Key to the Highway: Eric Brace

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Americana Highways’  Key to the Highway series photo by Melissa Clarke

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Eric Brace.

AH:  How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

EB:   I take my coffee any which way, really. On the road, for simplicity’s sake, I go for black coffee. If the place can do it, I’ll add a shot of espresso to that. I don’t like to use those little coffee makers in the hotel room. I’ve just never trusted them, somehow. Like, I’ll hit brew and some pond scum will come out or something. I’ll usually put a little research into finding a breakfast joint with good coffee. It’s getting easier and easier to find that in our modern coffee culture. At home, I like to customize. Sometimes I’ll add black pepper to zing it up. When I’m in the UK, I’ll drink tea, because… when in Rome.

AH:  What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

EB:  Peter Cooper and I once played in Denmark deep in winter. It was a house concert and we stayed with the folks who hosted us. They had built separate sleeping quarters adjacent to their living area. There was no heat and the walls had huge holes in them to let in the winter air. The explanation was health related and we were told to give it a try.  It was well below freezing, and we had plenty of blankets, and we slept amazingly.

AH: If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is?  And why?

EB:  One. One??? Hmmmm. Of late, I’ve been listening to things with no lyrics (lots of jazz, especially Latin jazz), or with lyrics that aren’t in English. So I’m going to say Buena Vista Social Club. I could listen to that endlessly.

AH: What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

EB:  Can I say my iPhone? Not to stay online all the time, but because I take so many pictures. By the thousands. But if the phone is so obvious to the point of being ruled out of contention, I’d have to pick the Kindle. Reading, reading, reading, all the time.

AH:  What is your relationship with food?   How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

EB:  My relationship with food is going very well, thank you. We get together quite a lot, and then I eat it. On the road, fast food is forbidden. Peter Cooper doesn’t eat meat and Thomm Jutz eats very little, so when we’re on the road together we tend to look for seafood restaurants or Asian (Thai or Vietnamese) where there’s a lot of vegetable offerings. It’s usually possible to find some “strip mall Thai” or Mexican close to the highway. I’ll definitely use my Yelp app for finding those kinds of things. I’m a soup guy. Pho or a good tortilla soup are what I hope to find.

AH: If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

EB: We’ve played in Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico several times over the past few years, and I could definitely see spending more time in the High Desert up near the Four Corners. Every time I’m there I think, “I could stay here.” The sweep of that dry landscape moves me in ways I can’t even begin to understand. I want to write songs out there.

AH:  What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

EB: As I type this, I’m still in shock from the death of songwriter David Olney, a friend and inspiration. So I’ll share some advice from him, but second hand:

Some years back, Peter Cooper was on the road with David to write an article for the Tennessean newspaper about life on the road with a solo troubadour. Peter wrote about one night in a small Alabama bar, where David played to perhaps five people and put on one of the greatest shows Peter had ever seen. After the show, Peter asked David how he did it, how he found the energy and spirit to put on such a mind-blowing show. David said, “Yeah, I could have just phoned it in, I suppose, but I’ve realized that it’s a whole lot easier to play the songs right.”

You must always give the songs what they deserve, and the performance falls into place.

Find all things Eric Brace and Last Train Home, here:

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for:  Patterson Hood Rodney Crowell Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers )

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