Even solo, Doyle Bramhall II is a team player

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

Doyle Bramhall II is making the touring rounds as a solo artist, including a swing of three shows in Connecticut and neighboring New York State over the next few days.

But for many years, he has made his name standing in the background, slinging his guitar alongside music greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmie Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Elton John, Gregg Allman, Sheryl Crow, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and lots and lots more.

“I think collaboration is a really important thing for musicians, especially for me,” said Bramhall, who is the son of Texas music legend, the late Doyle Bramhall who had played drum with Jimmie Vaughan in the band Texas Storm and wrote songs for Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“I was a kid who came up playing with other musicians and other guitarists,” said Bramhall in a phone interview. The first band of his that garnered national attention, The Arc Angels, found him teaming up with guitarist singer Charlie Sexton and the rhythm section from Double Trouble, Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon. And he found himself in that band just after playing with Jimmie Vaughan in the Fabulous Thunderbirds.

So, as a young guitarist, Bramhall explained, he learned a lot about collaboration and supporting other artists.

After the years of helping other artists, Bramhall eventually shifted gears toward being a solo artist. His first solo album was his self-titled album in 1996.

“When I first started (as a solo artist), it felt good,” said Bramhall. “It was all about me and showcasing me.”

In response to the spotlight, Bramhall said he felt he had to play as much as he could and as hard as he could on the records. When he was a sideman, he said he would remind himself he was one part of a bigger picture.

But shifting gears into solo work also opened up doors for Bramhall as a support player for bigger acts. “It led to me playing with Clapton, Roger Waters, and Sheryl Crow.”

And that work, in turn, helped boost his profile as a solo artist, he said.

The collaborative work with other artists has taught Bramhall the importance of being a team player, even as a solo artist, he explained.

Although he is touring as a solo act— he’s promoting his latest album “Rich Man”— his current band is firmly part of the process of shaping the sound, said Bramhall. He has been touring with the same group of musicians for two to three years now. “We’ve built up a rapport with each other.” On stage, they don’t have to speak about what they’ll do next. He said they have learned each other’s musical cues in a manner that is almost telepathic.

Bramhall said he also accepts feedback from his band. “I have extremely talented musicians,” said Bramhall. “I value their opinion… I listen to suggestions.”

Bramhall also has shifted into the world of producing. So, he said, “This has made me really open to cherry picking ideas and using them.”

“The smarter musicians will take suggestions when they have them,” said Bramhall.

Collaborating with artists such as Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Sheryl Crow and others also has helped Bramhall’s songwriting skills, he said.

“They all helped in different ways,” said Bramhall. “These are all very iconic singer/songwriters.”

“I learned a lot about song composition, structure, and creating moods,” said Bramhall.

Working with other artists also helped shape Bramhall’s stage performance, he said. “Before working with Roger Waters and Eric Clapton, I wasn’t as much of a performer as I am now,” said Bramhall. Now, he said, “It’s much easier to be myself (on stage) and letting go and being uninhibited.”

When audiences come to the upcoming shows, if they have seen Bramhall before in concert, they are unlikely to hear the same set list. Bramhall said he tries to vary it across the tour and between tours.

“Since the last time,” said Bramhall. “We’re throwing more covers into the sets.”

For instance, he said, fans may hear music from the Isley Brothers, the Impressions, George Harrison, and some deep tracks by the Beatles. “We’re trying to pick songs that are more obscure from artists we grew up with,’ said Bramhall.

Additionally, said Bramhall, fans probably will hear new songs planned for his next album.

“Hopefully, we’ll finish (the new album) in the new few months,” he said. “Seventy percent of the songs are finished and written and ready to record.”

Doyle Bramhall II will be performing at Daryl’s House, 130 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. on Friday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m.; The Infinity Hall, Route 44, Norfolk on Saturday, Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.; and FTC Stage One, 70 Sanford St., Fairfield on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m.

For more information, go to www.db2music.com

Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.

Doyle Bramhall II comes to upstate New York and Connecticut next week.