Bryan Russo is a friend from long, long ago. When I was growing up, his mom played the piano for my mom in a number of the musical productions she and my dad directed at our church. And Bryan was always one of the best singers in the group. He was a talented musician in many ways, playing piano and violin as well. We lost touch over the years and I was thrilled to meet up with him again on Facebook about a year ago, only to discover that he has been pursuing a career as a full-time musician.
A few weeks ago, he premiered his first music video. I think it looks absolutely amazing and I love the song, so I sent him a message asking if I could feature it for a Musical Monday post. Fortunate for all of us, he happily agreed!
I asked Bryan about the back-story for the lyric and video for Smokey Cafe and he sent me the following:
when i lived in philly and was just starting out, i used to frequent these little dive bars (kind of cbgb-esque, or sin-e) that just happened to have the heart of the music scene...or at least the prime time players in it.
it was a little slice of bohemia and vaudville all in one....basically, amazing artists...some signed, some recently dropped, some huge in belgium, some later went on to be signed and become huge (ie, amos lee) and then the rowdy music fans that loved them...all in this one little family of excess and repeption....and i just remember having this moment while in the midst of it....where i thought.....everyone is just trying so hard to keep their cool....(in both ways you can take that phrase)....and wanted to pay homage to the artist's plight in trying to make it.....and in believing in your art so bad...you sometimes don't care too much that you can only afford a $2 draft beer.....but coming to terms with the fact that the window of opportunity to actually "make it" as they say, is closing quickly.
plus, i realize that so many people drink away their 20's in bars, cafes, clubs, trying desperately to be a part of some scene.....and find love, affluence, attention, etc.
so, i wanted to kind of do an artsy video that touched on all those things, by showing the vanity and the underlying sadness or lack of satisfaction of people in the video.
plus i wanted to kind of take a piss at why people do it too...
so, if you really watch the video...i'm like the narrator, and everyone is so caught up in what they are doing, they don't realize there's a live person playing a hundred year old baby grand in the middle of the room.
basically taking off the line "this could be the greatest thing that no one ever hears"------which kind of ties the two together.
the ending where i walk away with my wife is basically leaving everything, (including the tip bucket) in the cafe....and finding someone to walk hand and hand with into the uncertainty of the great unknown.
or something like that.
I do want to mention that Bryan is working on funding an EP. If you have any desire to support independent musicians, here's someone who I know has a lot of talent and drive. Plus, even a relatively small donation gets you some free stuff! You can get all of the deets here. Thanks!
And without further ado, here is Smokey Cafe by Bryan Russo.
Written by: Bryan Russo
On the west end of town, wrong side of the tracks.
Two blocks past the point of no turning back
A place filled with drifters, that don't drift from this street
And bar room poets that don't ever speak
And they try to keep their cool (2x)
And they try not to be the fools
That don't ever find their way back home
And I heard someone say, that even love has become cliche
And it's just a game, that lonely people play
And we sit and argue that there's nothing new left to say
We're losing years, in this smokey cafe
There's nothing to eat, it's an excess buffet
But there's much to consume here between the curtain and the stage
So pollute the air until it's your turn to play
Is this passion, or just things that we say
And all they want from you is your ears
Maybe turn their dreams into careers
Listen closely the words the quiver with fear
Cause this could be the greatest thing
That no one will ever hear
And we try to keep our cool
I hear the good life passing us by
And we sit and wonder, if we'll go out of style
The lights will go up and someone will say
Everyone raise your glass, here's to the good ol' days
And maybe we can change the world
With minor chords and spoken words
Maybe we could change the world
If we could remember a god damn thing that we heard
Copyright 2006 Playroom Studios Publishing
Words and Music by Bryan Russo
Bryan Russo "Smokey Cafe" from Cameron Uhlig on Vimeo.