ARTHUR AUTUMN: Brent Nuffer\'s Expansive and Beautiful Musical Introspection

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, National Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 625   By: Robert E Martin

02nd November, 2006     0

As an artist, Brent Nuffer is most well-known as the front-man singer/guitarist for the Lansing rock outfit known as Studiotone; but as is true with the myriad of dimensional emotion that flows through any true artist, tapping into different ways of expressing that emotion serves as the fountain of color that keeps one's edge sharp and sound fresh.

With the release of his new CD StyrofoamPillsHeartbreak Shaker under the nomme' de-plume of Arthur Autumn, Nuffer has opened the vein on mercurial and inner emotional swells of heartache, rendering the lyrics in lushly lyrical & autumnal arrangements courtesy of a musical line-up including Donny Brown on drums and Josh Woodland, bassist from Studiotone, featuring on some tracks.

Mixed by Andy Reed, the album tackles deep inner and personal emotional terrain on topics like death & depression - common to each of us in different ways, yet successfully distinguished in this instance by the manner in which the music & lyrics weave an embrace of warmth & comfort over the listener, creating an ultimately uplifting experience not by ignoring the demons & dramas that may afflict us, but by showing how beautiful the textures of the roller coaster ride can be.

Opening with the lush, lonely, and lovely guitar strains of Always On My Mind (immediately reminiscent of the similar sonic journey Beck took on his excellent Sea Change album) Nuffer opens his musical lens slowly throughout each track cycling through the album, showing flashes of influence ranging from the poetic introspection of Jackson Browne to the non-judgmental country sermons of Hank Williams, Sr., yet the overall impact is decidedly original - the portrait of an artist as a wandering troubadour of the heart.

Mastered by Glenn Brown, whom has worked with Kid Rock, Emimem and Jack White, Brent Nuffer will be performing as Arthur Autumn at White' Bar with Andy Reed on November 18th. StyrofoamPillsHeartbreakShaker is available online at arthurautumn.com

Recently I say down with Brent to discuss the personal travails and musical nuances that gave shape to Arthur Autumn.

Review: 
What was it that propelled you to embark upon this solo project? Did you feel there was material inside of you that wasn't appropriate for Studiotone, or was it more the impulse that drives a lot of front men working in band settings - the sense that you simply wanted to try something different, without the inevitable colorations that come within a band setting?

Brent:  Well, I wanted to reinvent myself for while and try something totally different. I also knew that Studiotone is a ROCK band, that is what we do in that band, and I love that sort of music. Consequently, I felt it was appropriate to separate the two projects. There is a charm to both worlds.

Mainly, I am influenced by many different types of music and always appreciated that romantic, mellow, sad, troubadour kind of vibe with just a voice/harmonica and an acoustic. Neil Young, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan - that type of singer/songwriter type of thing.  It was nice to have control over the music and total artistic freedom. It's very liberating, to be able to just toss a guitar, some harps into the car, and go play a show. Plus, I wanted to reach deeper inside myself, farther than I thought possible in a rock band.

Essentially, this album is the result of years of heartache and abandonment that I have seen and felt in my life. The songs were written during a pretty dark period that I feel as though I've come through. I'm fortunate to have the gift of music to get my own demons out of me. Now that I've set them aside, I can move on. With the help of all involved, I feel we've created something worthy of helping others in their own struggles. At the end of the day, if I can create something that helps others, that is all I can wish for to leave behind.

Review: Did this project force you to approach your songwriting differently than you would in a band setting?

Brent:   Yeah...I approached this project from a totally different angle. I would write on an acoustic, front to back, and then bring them into Zack, my producer. This type of music is so different from a ROCKBAND, it comes from a different mind set altogether. Apples to oranges really. That's what makes it exciting and fresh. With no one to bounce ideas off at first, in a way it keeps the song a bit closer to your initial thoughts, at that point when you first imagined the song.

Review:  Tell me a little about Zack Pearce and how you hooked up with him and why.

Brent: Zack played in a band called The Flow around the area and we kind of met that way, crossing paths. Zack would give me some music that he had played on and produced. I had recently played a show and recorded it, and gave him a copy because I was impressed with the work he had shared with me. At the time, I had maybe a few songs written, and was thinking about doing an album. He liked the songs and saw a lot of life in them. We got together a few times, and I played him a few more songs. He would add some guitar or lap steel. Within days, we decided to do an album. I am so blessed to have been able to work with a guy like Zack. He is a true talent and great friend. He added so much to these songs musically, sonically. For every vision for every song on this album, Zack was there with an answer. I can see us working together for years to come.

Review:  Who exactly is 'Arthur Autumn' and why did you approach the project through that 'character', if character is the appropriate word?

Brent: Well, my middle name is Arthur and I was named after my grandfather who was a wonderful man, so partly to honor him. Autumn just sounded good with Arthur, and there you have it. Plus, Autumn is kind of a melancholy time of year for me, and it seemed to fit with the sound at the time. I just decided to mix it up and not use my first and last name, but my middle name is there.

Review:  What was the most challenging component of putting this project together?

Brent:   I guess the most changeling part is doing everything on your own, the bulk of it anyway. The planning can be stressful. There is a lot involved. I mean in this project, I'm writing the songs, planning a lot, putting a band together, and designing the artwork, the financial aspect and everything in between. Don't get me wrong, I love that, but it is also a lot of work. It is all on your shoulders, win or lose, not a band behind you, ya' know? I have been fortunate to have a lot of friends who have helped out in so many ways. Yes, it has been quite a challenge, yet I feel fortunate to have this opportunity.

Review:  Is this going to take away from the time and energy required with Studiotone, or is it something you plan on simply adding to your plate and pursuing equally with the band commitments?

Brent: No, I don't think this will conflict much with Studiotone. Those guys are supportive. Plus, I love Studiotone and what we do. We have no plans of stopping any time soon. In fact, we will be working on some new material this month and are all excited about it. Creatively it requires two different vibes with both projects, polar opposites, so they don't pull at each other, which is nice. I certainly plan on doing more Arthur Autumn records, and more Studiotone records. It just depends on how things align. 

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