Brian Franke

Brian Franke is an independent award-winning singer/songwriter residing in the Washington, DC area. An up-and-coming artist with dynamic vocals, his music provides subtle commentary on life events, social issues, and politics, spanning such genres as rock, pop, and indie folk. He performs regularly in the Washington, DC and Baltimore areas mainly as a solo artist playing originals and over 150 covers. He also collaborates with other local artists and is a member of the acoustic duo Twelve Strings.

With a sound that’s raw, contemplative and often edgy, his music appeals to fans of Elliott Smith, Stone Temple Pilots, Great Lake Swimmers, Blind Pilot, Vertical Horizon, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.  In 2010 released a debut album featuring his acclaimed song “Six Blocks Down”.

Brian was born and raised in Fair Haven, New Jersey, where he joined his first band, Visitors Only (a fusion of acoustic rock and pop). After earning degrees in economics and public policy, Brian worked in the non-profit sector before starting his full-time music career in late 2009.

Brian performs over 70 times a year at a variety of venues and events, including bars, lounges, concert halls, songwriter showcases, fundraisers, art events, and colleges. He’s frequently found showcasing his musical talents at Ireland’s Four Courts, Vermillion, Kooper’s Tavern, the Irish Channel, and the Front Page.

How do you describe your music to people, Brian?
Swells of hard rock, with meandering streams of rootsy folk, with an undercurrent of indie pop. I've been compared to Vertical Horizon, Pete Yorn, Toad the Wet Sproket, Elliott Smith, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen. I can rock out with the best but also play softer more elegant songs.

In terms of lyrics, I write songs about personal experiences as well as observations on life, love, politics and social issues.

Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I will always remember the day I was drawn to picking up the guitar and playing it.  My parents had gone on a trip and found an old guitar at a flea market.  They wanted to put it up on display at home, but that never happened because I started plucking around on it right away.

For whatever reason I started writing songs right away even though I had no idea how to play.  At first I'd write songs that would emulate the bands I was into then--which was things like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Metallica.  After a few guitar lessons and lots of practice I was starting to perform to audiences when I was 15.  Over time I found my own voice and style that was me.

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Connecting with people and learning or sharing an experience with them.  The best experience for me is connecting with people around my music--that probably goes without saying.  But I always enjoy a good conversation with someone about what we have in common or what in their life keeps them going.  I've met lots of different people from all over the world and hearing what they are passionate about or what they love in this world from their perspective has made me appreciate what makes us human.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Well, I am a solo singer/songwriter and yes, being an artist on your own is like running a business.  I would say the biggest challenge is time.  You have to try and balance it in so many ways, try to find more of it (which never happens), make decisions based on it, and use it effectively.  I do the majority of the work for my career other than writing music, but I have a small team that helps in capacities.  Of course this can get tricky since I have to respect their time for what they do.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
For a long time I wanted to be a baseball player.  I grew up a Yankees fan because my favorite ball player was Don Mattingly and I wanted to play just the way he did.  My dream of playing in the major leagues faded because I was not one of the bigger kids out their on the field.  Although I was pretty good I stopped enjoying playing when I was a teenager.  Though I will say baseball is still my favorite sport to follow and watch to this day.

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Here in the Washington, DC area where I live the majority of people in the music community are very very supportive of each other.  We do shows together, recommend each other to venues, and some even tour with one another.  So when I was new to this community four years ago, people welcomed me in and respected what I was doing.  There was an instant connection and feeling of belonging.

I think the Washington, DC music community has developed my mindset as a musician in a couple key ways.  One that if I and my fellow musicians continually strive to better ourselves musically, professionally, and visibility wise, as a community we can put Washington, DC more on the map as a music city.  Which means we can all benefit more than we do now.  The other part is that in Washington, DC many people, including myself (I am originally from New Jersey), are from someplace else in the U.S. or world.  Each musician brings their own set of musical influences here and ways about having a music career.  It allows each of us to be our unique selves.  No one is copying each others music or image and if they are, it's very apparent and looked down on.

What other artists out there do you love?
There are so many, but I'll list some of my favorites that I highly respect.  I have to start with Bruce Springsteen, who was a local hero to me growing up in NJ and got his start where I grew up near Red Bank and Asbury Park.  A few of my favorite guitarists all time are Eddie Van Halen, Jerry Cantrell, and Dimebag Darrell--although I play nothing like them!  Songwriters I love include Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, The Beatles, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, Neil Young, Nike Drake, Pete Yorn, Peter Bradley Adams, and M Ward.  And bands I think highly of that are playing now are Rogue Wave, The Villagers, Band of Horses, Arcade Fire, Local Natives, Fleet Foxes, Great Lake Swimmers, Blind Pilot, and Grizzly Bear.

What does your future hold?
This is where I jinx myself, right?  For me it's all about improving on all aspects of being a musician--writing better songs, marketing myself in smarter ways, putting on better live performances that people want to see, and just being a musician who consistently works at his craft.  I have started and will continue to include my fans in my career because this is not only about me.  I've also started a music blog that's gotten some initial attention called 'Thinking Aloud' and I enjoy writing about my experiences and sharing advice with others on having a music career that works for them.

Overall, I've learned that success is in the eye of the beholder.  I've been fortunate to set my own terms and goals and been able to achieve them.  I'm always adding more on my plate that I believe will help me succeed.  The one thing driving this all is my passion for making music and sharing it with anyone out there.  I'm continually humbled and fulfilled by the connections and relationships that I have made through music everyday.