 2006
Every Fall - EP, 2005
First Love Songs - EP, 2005
Quarterlife - Full length w/ book of poems, 2004



Brian Laidlaw is a poet and folksinger from San Francisco, and a member of the Songwriting faculty at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2005 he graduated from Stanford with a degree in Creative Writing, and spent the next few years living in the Sierra Nevada and touring the U.S. as a solo songwriter.

In 2008 he moved to Minneapolis to earn an MFA in poetry at the University of Minnesota. In the last year he has received awards and honors from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the McKnight Foundation, the Loft Literary Center, the Weisman Art Museum, and the Jerome Foundation. His lyrics have been featured in American Songwriter Magazine and his poems have appeared or are forthcoming in New American Writing, FIELD, VOLT, Quarter After Eight, The Iowa Review, and elsewhere.

Brian is also founding member of a Twin Cities arts cohort called the Yes!Lets Collective, and the ringleader of a messy folk orchestra called The Family Trade.