Tim Brantley
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Tim Brantley

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"Tim Brantley builds a fan base in Birmingham"

If you’ve tuned into Live 100.5 in recent months, I can almost guarantee you’ve heard Tim Brantley’s debut single, “Damage.” The track has been one of the station’s top requested, proof of Brantley’s quick popularity in Birmingham.

That popularity has led to the Birmingham-exclusive release of his debut CD, Goldtop Heights. The only place you’ll find that physical album is at Barnes and Noble in Patton Creek; the digital album is available on iTunes, but the official release date isn’t until April 7. Brantley will play a free in-store show at that Barnes and Noble location at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23. He’ll also play on FOX6 News at noon on Jan. 22. Birmingham Box Set caught up with Atlanta resident Brantley during a recent phone call.

Birmingham Box Set: Although it’s available digitally on iTunes, currently fans can only find physical copies of Goldtop Heights at Barnes & Noble in Patton Creek. Why did y’all decide to go this route?

Tim Brantley: As of now, it was kind of an exclusive thing because Dave Rossi at Live 100.5 kind of played the record before everyone else and was hip to it, before anyone really knew it was coming out. We’ve tried to cater to that and have the record available there. The exclusivity never hurts.

… The song “Damage” was their No. 1 song for about two weeks. I think they’re starting to play some other songs now. I think it’s been received really well so far. It’s still young there, as it is everywhere.

I think the whole point of releasing it as a digital download and then a couple of stores having physical copies is to try and build some excitement and kind of gauge what’s out there for us.

BBS: You’re not the first Atlanta-based artist to find quick success in Birmingham. John Mayer is perhaps one of the most famous examples of a musician building a fan base here first.

TB: I’ve tried to kind of analyze it and try to understand why that is. I just think that it’s a smaller city and the market’s not necessarily saturated as it is in Atlanta.

You can’t really compare Atlanta and Birmingham. Atlanta’s 10 times bigger and it’s pretty much the hub of the Southeast at this point. [In] Birmingham, people have a genuine appreciation for music—not to say that people don’t here. But I think people appreciate it more there than they do in other parts of the country. They really soak it in.

In Atlanta, there’s a few different groups of really hardcore loyal music fans. It’s not as big of a fan base as you think it is here. There are some loyalists. It’s a really spread out city too, you can’t get anywhere in 10 minutes. It just doesn’t work that way. … It’s just not that easy. You can leave at 7 o’clock at night and you have three major sports franchises here.

Don’t get me wrong, the people that are really popular here in Atlanta, people go to the shows and don’t complain. But for a new artist it’s a little tougher.

BBS: You’ve played Birmingham a couple of times already. What has the reception been like?

TB: It’s been great. The cool thing about playing in some of these cities surrounding Atlanta and the Southeast is you feel like you’re close to home. There’s just a sense that these people are in your neighborhood. You don’t feel like you’re playing to your family like you do in Atlanta, but you feel like you’re playing to a cousin or something. … It feels good. … It feels right.

BBS: We know Birmingham loves you—how has it been going in other markets?

TB: I went to a lot of cities that I never played before on this last tour. It was about a five week tour around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. I played in a lot of the Northeast markets that I’d never played in before, and the Midwest, and it was a great response. It was really an introduction for me in a lot of these places. Everyone seemed to really embrace it. It was a good experience for me to get out and try to play in front of some people and see what they thought about it. I’ve really been stuck in the Southeast for a couple of years now. I haven’t really had the means or the ability to get out.

BBS: Let’s talk about the music itself. This is your debut album. How long has it been in the works?

TB: I recorded for a year, a little over, a year and a month. I started in March of ’07 and ended in April of ’08. The record is going to have been finished for a year before it comes out [laughs]. But I hear that’s typical turnaround these days, so who knows.

It took a year and the first six months was a lot of trial and error, a lot of trying to help it get its legs under it and understand what it was going to become. The second six months was like a furious race to the finish. The first six months was really just a lot of tinkering and trying out songs and a lot of trial and error on my part because I did produce the record. So a lot of things were a lot harder than they would’ve been if I’d left it up to someone else. There was a breaking point in the middle where I figured out exactly what I wanted it to be, and I went with that.

BBS: Why did you decide to produce it yourself?

TB: A variety of reasons. I think the biggest reason, any other band out there will tell you when they’re recording, if they’re recording with someone else, there’s always time constraints. It may be very loose but there’s always time constraints. I wanted none of that [laughs]. No one was rushing me.

I’ve recorded a lot of songs before this, obviously, and most of the time in the end was never truly happy. I always felt like if I had spent more time or more detail on the song or the lyrics, I felt like if I did it, it could be better. I knew if I took my time with it, it would be better than if I did it in a short amount of time.

BBS: What’s ahead for you?

TB: You know, I don’t really have any expectations right now. I think it’s wide open. I have hopes but they’re so vague as to what it really is to me. I’m definitely a guy that looks ahead. I’m always looking ahead. I hope that I can continue to do this for a living, that I can reach my music and reach more and more people.

… I hope that people can connect to the things that I’m writing because they’re very personal to me and very important to me. Without trying to sound self important, they’re just important to me. I hope people connect with it, and that it’s the same way as when I hear a song for the first time. … I just want to try to pass that along, that’s all.

Listen to more of Brantley’s music on his MySpace page, or purchase the full album on iTunes or at Barnes & Noble in Patton Creek. Brantley expects to tour nationally in conjunction with the April release of Goldtop Heights; watch his MySpace and website for dates. - Birmingham Box Set

"CD Review: Atlanta's Tim Brantley"

Remember hearing Springsteen's "Born to Run" the first time? It punched hard, that whole piano-drum-melody-xylophone-stomp thing, didn't it? Even those not taken by The Boss will forget for a second when hearing the song again on the radio, spontaneously bursting into a "whoa!" as Bruce breaks up the verse with a hint of cheese.

Tim Brantley's got a bit of that—not the cheese, but a commanding sound that sticks regardless of preferences. From track one on debut album "Goldtop Heights"—that track's got the same name—you feel like you’ve heard it before, but in a positive sense.

And to an extent you have. You know, for example, how Elton John's piano defined his songs and the way Hall and Oates stuck to a rigid, yet pleasing melody structure. Well, so does Brantley.

The trick is immersing those elements and making them your own, which Brantley masters with aplomb. An understanding of these concepts gives the album a sense of rejuvenation. The feat is more impressive considering he didn’t earnestly embrace music until his early 20s, having given up playing the piano as a child.

"I grew up with a lot of '70s rock," Brantley explains on his MySpace site. "My mom used to play Carole King all the time. I naturally gravitate to that kind of sound; there's a warmth and timelessness to it that I've always loved.”

Once unleashed, Brantley's knack for songwriting led to the creating of a three-piece band. Astounded friends even clubbed together to purchase equipment for the cash-strapped artist.

Having been signed, the Loganville native spends much of his time recording or on the road, as evidenced by the wealth of radio spots recently accumulated around the country.

"There was a lot of trial and error that went into the album," he said on MySpace. "The songwriting is far more detailed, and that was reflected in how I recorded. We recorded 25 songs, and I picked 10. I spent months on certain songs, refining them until I thought they were just right." - Metromix Atlanta

"Tim Brantley Earns Rave Reviews for "Goldtop Heights""

You “Wonder Why More Musicians Don’t Have the Balls to Make Good Old- Fashioned Rock Albums Like This Anymore”

“Room-Filling Vocals and Epic Storytelling Sagas”

Press, TV and Radio Embrace ”Hook-Heavy Pop-Rock” of Tim Brantley’s “Beautifully Crafted” 4/21 Debut CD

Enthusiasm at press, television and radio continues to grow in advance of the 4/21 release of singer Tim Brantley’s debut CD ‘Goldtop Heights’.

If recent events in the Southeast are any indication, Brantley’s upcoming U.S. tour is sure to cement his position as an ‘Artist to Watch’ in 2009. The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Shane Harrison praised the “hook-heavy pop-rock” on Brantley’s “beautifully crafted debut CD”; Atlanta’s Metromix, in a four-star CD review, noted: “You know, for example, how Elton John's piano defined his songs and the way Hall and Oates stuck to a rigid, yet pleasing melody structure. Well, so does Brantley,” and added: “Remember hearing Springsteen's “Born to Run" the first time? --- Tim Brantley's got a bit of that...a commanding sound that sticks regardless of preferences.” In Atlanta’s The Sunday Paper, Tim is described as “a somber rocker with a heart of gold,” who delivers “room-filling vocals and epic storytelling sagas...” You “wonder why more musicians don’t have the balls to make good old-fashioned rock albums like this anymore...,” praises writer Hal Horowitz. Links to the full reviews follow below.

Brantley is a throwback to an era when musicians used distinct images and dynamic production to tell cinematic stories. His music takes listeners on a rock journey that evokes radio hits of the 1970s, when Todd Rundgren, Billy Joel, Journey and Fleetwood Mac were topping the charts with larger-than-life songs that told surprisingly compelling personal narratives.

Georgia-based Brantley is a songwriter’s songwriter who shows the potential to be a bona fide rock star. An old-fashioned storyteller with a remarkably powerful voice, Brantley creates drama via rich characters facing real-life situations. His lyrics mean what they say.

As for the vibrant sound of ‘Goldtop Heights’, Brantley says that 70s pop/rock hits are part of his musical DNA, and he aimed to transport today’s listeners back in time: “This is the way it felt standing around a radio when I was growing up. Part of it is nostalgic. It’s me seeing things through a kid’s eyes – in that way that everything is big and heightened when you’re a child.” - All About Jazz

"Tim Brantley"

Everything about Tim Brantley screams the ’70s. From his husky Eddie Money vocals to the Springsteen-ish glockenspiel that peppers his songs, down to the aviator sunglasses and even the typeface on this debut album, this is a guy born three decades too late.

It’s as if punk, emo, techno, grunge and stripped-down singer/songwriters never happened. The Atlanta-based pianist/guitarist is a somber rocker with a heart of gold, a “Working Man,” as one of his tunes is titled, whose record collection stopped somewhere around Billy Joel’s last good album. You don’t have to love his music to appreciate its craft and Brantley’s dedication to an era anyone else would consider too dated to bother with.

The way the guitars and piano crescendo like a great Elton John rocker on the dramatic “I Can’t Make You Want Me,” or the hunky power ballad “Damage” reverberates with a chorus practically demanding raised lighters, just screams arena rock. A few songs, such as the lovely “Brooklyn” (there’s that glockenspiel again), connect with Brantley’s sympathetic-guy voice yet stay on relatively low boil.

But it’s the huge production, along with room-filling vocals and epic storytelling sagas like “The Race,” a ringer for Manfred Mann’s cover of “Blinded by the Light,” that’ll make you want to fire up the black lights, pull out the bell-bottom jeans and wonder why more musicians don’t have the balls to make good old-fashioned rock albums like this anymore. 3 STARS—Hal Horowitz - The Sunday Paper

"Josh Kelley & Tim Brantley go independent"

Josh Kelley and Tim Brantley don’t seem to have that much in common. Kelley lives in Los Angeles with actress wife Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy, 27 Dresses, Knocked Up) and has had his songs featured in a number of high-profile films. In addition, he released his 2008 album To Remember through an exclusive arrangement with mega-retailer Target. Conversely, the Atlanta-based Brantley resides far from Tinseltown and spends most nights as the opening act for other artists. But both singer-songwriters are Georgia natives that prefer to function as independent artists.
Josh Kelley.

Josh Kelley.

Admittedly, an artist “preferring” to stay away from major labels seems like a backwards notion, like an actor choosing to perform Off-Broadway or a baseball player opting to remain in the minor leagues. But in the brave new world of Youtube, iTunes, advanced home recording technology, satellite radio and customized ringtones, artists are finding that exposure in the music industry is no longer controlled by a handful of powerful labels. The independent route affords today’s artists a wealth of creative and business freedom.

“I think there’s a level playing field now,” Brantley says, speaking by phone from his Atlanta home. “I think the artists that should stand out will stand out. I think it’s a little easier to get a good recording of your music than it was even 10 years ago. You used to put a record on and that was as close as you could get to an artist. Now, you’ve got concert DVDs and Youtube.”

Kelley concurs that it’s an empowering time to be an artist, given the removal of the industry’s traditional gatekeepers. Kelley also understands the importance of separating oneself in light of increased outlets available to listeners and viewers.

“You’ve got to be sure that you’re keeping the content fresh,” Kelley says, speaking by phone from Los Angeles. “Last year, I put out three albums. You have to know what you stand for — that’s how you differentiate yourself first and foremost. I’m not going to try to be somebody I’m not. Once you know who you are, it makes it really easy to put it all together.”

On Monday, April 20, Kelley and Brantley will perform at Workplay. Kelley will be joined onstage by singer/songwriter Ryan Cabrera. Brantley and Brandon Whyde will open the 8 p.m. all-ages show.

“We’re basically doing ‘Two Men, One Stage’ like Simon & Garfunkel,” Kelley says of his set with Cabrera. “Nobody’s opening up for anybody. He’s learning my seven best songs and I’m learning his seven best songs. We have similar audiences, but different enough so that we’re bringing a lot to the table for each of us. We’ve been rehearsing for days now and we’re going to play and sing on each other’s songs. This tour is going to be an amazing tour. This tour is called the ‘Tell It Like It Is Tour’ and we wrote a song called ‘Tell It Like It Is’ and it’s going to be available on our websites and iTunes probably in the next few days.”

Like his wife’s career, Kelley’s profession demands that a tremendous amount of time is spent away from home. But Kelley and Heigl have a positive perspective on the situation and Kelley opts for short tours to maintain a healthy quality of life.

“It actually works in our favor because it makes you really appreciate the time you have together,” Kelley says. “It’s a nice jolt for the relationship in a positive direction. We love each other and you make time for the things you want in life and we’re good at making certain sacrifices. I’m looking forward to this tour, but I’m also sad because I’m leaving my girl behind. The road will absolutely age you if you don’t do it right. Eating properly is a big thing when you’re on the road [because] your diet is not great. I can only handle a month [at a time] – you get really ragged at the end of a tour.”

While Kelley’s music is closely associated with the crop of artists that provide the musical backdrop for television shows that include Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill and Scrubs, Brantley’s sound is reminiscent of early Bruce Springsteen and Warren Zevon. Brantley’s latest release, Goldtop Heights, plays like a great lost album from 1975.

Tim Brantley.

“I spent a lot of time on it and I tried to capture a sound,” Brantley says of the album. “I feel like I got pretty close. One of the major influences in making it was early-’70s rock. On a lot of the songs – and this is how my process usually works – I’ll come up with an idea and it will go in a safe place and I’ll revisit it when I’m ready to sit down and do something. That way, instead of writing a song and getting sick of it by tinkering with it, I’ll put it away and pick it back up. It makes it really stressful because you leave yourself a lot of work to do while you’re recording, but you feel like you’re doing something in the present rather than just capturing something you wrote in the past.”

Brantley is also old-school when it comes to his approach as a listener and fan.
“Personally, if I’m a big fan of an artist, I try to delve as little as possible into what they’re doing. For a lot of people that love an artist, it becomes an obsession and they want to see everything and hear everything. Me, I’ll listen to a record and I’ll skip the concert DVDs and Youtube videos. I want to maintain that mystery – I don’t want to hear about their political views or their opinions in the media because I’m not able to enjoy the music as much,” he says.

While Brantley opts to perform straightforward versions of his songs in the live setting, Kelley is prone to alter the arrangements of his songs. However, both artists acknowledge the importance of touring in today’s competitive musical climate.
“You can’t make money now unless you have a live show, which is good because it weeds out all of the fakers. The fakers can’t survive in the business, which is great. It’s about the people and how they react. We do it a little different every night because we don’t play to a template — we play to have fun. This business is crazy but there’s a lot of money to be made. I hate to keep bringing up money, but you have to eat,” Kelley says.

“These days, everybody’s touring so you have to set yourself apart,” Brantley says. “One thing I’m really conscious of is to not bastardize a song just for my own pleasure. I try to represent the song I’m singing and I don’t want to change melodies when people are singing along. You have to do something that nobody else is doing — you have to be at your very best all the time. There’s so much competition out there and you better be good when you step on stage.” - Birmingham Weekly

"In the heights"

You might hear stylings of Billy Joel, Van Morrison, or Elton John, but it’s all Tim Brantley, whose recent release is “Goldtop Heights.’’ The Georgia native sings and plays piano, guitar, and percussion, and has said that the record is “me seeing things through a kid’s eyes in the way that everything is big and heightened when you’re a child.’’ The pop rocker is one of the openers for Josh Hoge. - Boston Globe


Goldtop Heights




Many artists struggle to establish their musical identity, laboriously trying on different musical styles like items of clothing, looking to find what fits. But there are others that emerge fully formed, in full command of their craft, their identity and their music. Tim Brantley fits squarely in the latter category. His first album, Goldtop Heights, is a captivating debut that heralds the arrival of a significant new talent, one whose music feels familiar in the best possible way, yet still fresh and distinctive.
A Georgia boy who grew up in Loganville, near Decatur, Tim played piano as a child, but didn’t get serious about music until he began composing songs and performing at local coffee shops and bars in his early 20s. Friends were so impressed with what they heard that they chipped in to help Tim buy a microphone and mixing console so he could begin recording in earnest. The result was an exciting blend of pop and rock that channels musical influences like Hall & Oates, Wilco, and Fleetwood Mac while defining a distinctive style all its own.
The warmth and timelessness of Tim’s own songs quickly resonated with listeners, and pretty soon he was playing bigger shows for bigger audiences in and around Atlanta. In 2009, indie label Blackledge Records released his self-produced debut album, Goldtop Heights, a commanding and infectious mix of 70’s pop rock, Atlanta grit, and Brantley-style wistfulness. From the very opening notes of the album’s first single “Damage,” one can immediately hear that combination of melodic irresistibility and lyrical incisiveness that are becoming the musician’s hallmarks.