Interview: BRIJITTE WEST

Brijitte West & the Desperate Hopefuls  have just released their new album, ‘From NY With Love’ and GRTR!’s Nikk Gunns finds out more about the album and the most memorable shows to date…

1.    You’ve been making music for a while now- summarise your career in one sentence  

The girl can’t help it

2. Your new album “From NY With Love” is out now, talk us through the album? (e.g. story behind the songs, song writing process)?

I made decision that I needed to be authentic to who I am in the here and now. So many artists in this genre try to live up to some sort of persona where the lyrics need to tell the story of life being some sort of endless party.  Although my life with NY Loose was sort of seven-day weekend, to quote the New York Dolls, a lot has changed for me these days.  Mainly the theme’s running through the songs are about the challenges I face as an artist who has a lot going on outside of my art. ‘Close to Defeat’ explains this with the line. “It’s a blessing and a curse, for you I carry an empty purse”.  The “for you” in this line is about my muse or my art.  The engine keeps turning over so to speak. In a way this record pays homage to the very thing that I feel I can never stop doing!  Songs like Done It Proud talk about the challenge of having to take a break while my kids where very young but equally how proud I am of everything I have achieved both inside and outside of my music. Equally, it’s time to shift part of my focus on my writing and of course my awesome fans!

The song ‘Typical Drunken Loser’ is about an ex band mate that I really wish I could have kept playing with. I miss him to this day. ‘Fight For’ me is written from the perspective of someone who is incredibly vulnerable. I was thinking about the refugee crisis, children in care, the lonely and disenfranchised when I wrote this song. So there are a variety of themes here and I hope that when people listen to the lyrics that they can relate to them from their own perspective and not just my own.

3. The new album has a great mix of the styles you have favoured throughout your career, what’s next?

My mind is at work trying to figure this out. I have always wanted to do something really quiet and sonically interesting. I am a big fan of bands like Wilco who marry an Americana style to an ultra modern production. I am hoping I come across a producer or an artist out there that would want to collaborate with me. I have a couple of other ideas as well. I would be really grateful to be able to make another album. I am throwing it out there to the Universe; let’s see what comes back.

4. The album was funded via Pledge Music, this has become popular lately- can you see this replacing the traditional music business model?

I think for artist like me it’s the only way. Small record companies are few and far between.  There would be no way I could have done this without the support of my fans and for the folks at Pledge. They have created a really great platform for artists who are not completely unknown but are not household names.

5. Are there any other artists that you would like to collaborate with?

Yes, there is a very long list!

Photo credit: Cristina Massei

6. What have been the most memorable live shows from you and why? Is there a career highlight that you will look back on as a defining moment for you?

The most memorable one was when I was in NY Loose. ‘Year of the Rat’ had come out and we were asked to tour with Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar was newly released. No one would tour with them because they had a really sick reputation and were known to not treat their warm up acts very well. Their audience was known to be just as tough and scary and would boo the warm up act off the stage, throw bottles and worse. We didn’t have a lot of choice because our management and label were crap. We needed to get out on the road; I don’t think any of us had anywhere to live at the time! Manson was a fan and asked me to do the tour. We were terrified. The opening night was in a place called Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We hit the stage and as predicted we started getting booed. I had a bottle of jack Daniels on the stage and took a long sip. I then spit it out over the first row. They loved it! It was more survival than anything else. I just figured I needed to do something crazy for them to accept us. From then on the fans in the front row wrote on their t -shirts “spit on me”. It turned out to be an insane tour, in the best possible way and we went from playing theatres to arenas!

7. How did you get your first break into the music business? What piece of advice would you pass onto budding musicians?

Back in the early 90’s I pressed my own 45’s and sent them out to fanzines. I booked my own tours and organised everything. I was utterly driven by my music. It’s all I wanted to do every waking moment I was either writing songs, rehearsing, printing up gig posters or working to fund the whole thing. I would sneak into mailrooms when I knew they would be out to lunch in office building so I could post out my records. I wouldn’t leave the house unless I had flyers in my pocket for the next gig.  Anything less than 100% commitment and belief you may as well forget it.  Every penny I had would go pay for rehearsals. I used to order from menus not by food choice but by price! I thank God for New York bagels and cheap Polish Diners! There was a bit of a scene in the 90’s in New York City so we slotted in nicely and then we would tour the south with bands like Nine Pound Hammer, which later became Nashville Pussy.

It was all very gradual we really paid our dues and had a solid fan base and profile before the record companies started sniffing around. It was exciting, especially when Madonna showed up at Coney Island High! Ironically the band broke up shortly after our first major release so there you go. It actually would have been better for us to just keep doing what we were doing at the grass roots level.

My advice for bands these days is to do just that. Use every tool that’s out there to promote your band.  There is so much more now than when I was starting. Buy a cheap van and get out on the road, keep playing. Work to fund the music and commit at least 2-4 years solid to that mind set if you really think you have something. Find a scene, other bands that sound like you and try and play shows together.  It’s tough but it’s fun, but you can never go into it thinking that you will become rich and famous.

8. There seems to be a number of high profile hard rock musicians moving to Nashville and giving their career a country tinge. Do you see this as a fad or is this the way forward?

I’m not sure. I have always been a huge fan of country. I love the story telling aspect and the melodies. I have played at the Blue Bird Café in Nashville and it was a thrill. The thing with country is it is focused on the song, the lyrics and the story. Also the musicianship in Nashville is second to none. I have fantasized about getting back there and making a record. I think it would suit me down to the ground.

9. What are your plans for the next 5 years or so? Is there anything that you haven’t yet done in your career that you aim to achieve?

Every artist needs some support, and for me to continue I will need to find a solid team which is focused. I am hoping I can find that in the next five years.
I would also like to do some more shows. Definitely make another record and continue writing songs for myself and maybe for others.

10. Have you got a message for your fans here in the UK?

Thanks for sticking by me. To all of those who Pledged you have made a huge difference. I could not have done this with out you!!! We did this!!!! I am forever grateful!!!

To purchase Brijitte West & the Desperate Hopefuls new album, ‘From NY With Love’ visit https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/from-ny-with-love/id1144175883
Brijitte West & The Desperate Hopefuls play The Bowery Electric in New York on 06 October

Album review

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The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 26 September. This marked the start of a new monthly series. Josh’s next session is Sunday 31 October.


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