Today’s Feature, December 25th-26th: Brandon Walker

December 25, 2007 at 11:44 pm (Today's Feature)

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Music has always been an essential part of Brandon Walker’s life. Since taking piano lessons as a child, to the band he played with at James Madison University (Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings – best band name ever), to his current occupation as a school music director, Walker has constantly had a melody jogging through his head. It shows more than ever today as he makes plans to produce a song a month, every month.

A song a month sounds like a tough task (especially to me) but when you have a background like Walker, it really isn’t that hard to believe. Playing live with a band, acoustically, or solo, Walker has gotten a taste for just about every musical setting. Each site has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, “I love playing in bands, because I love the live interaction that goes on between musicians. If they’re good musicians, then they’re all listening to each other and building off of each other, and every show is going to be different. The benefit of playing solo is that everyone can hear me, and I can hear myself. It’s pure.”

Walker is probably best known for his 2006 YouTube hit, “Chinese Food On Christmas” about what it is like for a member of the Jewish community on Christmas, as well the song’s 2007 video version (it’s classic). His students have certainly caught word of the tune; “A lot of them will sing some of my lyrics to me when I pass them in the halls or while they’re in my class. I act like it bothers me, especially when they’re singing lyrics that may be inappropriate for school, but I secretly love it.”

If you can catch Brandon Walker live, take advantage of it. After all, the best part of a live show for him is “making people happy. When the crowd is happy, I’m happy.” Sign up at the web site to hear his new song each month and get into the XXQ’s.

XXQs: Brandon Walker

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved with music?

Brandon Walker (BW):I had a great uncle who left an old upright piano to us after he died. My parents figured if we had a piano we might as well use it, so they invested in piano lessons for me.

PEV: Growing up in Owings Mills, MD (suburb of Baltimore), what kind of music where you listening to?

BW: One of my first cassette tapes was Green Day’s Dookie, a total classic. I was listening to a lot of Green Day, Offspring, and even Weird Al in my earlier years.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you played live on stage? What was going through your head?

BW: My first time on stage was at a restaurant called Harvey’s, where I played solo piano for a dinner crowd. I was probably around twelve and although I’m sure I was nervous (I always get nervous in front of crowds), I don’t really remember too much else about that night.

PEV: Was music something you always aspired to do or was it just something you liked to do as a hobby?

BW: Music was always a hobby. I’ve always worked to better myself as a musician, but it’s only recently that I realized that its conceivable to make a career out of music. As a school music director, I’m technically already making a career out of music, but I’m getting the itch to really take a leap. Like maybe move to LA and go for it. It’s an idea in the very early stages.

PEV: You were in a band in college (JMU), called Midnight Spaghetti and the Chocolate G-Strings. First, please tell us about that name. And second, what where those earlier shows like?

BW: The name comes from the band’s front man, who is an unbelievably intelligent and quirky guy. His lyrics are as mysterious and creative as the band’s name. I joined MS because they were the ultimate party band. They get everybody off of their feet and their live show is full of plenty of surprises. I loved playing with them in front of crowds of dancing people.

PEV: Do you prefer to play in the band atmosphere or solo? Why?

BW: That’s a tough one. I love playing in bands, because I love the live interaction that goes on between musicians. If they’re good musicians, then they’re all listening to each other and building off of each other, and every show is going to be different. The problem with a band atmosphere is the sound has to be just right. It’s so easy for a keyboard player like myself to get drowned out by a guitar or a drummer if the sound isn’t perfect. The benefit of playing solo is that everyone can hear me, and I can hear myself. It’s pure. The problem with playing solo is that I get nervous in the spotlight! I think my favorite setup is an acoustic show with a band.

PEV: Who are you currently listening to right now?

BW: Lately I’ve been putting Sarah Bareilles’ album on repeat. I also like to listen to country these days. So many country songs have such clever lyrics, and they’re so accessible and from the heart. It’s not like a lot of the crap on the pop charts these days that just talk about glamorous things like money and cars.

PEV: What up and coming artist or band do you think everyone should be listening to?

BW: Midnight Spaghetti. I’m not even saying that because I played with them; I’m saying it because they are so unique and talented and I just think that if they really put themselves out there people will get into them in masses.

PEV: In 2006, you wrote, sang and performed, via YouTube your hit song, “Chinese Food On Christmas” about what it is like for a Jewish person on Christmas. What inspired you to write that song and did you ever expect to get such great feedback from it as well?

BW: I wrote it in 2004 for a songwriting class at James Madison University. We were instructed to write a Christmas song, and so I decided to write about my experience as a Jew on Christmas. I never expected to get the kind of response I got last year. It was truly awesome! I was spending hours a day answering fan mail from all over the world.

PEV: Tell us about the 2007 VIDEO version of “Chinese Food On Christmas”.

BW: I wanted to ride on the coat tails of last year’s success (the beauty of a Christmas song), so I worked with a local film company called Stratatek Studios to bring the lyrics of the song to life. I just put the new video out and I’m getting some great feedback!

PEV: When you aren’t performing, what can we find you doing in your spare time?

BW: In my spare time, I’m usually playing soccer or hanging out with my friends and my girlfriend, Andrea. Weekend nights usually consist of bar-hopping or just staying in and watching a movie. I’m also a big traveler. I’ve got the wanderlust, so I indulge myself by taking one or two big trips each year.

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?

BW: How about that I’ve eaten Guinea pig. It was alright.

PEV: Which city, in your opinion, International or US, do you think offers the best environment for music?

BW: I can’t say which one I think is the best, because there are a couple I haven’t seen yet, but just took a trip to Nashville and loved it! It truly is music city–the concentration of talent in that city is just mind-blowing!

PEV: How have all your students reacted to your musical career?

BW: A lot of them will sing some of my lyrics to me when I pass them in the halls or while they’re in my class. I act like it bothers me, especially when they’re singing lyrics that may be inappropriate for school, but I secretly love it.

PEV: What do you think about the fact that most public schools are cutting funding for the arts?

BW: It’s a terrible thing. I just can’t imagine someone living a life where they aren’t exposed to music. Music is a very powerful thing. Music has been invaluable to my life, and I am infinitely grateful for the influence music has had on me. Everyone should have the opportunity to be exposed to music, especially in school.

PEV: What one word best describes Brandon Walker?

BW: How about, nice. I’m a pretty nice guy.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your music?

BW: They support me. If I want to move to LA and go for it, they’re behind me. I even got my entourage lined up, Marky Mark style.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live on stage?

BW: Making people happy. When the crowd is happy, I’m happy. I especially love when the crowd sings along.

PEV: What kind of venue to you prefer to play and why?

BW: I like intimate settings, where the music is clear and the audience is attentive. I’m sure I’d love to play a stadium, but I haven’t had that luxury yet.

PEV: So, what is next for Brandon Walker?

BW: A song a month. I’m committing to putting out one new song every month. So stop by my website and sign up. I’ll let you know when each new song comes out!

For more information on Brandon Walker, check out www.BrandonWalkerMusic.com

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