ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Brad Lee Curtis, Zach Pietrini
Singer-songwriters Brad Lee Curtis and Zach Pietrini came to Anodyne Friday night for an intimate night of folk and rock music; the latter was joined by Nashville-based McKenna Bray, whom Pietrini had released an EP with earlier this year.
Brad Lee Curtis is originally from Milwaukee but moved to Nashville about four years ago. He explains why.
“Nashville had been on my radar for a while, just seeing all the music coming out of there. But I got more serious about it and moved down there to do audio engineering, so that was kind of the catalyst. I learned a lot from that program and I got back into songwriting again. It all came full circle, which is cool.”
This had been Curtis’ first time playing a show in Milwaukee since 2017, back when he was still with his band Low Down Sound. He dropped two solo tunes this past year, the first of which was “Surrender.”
“It felt good to release that one. It was a couple years in the making; it was a song about doubting yourself as an artist and questioning the path of “why did I move down here?” while in a dark spot. But it’s also a song that I hope other people in dark places can relate to and helps bring them out just a little bit.”
Then he released “Waiting for the Tide” in June.
“It’s a personal one as well, inspired by my wife. It’s just about that love with a person that you don’t ever want to let go and you hope nothing happens. When it comes to a point you’re faced with illness or something later in life…it’s just a tragic, romantic song. It was easy to write because those feelings are real.”
He shares what he’s working on now.
“I’m trying to pump out as many songs as I can. I haven’t been spending as much time in the studio at the moment because I’m just trying to write and get back on stage, seeing what will work on stage and then eventually get back in the studio.”
Brad Lee Curtis says they have Culver’s down in Nashville but it’s just not the same.
Zach Pietrini played his first show in Milwaukee since January of last year. In fact, this specifically was his first show back in a venue with a full band. As mentioned before, he and McKenna Bray released their EP “The Modern Love” last month. First things first – Pietrini explains how he met Bray.
“McKenna and I have a mutual friend, and McKenna has done a lot around Memphis but hasn’t branched out a ton, and so she asked our mutual friend if he knew anybody that could give her some pointers for hitting the road. He gave her my number and we started talking, and after a little while we hit it off and we talked about putting some shows together. Now we’re here.
Next he shares the EP’s concept and what went into it.
“We had this seventeen-day tour planned and we only got to play about five of the shows because everything shut down. But we had a day off in Nashville and we decided to hit the studio and see what we could create. The first song that we wrote together is called “Keep on Running” and we really liked it…and we didn’t know what we were gonna do with it…we were just having fun. But we both went back home and we were thinking that if we couldn’t actually tour, what if we just committed to writing together…so every week we’d show up same time and see what happens. I had written two songs that I thought would be good on the project but most of what we tried to tease out after that, we wanted to give a picture of love from multiple perspectives. That theme slowly started to emerge and we probably wrote about twelve or thirteen songs. We had about five in working order, so we made those into the EP. There’s a lyric in the song “Amelia” where it says “modern love is complicated” and I thought that kind of wrapped the whole thing up and put a bow on it.”
Now Pietrini and Bray are on tour and they’ve still got some ways to go.
“We’re ten days in to a 24-day tour, so we have a few more shows to play (laughs). McKenna’s pregnant so she’s gonna go home and in a couple months she’ll have her baby, and basically what we’ve said is that we’ll give it time for her to adjust and then we’ll revisit what we want to do with us writing together because I do think we have something special going. In the mean time then, I’m done with my band’s record – that’s gonna come out next year at some point. And then I’m doing some other writing with an artist collective VUCA; I’ve written three songs with them and one is coming out early next year. Then I’m producing and playing drums on my dear friend Paige Hargrove’s new album.”
Speaking of his band’s new record, he describes what folks can expect with it.
“It’s a little bit of departure for me. It’s not wildly different in any sense but I did put down the acoustic guitar for most of it. It’s a big, loud, electric album. It’s a lot of throwback stuff to Springsteen and Petty. I did this record for the most part with just myself and the producer-engineer so that we could just laser-focus on parts. It feels way more intentional; we had a lot of time to make it so we just let it breathe.”
Zach Pietrini and McKenna Bray are in Sheboygan at the Lutheran High School tonight with Anja Elise.