Country singer-songwriter Mitch Bradford joins us at Intelligentsia Coffee‘s Venice Beach coffee bar to chat with us about his latest album Love Is Kind, his love of filmmaking, and his thoughts on modern marketing tactics.
So we heard that you’ve got a new album called Love Is Kind. Care to give us a little sneaky peek at what we should be expecting?
Mitch Bradford: Oh it’s a fun album! I think we found a really interesting groove and tone on it where we really captured that California country sound from the 70s that we all love, like Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne and The Eagles and folks like that. I think there are songs on the record for everybody. There’s love songs, there’s up-tempo songs, there’s more country songs a few ballads mixed in there, so I think no matter how you approach it there will be something for you there.
The open-mindedness of the album!
Mitch: Definitely! That’s right!
And which song was your favorite to write and record?
Mitch: Oooh! I tend to like the songs that I think over-performed my expectations. So there are two songs actually, one’s called “Forty Days, Forty Nights,” and then there’s one called “Everybody Got Someone To Love ‘Cept You And Me.” With those, coming into the studio process I didn’t know if we would be able to find the right music. The band was absolutely amazing though! We were able to find a great groove, and listening to the songs make me happy because I feel like we overachieved in some way. *laughs*
Sometimes overachieving is a good thing!
Mitch: Yeah for sure! I guess you could say the songs outperformed my expectations, which I’m excited about.
That’s good to hear! I feel like when some people go in to record they get all bent of out shape if something doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to. But luckily it went in a good direction for you! *both laugh*
Mitch: Yeah! Well, there are definitely other songs where I listen and I only hear the mistakes so it’s hard for me to listen to them. *laughs* But those two songs that I mentioned I really love.
I feel like every musician has some kind of issue with perfectionism. I mean, I don’t even sing or play anything and I still have that mentality! *laughs*
Mitch: Oh for sure.
But those songs are your babies so you just want them to be perfect.
Mitch: That’s exactly right! It’s a little baby and it’s hard to let it go and let it fly away.
Sometimes we just have to force ourselves to do it! *laughs* And how was the songwriting and recording and production different, or similar, for Love Is Kind than that of your past work?
Mitch: Oh it was very different. I recorded two albums prior to this one, and they were recorded in my apartment with friends.
The ultimate DIY music project!
Mitch: *laughs* Oh yes, it was very DIY, very low-fi kind of alt-country/alt-rock. The producers were great producers, but they were friends of mine and the musicians that played on them were all friends, so it was a very insular and low-fi kind of project. With this one, I wanted to take the music to the next level and I worked with this guy named Matt Ross-Spang, who’s one of the best Grammy Award-winning producers. The musicians were out of this world, these session players from Memphis, and they made the record what it is. I was the worst musician in the room. *laughs*
I doubt that! You’re just being hard on yourself, or you want to make sure everyone else has their credit. You’re being humble!
Mitch: Oh stop! *laughs* But it was it was a pretty remarkable experience with all of these musicians and they were just so great. They really knocked it out!
Yeah! So you’re also into filmmaking.
Mitch: I am!
I assume that’s why you’re in L.A. *laughs*
Mitch: Yes, for sure! You have to kind of be here to get your start in the filmmaking world.
Of course! If you could create any film right now at this very moment in time, which genre would you choose and why?
Mitch: Definitely a thriller. I’ve been working with a guy on this thriller about technology.
Very relevant. As we’re recording on my phone and reading my questions off my iPad. *both laugh*
Mitch: It’s true! I mean, I think it’s something that film is still trying to wrap its head around because technology has invaded every aspect of our life but it’s hard to show that on screen and in film. So I think it’s something that all filmmakers are kind of working through and that we should probably dig into more. So I’d do a technology-focused thriller! *laughs*
A techno-thriller! It’ll just creep us all out and make us want to go back to the Dark Ages of landlines and dial-up. *both laugh*
Mitch: *laughs* God, we’re old enough to remember the rotary phones and calling cabs or getting rides from friends.
These kids nowadays will never know the struggle of needing to go over to your neighbor’s house being like, ‘Hey! Sooo…can I use your internet?’
Mitch: Oh my God exactly! Or your parents would get mad that you’re on the internet and they’re wondering if somebody called. *laughs*
So in regards to the intertwining of film and music with soundtracks and scores, do you feel that music can make or break a scene?
Mitch: Yes, they say that all the time and I think it’s so true and I’m trying to incorporate it more into my own film work. But if you watch a Hollywood feature film, there’s a score and music all over it and you would never even consciously think about it. And then if you watch a lot of short films there’s very rarely score and music in those. Score and music and really play on your emotions, and it can really take a film to the next level. I’m definitely trying to do more scoring and original music in my own film work.
And it will definitely be appreciated! Like, sometimes I’ll watch a movie or a show and think that the song doesn’t really quite go with what they’re showing in the scene.
Mitch: You know what’s weird? I was watching a clip from Harry Potter, and in this like two-minute clip the kids were putting on the Sorting Hat and there was music all over it. Different types of music too! There was spooky music for the Draco Malfoy part, and then really dramatic and positive music for Harry Potter. It’s really interesting to hear the two different sides of just one scene.
The beauty of musical contrast to introducing the rivalry that goes on for the entire series.
Mitch: Totally! And in an unconscious way through the music! It’s just so cool!
And what are few of your favorite soundtracks or film scores?
Mitch: Well I think Quentin Tarantino does an amazing job with picking the music for his films. Pulp Fiction has a great one. The score for There Will Be Blood, which was done by Jonny Greenwood, is just phenomenal. And Superfly by Curtis Mayfield is something that I listen to in my apartment from time to time because it’s so awesome. *laughs* You don’t even need the movie on to enjoy that one!
Right! I feel the same way when I turn on my film scores Pandora station.
Mitch: Oh nice! What comes up often for ya?
Lots of John Williams. Lots of Pirates of the Caribbean. Sometimes I feel like I’ve gotta work harder with all this epic music in the background. *both laugh*
Mitch: Yeah! Like, you have to go take over the pirate ship or something.
So with being a Texas transplant, what are some culture shock moments and experiences that you’ve had while living in L.A.?
Mitch: People eat a lot healthier here than they do in Texas. *both laugh* You know, tacos a little different here. There are a lot more smoothies here in California and a lot more kale. And of course the barbecue in Texas it’s a lot better.
Of course! I went to SXSW a few years ago and we stopped at a BBQ place before we started driving back to California. I was in a food coma for no joke five hours, didn’t even realize that we dropped off the other people in the car at the airport. I was just out like a light. *laughs*
Mitch: Yeah, the bbq out here just does not compare. We can all admit it! *both laugh*
I mean, homemade bbq is one thing, but finding a good restaurant out here is just a struggle. Aaand now I’m hungry. *both laugh*
Mitch: Yeah! Let’s just drive out to Texas and bring some back! *laughs*
God, I wish! *laughs* So how would you compare the music scenes between Los Angeles and Texas? Any similarities? Any differences? I’m sure there’s a lot of differences. *laughs*
Mitch: More country music in Texas of course. With the crowds, I think since Texas has that independent rebel outlaw spirit, which I love, the crowds tend to be a little wilder in Texas. They’re more eclectic out here, but I definitely appreciate both sides.
One spectrum for each mood.
Mitch: *laughs* Yeah totally!
So with the rise of music streaming and social media, do you think that it’s made it easier or harder for independent acts to break through?
Mitch: That’s a great question. I think there’s a tension, a strange tension, at the heart of it where it’s easier to get your music out there and get discovered. It’s really amazing. I’ve met people all throughout the United States and in the world who have added the songs to one of their playlists and it’s just incredible. The power of distribution is great. I think the challenge is cutting through the noise, and if you’re a less established musician or an independent musician it’s harder to cut through the noise and really elevate your music. The internet’s a noisy place. What do you think?
Oh wow, now I’m getting interviewed! *both laugh* I mean, there’s so much music out now than there was in the past for sure because the majors had this goal of trying to only market what they wanted to market. But I definitely think there’s more available to me as a music consumer now. If I feel like listening to something new that’s completely out of my comfort zone, I have that available, but if want to just listen to all the stuff that I listened to when I was thirteen then I also do that. *laughs* The world is my oyster!
Mitch: It totally is! It’s definitely been great for consumers and as music fans. There’s so much stuff that we have access to now that I never had access to and it’s really incredible.
Yeah I definitely agree. Shoot, I can even learn the lyrics to a local band’s songs if I really dug deep and found them. Spotify I think is getting better with Genius lyrics as well. Time to start Spotify karaoke! *both laugh*
Mitch: That’s a good idea actually! Someone needs to start that kind of business! *laughs*
Copyrighting that now! *laughs* And you had been releasing your songs for Love Is Kind steadily in the form of singles through social media. Would you say that modern music listeners are more inclined to check out a newer artist based off of singles, or do you still think they a full-length work would be able to grab their attention? Because we have zero attention spans nowadays. *laughs*
Mitch: Yeah yeah, myself included, my attention span is shot. *laughs* But in terms of my experience, we recorded and developed the record as an album and as a full piece of work. You’re able to buy a beautiful piece of vinyl that you can play in your living room and listen to the whole thing front to back and get the full experience, and I think that’s amazing. That’s probably the ideal listening experience, right? But in terms of getting the music out there and distributing it and making it easy for people to consume, the process has been about releasing singles and really promoting them. I think that’s been the smart way to go about doing them because one at a time really introduces people to the sounds and lyrics and the mood. Slowly letting word get out rather than dumping ten songs onto people at once is the right way to go.
The slow and steady route.
Mitch: Yeah definitely! And then you know what I’ve noticed, if you see the big time bands and the way they do it that’s what they’re doing too. They take one single and promote the heck out of it for two or three months.
And then we’re like, ‘We want more!’ and they’re like, ‘Here you go! Here’s another song for ya!’ And then they promote that for two or three months again like clockwork and make you wait for the album.
And then they end up not even putting those songs on the album because they’re assholes. *both laugh* Jk jk! So a tough question for ya.
Mitch: Oh geez! *laughs*
If you could choose three artists to go on your own world tour with, who would they be and what would you name your tour?
Mitch: Oh shucks! *laughs* I think I would like to go on tour with Jackson Browne or Margo Price or Robert Earl Keen or Jason Isbell. Folks like that. And in terms of the tour name…ah! I don’t know yet! *laughs*
We can call it the ‘I Don’t Know What The Tour Name Is Yet’ Tour 2019. *both laugh*
Mitch: Yes! Well you know, a lot of those folks get branded under outlaw country or Americana. Jason Isbell said this thing that I really admire where he said, “Americana music is about music from the heart.” It’s not about a certain tone or a certain set of instruments or a certain genre, because there’s a lot of genre-bending that gets put into Americana and the genre itself. That’s what I think we’d call the tour, ‘Music From The Heart’ because those folks write from a sincere place.
Absolutely, and it’s greatly appreciated having songs that actually evoke an emotion instead of just another standard ‘let’s dance around’ pop song.
And his quote is spot on because no genre, especially now, is really just one genre anymore. Everyone is incorporating so many different elements in their music, even country!
Mitch: Most definitely. There’s a lot of different genres underneath country and sort of mainstream radio country has become almost more aligned with hip-hop or rap or pop music. And then there are all sorts of great stuff going on beneath it too. It’s cool!
Underground country! *both laugh* I’m sure that exists somewhere.
Mitch: Oh definitely! Probably somewhere in Nashville, they’re doing that right now.
Totally! Or they’re in some rinky-dink town that we probably wouldn’t even know about. The Boondocks!
Mitch: We’ll see them come up when we least expect it. *laughs*
Oh totally! And we’ll be completely mind-blown from it! *laughs* Which artists would you say have influenced your musicianship?
Mitch: I’m very influenced by the singer-songwriters from the 60s and 70s. So Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan. And then I’m influenced by a lot of those country singer-songwriters too like Townes Van Zandt, Robert Earl Keen, and Guy Clark. I think that my music sits somewhere between those two worlds.
And who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Mitch: I love Willie Nelson and I deeply admire him as a person and as a songwriter. I just want to be in the same room as him. *laughs* We don’t even have to collaborate. I just wanna hang out with him or just watch him. He’s such an incredible dude!
And he’s still kickin’ too!
Mitch: Yeah! He’s still making great music and still touring.
What advice would you give to your younger self in regards to your experience in music?
Mitch: Hustle harder. I think that’s advice that I still have to give myself. Like, you’ve got to write the songs, but you also have to hustle them out there.
Makes us wish life was easy where we could just put something out and it will get big.
Mitch: Right! There’s an element of hustle to this where you do have to work and you have to work hard it.
And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Mitch: I think it all goes back to that idea of ‘music from the heart.’ My music is written from a genuine and sincere place, and I hope it brings some joy to their lives and they’re able to connect with it in some way or are able to come up with their own interpretations for what the songs are about. You write them, but then you have to let them go and they become their own thing.
Yeah! I mean, you hear it happen all the time where you hear artists say, ‘Well I wrote this song for…’ this reason. But then you have someone that interprets it in a completely different way. You just never know right?
Mitch: Right. Hopefully, all the interpretations with my music are good. *laughs*
That’s the goal, right? *laughs*
Mitch: That is the goal!
Especially with all this crazy crap in the world going on we hope it’s positive!
Mitch: Absolutely! The songs were written from a very positive place and I hope that’s reflected in the work itself.
Yes. And to end us off, apart from the release of Love Is Kind, what fun and exciting things should we be expecting from you?
Mitch: So my buddy who is a very talented filmmaker that I grew up in Texas with named Rick Perry directed this music video. There’s a production company here named Extra Credit Studios that helped us put it together and I think it turned out really well. We’ve got a tour coming up we’re building out some tour dates here in L.A., San Diego, and San Francisco up the coast. Eventually, we’ll make it to the Midwest, and then to Texas as well. We’ve got a lot of stuff cooking!
About Intelligentsia Coffee (Venice Location):
If you’ve adventured around the Los Angeles coffeeshop circuit (or scrolled through the internet looking for a coffee subscription), you would notice that a fair amount of them serve the Chicago-born Intelligentsia Coffee. Well, did you know that they also have a few of their coffee bars nestled around L.A.? Probably not. But boy, were we in for a treat when we set up shop at the Venice Beach location. And not just because we were blessed with the presence of many a cute dog while sitting down doing our interview.
Intelligentsia’s Venice Beach location is perfectly placed on the ever popular Abbot Kinney Boulevard along the path of many, many shops and close enough to walk to the beach after enjoying one of their freshly roasted brews and a can’t resist pastries. Its atmosphere very much appeals to the beach-y hipster that lives in the area with its modern industrial interior and rustic chic exterior. Couples, besties, shoppers, surfers, and more swarm to this spacious location to fill up their caffeine tank before their respective activities or decide to spend some time lounging there if they are lucky enough to get a seat.