Greg Brown at the Rogue Theatre
Hear Greg Brown's "Hymns To What Is Left" — Folk musician Greg Brown doesn't consider himself a songwriter — though he has about 20 albums to his credit. "I play around with a lot of stuff," he says&346; "I don't really write, I just sing. If I find something I enjoy, I'll learn it and tape it. That's the way I work."
Playing "around with a lot of stuff" has brought such songs as "I Must Be in Oregon" — improvised on stage at a show in Corvallis — along with "Canned Goods," "Who Woulda Thunk It" and others.
Brown's newest, "Hymns to What is Left," was released in fall 2012 on CD Baby.
He'll perform songs from "Hymns" and other favorites at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Rogue Theatre, 143 S.E. H St., Grants Pass. Tickets cost $25 for general seating; $29 or $45 for reserved seats. Call 541-471-1316 or see www.roguetheatre.com.
His daughter, Pieta Brown, will open the show.
"Pieta and her friend Lucy from Australia just put out a CD and are touring the Northwest with me," Brown says. "I'm so proud of her I can't hardly stand it. She also has a beautiful new record of her own coming out soon. She's a talented singer and songwriter, and her songs say more than they seem to at first. The more you listen, the more you hear. They're mysterious and deep.
"She was an easy child to raise, with a sweet disposition," he says. "When she was small, I would put her in a backpack and feed her mulberries and field corn — that was back when field corn was edible."
"Hymns" features a variety of songs he says he enjoyed making with friends in a little studio in Iowa, where he is based.
"There's no drums or bass, just guitar, banjo and fiddle. My daughter plays piano on a couple of the tunes, and my wife sings on one of them," he says.
"I think everyone has things they care about that wind up in songs. The opening track, 'Arkansas,' started out as a derelict song — you know, I drink, I smoke, I stay up late. Then my wife's mother died, and we took her home to Arkansas. She always did like an upbeat song, and that one turned out to be for her.
"The second one on the album, 'Besham's Bokerie,' is based on a dream I had. It's kind of spooky. I like songs like that. They have an interesting quality to them. Another song, 'On the Levee,' also is based on a dream about standing on a levee on the Mississippi River. I think it symbolizes being between two worlds."
Brown, at 64, tours the country very little compared to what he used to.
"I'll probably write songs as long as I'm on the planet, but the touring aspect is winding down. I'm kind of glad. It feels like the right time."
When Brown started working as a professional musician, he was based in St. Paul, Minn., working on a little radio show called "A Prairie Home Companion."
"I started my own record label there," he says. "I made about half my money from records and the other half from touring. I met people in the recording industry, but I just didn't have anything in common with them. So I just made my records myself.
"The digital age has passed me by," he says. "I just can't relate to anything so impersonal."