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“Don’t forget to support the local musicians,” Q&A with Brian Jasper Hull

Photo courtesy of Brian Jasper Hull.

By day, Brian Jasper Hull is a professor at Colorado State University. By night, Hull performs with bands Meadowlark Jivin and Jasper Grooves Collective on a regular basis.

Hull released his first solo album “Into The Blue” in 2015 and has been in the Fort Collins music scene for over 22 years. I sat down with Hull to discuss what it takes to be a working musician in Fort Collins.


What would you say your favorite part is about performing?

Hull: Well, I think one of my favorite parts about it is watching people lose themselves in the music and just the joy that music communicates to people. They want to start dancing and kind of let go of their worries. I feel like it’s really powerful to have that two-way communication going on when you’ve kind of broken through and you see the excitement in the people in the audience.



“To realize that I could share that with other people and have them respond that way was just powerful.”

Brian Jasper Hull[/box]


On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have memories of gigs. We were playing a sports bar one time; we’re in the sports bar and they’re watching the Stanley Cup. All of a sudden, we heard this cheering going on and we were assuming that it was based on the music we were playing. But then we realized it was because someone scored a goal in the Stanley Cup. Then we thought we were really lame, like, “Why are we even doing this?” They’re all watching the hockey.

I like playing venues where it’s like Washington’s, where it’s a concert venue. You’re not competing with televisions.


People are actually engaged.


Hull: Yeah, when they’re really there to hear music. I think that’s the only way it should be done. We live in this age where people are terrified of the idea that you might get bored for a moment and that you might not have anything to entertain yourself with. It’s actually super important to have silence. That’s where we actually pay attention. I think people have to remember to commit to being where they’re at as an audience member, and the musicians got to do the same. Got to commit to being in the moment.


Describe your ideal listening space to perform in, or your ideal audience — what would that look like?


Hull: When I put out my album, “Into The Blue,” we had an album release at Dazzle Jazz. And at the time, it was in a room that was separate from the rest of the venue and the bar was in a different room. So when you went to listen to music, it was closed off from the noise of people sitting at the bar.

They would tell you at the beginning of the night, ‘This is a listening room, turn your phones off.’ And the acoustics were great in there. I just felt like, “Wow, this is a dream, playing at a place like this, because people come in and they understand what it means to really engage with the music, and they’re there to listen.”

That’s when the magic starts to happen.


Now, kind of on the other end of it, what’s your favorite part about creating and the writing process?

Hull: I’ll carry around a little recording device or my phone or whatever, and I’m biking and all of the sudden I get this idea, and I’ll just pull it out while I’m biking and sing into my phone.

Oh, interesting.

Hull: And then, later on, I’ll go back and be like, “All right, what can I do with this?”

I remember one time, I stumbled across the title track for “Into The Blue.” I stumbled across this thing, and I was just singing, “Bah do do bob ben de doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, bee da doo ba dee da.”

I’m like, “alright, that melody is good. I like that melody.”

And so then I started thinking about the story. It’s really fun to put the poetry together that tells a story on a melody that I’ve come up with; that creative process where you just kind of walk around with a melody bouncing around in your head. I think everyone’s heard stories about Paul McCartney waking up and the song just writes itself. I’ve had that happen on a couple of occasions where you’ve been thinking about it and all of a sudden it just all comes out, and you just write it down and it’s pretty much perfect after like 15 minutes.

I think that’s one of my favorite parts, it is just how the creative process can be. It can take a long time, but then when something clicks, it just all comes out sort of spontaneously. Sometimes I think that spontaneity is what makes for a good song.

So you’re saying you usually let songs come to you, or do you try to set out a time — like, this is when I’m going to write?

Hull: Well, you have to make time where you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to commit an hour today to music,” for whatever it is; two hours today to music. You have to make time, or you’re not going to write songs.

You have to make a commitment to open up space for that. Not only that, you gotta, just like we said with an audience member, you got to make time where you’re not distracted, where you’re really just totally in the music. For me the creative juices always flow, I always get ideas, if I make time for it. [box]

“If the people aren’t inspired by the music and if they just look at it like canned music that they hear in the mall, then you’re wasting your time. They don’t see the magic of what’s going on.”

Brian Jasper Hull[/box]

Sometimes it helps if you’re away from your routine and you don’t have like, “Oh, I gotta wash the dishes, or I gotta walk the dog.” You’re just in a space where there’s really nothing you have to do except play. Sometimes I’ll write when I’m in another house, traveling or in a space where I can’t do all the things I’m supposed to be doing so I can just really concentrate my energy to music.

What do you think is something that audiences should know about working musicians? Something they may not know already?

Hull: Well, this is sort of a convoluted way to answer this, but I remember one time I was playing a show; my keyboard player had another performance that afternoon and so he showed up about 30 minutes late. But we started on time, we played. They tried to dock me like $100 off our pay for our keyboard player showing up late. And he’s like, “Oh, come on. You guys are getting paid like $20 an hour a musician, you know, you’ve got it made.” In my head, I was thinking, “You just don’t get it. Like, you don’t understand.”

To get a band together, to practice songs, to write the songs, to have the equipment, to be able to get to the point where you’re even able to write songs. There’s so many hours, so many thousands of hours that go into it. I think to look at it as, “Oh, just getting paid by the hour as you’re performing;” that really doesn’t take into consideration what goes into the music.

Yeah, there’s so much behind it that people don’t realize.

Hull: Right. It’s not like you’re flipping a burger, and not to degrade someone who’s flipping a burger. I think on some level, people understand that there’s a lot that goes into it. One thing that causes people to have this misperception is they’ll put on a song, and say the song’s like a four-minute song, they listen to it on the radio or on their computer and they think, “Oh yeah, four minutes.” This musician got in the studio and they spent four minutes and they laid it down.

And it’s like, “Uh, no.” It actually took like, several hours to record all the tracks and then it took 40 hours to mix it. All the details, all the finer points that go into it. Maybe you spent 100 hours to have these four minutes of music. They wonder why a live performance doesn’t sound quite as polished or quite as perfect as it does on a studio recording. There’s a reason.

We spend all this time, even on the night of a gig, hauling around equipment and tearing down. With all these hours behind the scenes doing stuff, why do you do it?

Hull: The first time I ever played a live performance with a band when I was an undergrad, this guy had approached me, we were going to go to a Bob Dylan concert, and I picked up a guitar and just started strumming and playing songs.

He approached me and said, ‘Hey, we should get a band together.’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I’m just playing around. I’m not a serious musician.’ But he insisted, he met up with me, came over to my house, and we started writing songs together. And then he found a rhythm section. And within about three weeks, we were booked to play a performance. So it was all kind of this whirlwind thing. And we played, and people came up and were hugging me. They were like, ‘It was brilliant, I loved that.’ [box]

“You got to make time where you’re not distracted, where you’re really just totally in the music.”

Brian Jasper Hull[/box]

For my whole life before that, I’d always just really been moved by music. It was something that was really important to me and sort of vital to my experience. To realize that I could share that with other people and have them respond that way was just powerful. I remember driving the next day going to lunch or something and just crying because I was kind of knocked out by the sort of reality that, “Okay, I can do this, I can write songs that move people and touch them.”

I think that kind of you’re hooked at that point. There are aspects that will make you question “is it worth it?” And that’s something that professional musicians have to weigh. It’s like, “well, why am I doing this?”

You have to always reevaluate the priorities because you’re going to have gigs that are not edifying. They’re not feeding your soul or making you feel like you spent your time wisely. You are going to have those gigs where people were glued to TV sets and not paying attention.

That’s why in the last couple of years, in the last 10 years, let’s say, I’ve gotten picky about where I will play, how much money I’ll make, and so forth because I want it to be a good experience for my musicians and for me. I want to walk away from it feeling like it was time well spent and the people were there to listen to music. So I don’t play sports bars. I don’t need that. There are too many other good places to play.

Yeah, I feel like when I was first starting out, I definitely was like, ‘I’ll take any gig, anyone who will have me, I’ll play for tips, I’ll do anything.’

Hull: Yeah, you sort of have that mentality, it makes sense. But then at one point, you got to think about your well being and your morale and do things that are going to be inspiring. If the people aren’t inspired by the music and if they just look at it like canned music that they hear in the mall, then you’re wasting your time. They don’t see the magic of what’s going on. [box]

“I feel like it’s really powerful to have that two-way communication going on.”

Brian Jasper Hull[/box]

Great. So anything else you wanted to talk about? Or add?

Hull: We live in a time where we have so much access to so much music that it’s almost overwhelming. We just kind of feel like, where do we start? But I would recommend to everyone to remember that there are really amazing musicians in your community who are doing it that you can have that real connection, face-to-face seeing them perform. And you can sit 10 feet away from them if you want to. Whereas if it’s a superstar musician at Red Rocks, you might be watching them a mile away on the screen or something.

Don’t forget to support the local musicians. And don’t forget to be part of a community where you’re really connected because I think that’s important for the musicians and for you. You’ll wake up to the fact there are a lot of great people around here.


Hull will be performing with his seven-piece band Meadowlark Jivin at Avogadro’s Number on October 19, 2019.