Brian Rath
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Brian Rath

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“There are probably hundreds of singer/songwriters in New York City's Greenwhich Village who would like to smack 26-year old Rochester native Brian Rath. Because the velvet-voiced guitar player's soulful lament on young love, "21 Old," was recently included on the "14 Best Singer Songwriters of Greenwhich Village Vol. III compilation disc produced by UMO Music in New York.

But unlike those others, Rath never lived in Greenwhich Village. Ever.

He just happened to be visiting a friend there last winter and played a few songs at an open-mic afternoon at a bar called The Baggot Inn.

"After I played, the host asked me if I wanted my songs included in the contest for Best of CD," he says.

"A year later I (found out) my song was picked."

Rath honed his laid-back, Jeff Buckley-meets-Tom McRae vocal style and stage presence as a college student at Northeastern University in Boston a few years earlier.

He returned to Rochester from Beantown in 2003 and has been a regular in the coffeehouse circuit since, playing Daily Perks on Gregory St., Java's on Gibbs St., and a steady gig at Spot Coffee on East Ave.

-Tim Karan
Insider Magazine

- Insider


Listening to the music of Brian Rath is a treat. From his conscious lyrics to his wonderful storytelling, Brian Rath is amazing. The singer songwriter from Rochester, NY is at the perfect age of 27 years old. One of his most recent accomplishments included that he was named one of the "6 Music Acts to Watch in 2006," by Insider Magazine. Even more incredible was that his song "21 Old" was chosen for the "14 Best Singer Songwriters of Greenwhich Village 2005" CD compilation, put out through UMO Music" (GarageBand.com). Check out this recent Q & A that Brian took the time to complete with Music Now.


Q. What aspect of making music excites you the most right now?
A. The Internet. I just shipped my CD to an on-line music magazine in Italy that wants to write a review. Every day it seems like I find a new site to upload some of my songs to and create a basic profile for my music. Music Now: You should join our community--friendsmix.net

Q. What aspect of making music gets you the most discouraged?
A. I would have to say...unsatisfying results in recording studios, which forces me to rely on my home recordings for distribution and CD sales. I wish I had a budget to rent an old mansion along the Hudson River and spend three months laboring over an album. But I still have to work full time in a coffee shop, and lattes don't generate enough income to cover session time. And the money I make from gigs just pays bills. But recording is also my least favorite part about being a singer songwriter anyway...I much prefer the performance.

Q. What are you up to right now, music-wise? (Current or upcoming recordings, tours, extravaganzas, experiments, top-secret projects, etc).
A. Right now I'm playing shows in Rochester, N.Y and mailing CD's all over the world.

Q. What's the most unusual place you've ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
A. I played in a grocery store, near the check-out line. People look really intense when their groceries are being scanned. But I ended up meeting a drummer who happened to be buying groceries and wanted to jam. We ended up practicing a few times, and he showed up to one of my shows with his kit. Apparently, grocery stores are good places for musicians to network.

Q. In what ways does the place where you live (or places where you have lived), affect the music you create, or your taste in music?
A. Well, as far as environment influencing my taste in music, the summer after my freshman year in college I drove across the country and spent the summer in Denver; I lived with my Uncle and got a job busing tables in an Italian restaurant downtown. I was enchanted by the West, which I believe stemmed from my obsession with the Doors and a family vacation to LA when I was younger. Even though I wasn't in California, Denver was still the West and I felt like my musical tastes directly sparked my adventure for travel somehow. It was also through the Doors that I discovered Jack Keroauc, whom I relate to that time and place in my life. I remember reading "On the Road" at night, on an outbound train after work and discovering that part of the novel I was reading took place on the very street my job was located. But, the Larimer St. of the 1950's, in Keroauc's novel, sounded more like skid row. I was busing tables in 1999. Times had changed. There was now a Ben and Jerry's and valet parking for restaurants. But back to your question, I was 19 and traveling, and I connected with the restless spirit and sense of adventure which fueled these artists.

Q. When was the last time you wrote a song? What can you tell us about it?
A. I was visiting a friend in NYC in 2005. When I arrived, he was still closing up the cafe where he worked, so I snuck into their basement and just started practicing guitar. I went to dropped-d tuning and started writing my song "Get Gone." I was high on that rush you get when you reach Manhattan and that fueled my concentration and tone for the song, which definitely has a foreboding quality. I was alone; that helps me for songwriting. Maybe some songwriters can go to cafes and write songs on their laptops, but I need some degree of quiet. The best way I can describe how I write and find melody, is repetition. By playing some little hook or string of words over and over, I think that just forces your mind to hear additional melodies. Almost like re-reading notes you might take during class to better grasp the material. But who does that! :)

Q. As you create more music, do you find yourself getting more or less interested in seeking out and listening to new music made by other people...and why do you think that is?
A. Great question. Even with the Internet, I still go to the town library and borrow CDs. Sometimes I do feel that being a singer takes up a lot of my time promoting my music that I have less time to explore new music. But I work in a cafe and all my co-workers have iPods and extensi - Junior's Cave Online Magazine


Another one was getting out. Rock 'n' roll troubadour Joff Wilson was finally pulling up Rochester stakes to hang in the Big Apple. The cat had exuded Bowery all along anyway.

Fans, friends, and fellow musicians gathered at Monty's Krown recently to send Wilson off, hoist a pint, and wish him well. The Krown was crowded and rowdy. The throng's volume, buzz, and steam went head to head with the bands on the tiny stage.

Just prior to Wilson's farewell set, an unassuming, nondescript young man in a black sport coat took the stage with a beer and a guitar. He began to play, and the noise dialed down to barely a murmur. I could hear the woman next to me cracking her gum. A couple of bottles clinked.

"He has the voice of God," someone whispered.

For the next 20 minutes or so Brian Rath and his guitar --- his acoustic guitar --- held the crowd's attention; their ears and eyeballs were glued.

"I always bring my A-game vocally," he says.

But "A-game" alludes to effort. And part of Rath's allure is the apparent ease in which the songs roll off his tongue --- his casual demeanor and total lack of shuck 'n' jive.

There's just something about him.

"I hesitate to use the word 'soul,'" he says. "I put a lot of feeling into it. I'm influenced by so much voice-wise. I'll hint at a style --- it might just be in a line. I'm just open to different sounds."

Born in Rochester, Rath honed his chops in Boston-area coffeehouses --- Club Passim, The Cantub Lounge, The Middle East --- while majoring in English at Northeastern University.

The music that emerged is straightforward and deceptively simple. There are subtleties and allusions lying just below the surface. And as opposed to most singer-songwriters brandishing guitars, Rath isn't really all that folk. He plays more of a bluesy madrigal --- if that makes any sense --- plucking and strumming with a simple finger style that doesn't crowd the melody or the lyrics. For it's the lyrics where Rath shines, despite the accolades and salvos for his golden tenor.

"I studied a lot of poetry, I liked lyrics," he says. "That was always my favorite part of getting an album, when lyrics were printed and I could follow along. It immediately gets me into the song than if I was just to hear the music."

Rath's lyrics are crystal. Throughout his various lyrical phases he has not been one to wallow in the abstract.

"I think early on I definitely had a phase where I was doing unrequited love, heartbreak," he says.

So basically he got dumped.

"Yeah," he says. "That's exactly what happened. I just kind of got burned for the first time. That was kind of the start of it. And I always liked singing."

"Said I treated you bad / Four years later, you're sad / But I was 21 old / I got a way to fall down / You called me at three in the morning / I dropped dead, you gave me no warning," Rath sings in "21 Old."

"Some songs I think you want people to hear," he says. "And sometimes they're just for you. It's just like your way of recognizing a certain part of your life, commenting on it, and then putting it away, shelving it, and then moving on."

Rath addresses other issues with wry humor and keen wit, peppering his songs with phrases about "hypocrites with haircuts," people with "24 carat secrets" in their eyes, and "dirty hands that are quick to shake, never knowing what's at stake."

And as stinging as his observations may be, Rath doesn't get too fired up.

"I'm not so much into that anger vibe right now in my life," he says before reconsidering. "I can definitely tap into some anger. I just don't know if I could do it and make it sound that good."

Though an official album isn't out yet, assorted demo CDs are floating around with up to 10 cuts on them. Rath records in a makeshift studio in his basement in Chili. And he has begun to work with other musicians, like Wilson-disciple Nate Coffee.

With a five-song EP in the works with Coffee, Rath wants to put together an electric band "more in the line of the Dylan sound," he says. But he won't forgo the simplicity of his voice, his guitar, and a beer.

"I wanna do both basically," he says, "because I'm very interested in rock bands. That's what I listen to."

So in the rock 'n' roll continuum, an heir apparent to Wilson's recently vacated throne emerges. It's what we'll listen to. - City Newspaper


Have you wondered where all the Muzak has gone? You know that insipid Herb Alpert-ish drivel leaking out of speakers in department stores and supermarkets? The stuff that seemed more like theme music for suicide than shopping? Well, it's been replaced in most places by soft rock, but at Rochester's Public Market you hear flesh and bone artists like Brian Rath and Nate Coffee, among others. Mildly amplified and strapped to acoustic guitars, these modern day minstrels add sunshine to the cloudiest of shopping days. 280 North Union Street (Frank De Blase) - City Newspaper


8 p.m.: As we head back to the car, we get to listen to the sounds of local acoustic guitarist Brian Rath covering Jason Mraz' latest hit, "I'm Yours," during a concert on the corner of Berkeley Street. It was a nice ending to a day in the neighborhood.
(Troy L. Smith) - The Insider


Brian Rath's career is in jeopardy. He brews coffee and mops the floor, but a part of his job at Boulder Coffee Company on Alexander Street is slicing bagels.

Guitar players should never handle sharp objects.

True, Jerry Garcia proved you can play excellent guitar minus a finger. But at age 26, Rath gets the point: People tell him he's onto something here with this folk-singing thing. So coffee may not be in his future, despite his 8 p.m. Wednesday show at Spot Coffee.

Perhaps you heard Rath this summer, singing Saturdays at the Rochester Public Market. He has a commanding voice, which may be hereditary: His grandfather was a radio announcer for the Red Wings.

Rath's written some excellent songs to go with it.

(Jeff Spevak, music critic) - Democrat and Chronicle


"Brian Rath. I was just introduced to his music, and his song "21 Old" is pretty freakin' amazing."

(Pam Cowan, reporter) - Insider


Brian Rath's song, "21 Old" will be featured as GarageBand.com's Acoustic Track of the Day on Thursday, the 10th of May, 2007. - Garageband.com


I'm from Seattle. My brother lives in Rochester, NY and saw this guy in some coffee bar, live. He said he was awesome and sent me a copy of the CD (which I, in turn, bought my own copy from CD Baby, because I kept playing it over and over). Even though it's only Brian and his guitar (mostly), this is catchy stuff with great lyrics. I can't stop playing it. There's some Dylan, some Lou Reed, some Beatles, a little reggae, a little surf. But a unique blend, all his own. Buy it NOW! - CDBaby.com (customer review)


Discography

-1 LP: Brian Rath (2005).

-6 tracks streaming on: myspace.com/brianrath.

-Local radio airplay includes songs: 21 Old, Mayday, Undercover Lover, Edgar Allan Poe's Baking Contest Blues, Ugly When You Fall

Photos

Bio

Brian Rath is a singer-songwriter from Rochester, NY. He began performing in bars and folk clubs around Boston in the early 2000's while studying English Literature at Northeastern University.

Influenced by the confessional Rufus Wainwright, the cryptic Dylan, the psychedelic pop of the Beatles, and a handful of crooners, Brian has amassed a slew of homemade demos and performs regularly throughout Upstate New York.

His song "21 Old" was chosen for the "14 Best Singer Songwriters of Greenwhich Village" CD compilation in 2005, put out by UMO Music. He was also named one of the "6 Music Acts to Watch in 2006," by Insider, a Rochester entertainment weekly.