Tim Browning and the widowmakers' Tim Browning
By Jay Oakley
Your debut record, Bad Intentions, just came out. Talk a little bit about it.
It has been one of the most amazing experiences musically and personally. It's been a long time coming, the group of guys that I play with, we've all been pretty much lifelong friends and we've all been involved in, you know, different bands locally and recently and throughout our lives. The band started off in 2011, so it's been a while that we've been building and working towards this. We started off a three-piece, and we didn't have a drummer. We had a guy playing base named Ryan Herndon and a guy playing guitar, we call him Beevare (Matt Jeffrey), and just started off kind of goofing around. I've just been a solo singer/songwriter guy and never had had a backing band, so we sat down, started playing with some tunes. We picked up a friend of ours named Daniel Johnson, as a drummer and then we picked up another guitarist named Jordan McCown, and slowly but surely just started coming together. I was actually in nursing school at the time, I was actually married with a baby on the way, and had one already, so it was a big stress release for me, but once we dove into it, it started to come together and took a life of it's own. The rest, as they say, is history. Only one lineup change; our friend Ryan was playing bass at the time--he actually handed things off to another friend of ours, Adam Adkins. Ryan was always in the studio with us, and he was there in spirit, so it's been a great experience.
The album itself, we were fortunate enough to work with Bud Carroll, who was an amazing producer. He also mixed the album. He was the guitarist for the band American Minor, which was a national playing act. One of our personal heroes, and one of our favorite bands growing up in this area and this region. So we got in the studio with him at Trackside Studios and we actually picked up a guy named Tony Mullins, he came in on organ and the album came together. It's one of those things, they call it a passion project. And that's what this band has always been, with this particular album, it's better than anything I could have imagined.
For the people that would be hearing your album for the first time, how would you describe your style and sound?
For us, I think that the album itself and our sound is very steeped, with roots in rock and at the same time a little more hard rock than I think people expect when they listen to it. People often, our friends, and other peers in bands, that we play gigs with, we've been called everything from Johnny Cash meets Thin Lizzy to Tom Petty, if he sang for Black Sabbath. I've always approached things very singularly, so the themes in my approach to songwriting have always been more of a storyteller style of music. But three of the guys that play for me are actually in a metal band called Let The Guilty Hang, they actually an album coming out in October and the edge and the attitude that they brought to things, we kind of met in the middle, but at the same time, we both had to bend a little. Obviously, the energy that comes from playing live music at that amplitude, I've never had to match that energy. It put me out of my comfort zone, and for them, I think it that it stretched them stylistically, and to become dynamic song to song. A lot of times, when you're playing harder music, you're constantly pushing further and further and further up and into the stratosphere, but all that's just the attitude and the feeling that you bring to that style of music. So I wouldn't say that we are completely something new, but I think that we're definitely something different and the idea of the songs that we play and the attitude behind them is very visceral, it's very honest, it's very in-your-face. That Johnny Cash attitude; unapologetic, in-your-face. Kind of punches you in the face, and smacks you in the mouth, kind of thing. That's what the album's about, "Bad Intentions," it's about accepting those dark parts of ourselves and owning them and embracing them, and unapologetically following the actions that come along with those attitudes.
Where do you get your inspirations from for songwriting?
A lot of my inspiration comes from my personal life. I was in the Army for almost a decade; I've been to war. Spent a lot of time in the desert. I've walked a lot of roads and I've been around the world. I've just seen those parts of life that really challenge you to go, "Are we lost as a culture, as a society?" It really makes you sift through and really find the humanity of things. So, for me personally, I was raised very conservatively, in the Bible belt, so right and wrong, black and white, was the way that I grew up. As I grew, I had to acknowledge the grey that's in the world and really find how I felt about those things. The challenge that I faced really provoked me to really hash it out on the page and hash it out in my thoughts. I forced myself to ask those questions, to dig into those raw parts of my life. Very personal, but at the time, I don't think that my life experience has been so unique that it's not relateable and it doesn't connect with people. Isolation, we've all felt those types of things. Isolation, heartache; what happens when you come to the end of yourself? Do you give up? Or do you just stick it out? Those are things, and those are the types of ideas. Start to finish of the album, my songwriting has always been about what I felt I needed to share and not exactly writing the types of songs people like to hear. They're not pretty, they're not a feelgood anthem. They're at times very dire. It's the type of music that I felt like I had to play. The songs that I had to write. Connections that I felt like I had to make with other people.
What changed the most for you going from a dominantly solo singer/songwriter to working with your band?
I compare to when you're a new parent and you're leaving your children with somebody else for the first time. The biggest thing is just building that trust. These songs were very personal to me, they were representative of parts of my life that are very honest, very vulnerable at times. Just allowing myself to place these songs in peoples' hands to trust them to take care of them, treat them with the same love and respect that I had for them. I really think that it was only possible with this group of people because I had known them my entire life. They had been there, by me, or at least thinking of me, through some of the things that I had went through. That was the biggest challenge; sometimes I think that as any type of artist, just that trust in other people to treat things that you want people to treat them, and to care for them. What happened in the process of me letting them go was that sharing that ownership with other people made them better because that's what songs are made for. That's what music is made for, to be heard and to be shared. Along the way, it picked up the different characteristics, the different personality traits, and attitudes of the guys that got involved, and they became better than they were before. If I had never trusted these guys, and if I had never opened myself up and allowed that to happen, then obviously this album would never have happened. So these songs became just as much apart of my relationships with these guys as my friends and just as well as band mates. We locked ourselves away for four days in a studio, and there was no bickering, there was no quarreling. It was just excitement and enthusiasm in creating something that we're all proud of.
For people who are seeing you for the first time, when you are out and about, because people have to work, and people have families, things like that, what do you try to put across in a Tim Browning show?
You know, you brought up an awesome point, that I think about all the time and as an independent artist, as an independent band, there is so much to overcome just to get the opportunity to get on the stage and to get out and to sync up six different individual schedules that are working every day and have kids and families, and jobs and all that stuff that life throws your way. I think that the one thing that is completely amazing is when we get on stage together, it is 100% rock and roll. We just get onstage and every time that we're onstage, we're there to play like it's the last time that we'll ever play. I think that the energy that we feed off from each other, the confidence that is produced among us when we're there; there's nothing else like it. I have played instruments in other bands before, but this is the very first band that I have ever been the "front man," so to speak, for. Anybody that's coming out, you're gonna have a great time. We have a great time; it's fun, from start to finish. Once we get going, it's relentless. We get up there, we want to see people respond. We want to see people have a good time, and I think one of the things that I've noticed, and one of the biggest compliments that you can get from a crowd nowadays, is: nobody's on their phone. That is the one thing that I notice when people come to our shows, is that people are up front, people are invested, people are involved, and they don't have their phones out, trying to record what's going on whatever. It just seems like that we're really fortunate to connect with people on that visceral level. We're speaking to their guts, so I think that if you come see us, put your phone down, keep it in your pocket, because you're gonna miss something.
That's really cool that people are showing you that kind of respect, because that doesn't happen nowadays. That's hard to get.
When people come to see us, they come to see us, and they come to hear music. We obviously at this point in our careers don't have this massive following to where people come to see us, because it's a social gathering, because everybody's gonna be there. It's not a "cool thing" to do. Right now, we're at that point where people are interested, people look at who we are, look at where we come from. I've talked to quite a few people that make assumptions because we're from West Virginia, and we're from these coal-mining towns. They make that assumption of who we are, what we're going to sound like, and then when they actually get to hear us, and what we got to say, and how we play, and attitudes, and the energy that we put off, I think that people are really surprised, but in a positive way.
Tim, thanks so much. I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me about what you've got going with your band and your record.
OK man. Thank you.