Michael Jerome Browne said he feels nourished and inspired by music, well there is no chance of him starving or being unmotivated anytime soon.
“People ask me why the blues, but I guess I was exposed at a young age. I had some musical talent so when I started playing that is what came out,” said Browne. “My dad took me to see a concert at the Backdoor Coffee House in Montreal when I was eight or nine and that was the turning point.”
Born in South Bend, Indiana, Browne is the son of English professors whose love of music and poetry inspired them to take their young son to the great jazz, blues and folk clubs in their adopted home of Montreal.
It set the tone for Browne’s life as a musician. He went on to win the Canadian Folk Music Awards Solo Artist of the Year in 2008 and 2012, Maple Blues Acoustic Artist award and a three time Juno Award nominee in both the roots and blues category. As a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Browne is a living encyclopedia of American roots music.
By the age of 14, Browne was already a regular on the vibrant folk and coffee house scene adding banjo, fiddle and mandolin to his masterful command of all variety of guitars and harmonica.
“There was a place called the Esquire Show Bar in Montreal that was the home of blues and jazz and they had lost their liquor licence so as a 12 or 13 year old I could get in. My dad took me there and I saw people like James Cotton and Lightning Hopkins. It was so cool to see these guys live, because I had only heard them on records,” said Browne.
While the Deep South U.S. is where blues and jazz legends were commonly found, Browne wasn’t a part of that culture growing up in Montreal. Still it intrigued him.
“As a teenager I delved into it deeply. I learned all the guitar styles of those eras,” said Browne of why he fell in love with the music. “Emotionally I find the music very direct. It’s easy to figure out what the song is about and its not oblique. The blues is very honest direct music and I like the old ballads that tell a story.”
But in his youth it was all about the sound. Now whether he is gliding a slide across his national guitar, pulling his bow over the fiddle strings to play a Cajun waltz or trailing away on his gourd banjo, Browne’s passion and virtuosity always shine through. He wants his performances to inspire people to see the interconnections between the many cultures and influences that gave birth to American roots music, gospel, blues, old-time, country, soul and cajun. Expect to hear all of this and more in his live show.
“What is hard about making this music is trying to sound direct while trying to be poetic. It is a fine line. If it is too matter of fact that doesn’t work either,” he said.
The street-smart archivist has managed to find a way.
When he isn’t performing his own material he is in demand backing up and recording with artists such as Eric Bibb, Jordan Officer and Susie Arioli. It has been about two years since Browne has recorded an album himself, but he expects to be getting back to his roots soon.
“I’m leaning towards recording some interpretations of old blues classics from the 20s and 30s which is what I started off doing years ago. I want to get back to that. To me, it is the time to do that. I want to focus where my roots are and where I came from,” said Browne.
Catch Browne at the Dream Café on April 11. Tickets are $20 with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the show starting at 8 p.m.