More than 20 years after rebelling against Nashvilles ubiquitous Stetson-Wrangler-and guitar formula, rising to the heights of country music fame as the long-haired Little Texas heartthrob on keys, Brady Seals continues to thrive on the edge of the genre, easing effortlessly into the role of the slightly subversive renegade whos not afraid to say "ho"on country radio. His latest solo effort, Play Time, is a no-holds-barred celebration of "long-legged, half-wasted"party girls, dance club debauchery, illicit smoke breaks and a certain prize-winning marijuana crop. "Theres no question of this being a really adult record,"Seals says. "It gets raunchy and raw. But Ive always wanted to make music that affects people. Love it, hate it. But you cant ignore it."
Neither can you ignore a talent as enduring as Seals, who has successfully reinvented himself throughout his career, while always remaining true to his musical roots in rock-tinged country. At 16, Seals left his home in Ohio as a touring musician, and by 21 had scored three 1 hits with Little Texas - all of which hed co-written, winning him the ASCAP Triple Play award. He went on to release three solo albums in the late 90s before forming and fronting the quartet of players players known as Hot Apple Pie, with whom he scored a top 20 hit ( "Hillbillies") and opened for such superstars as Keith Urban and Tim McGraw.
As an artist whos spent the better part of his career in bands, Sealss excitement over his latest effort is charged with mixed emotions. "The great thing about being a solo artist,"he says, "is that you dont have to compromise at all when it comes to the music. Hire whoever you want for whatever song youve got & make it the best it can be. On the other hand, as a solo artist you dont have the band to share the excitement with you."At present, Seals is enjoying the best of both worlds, basking in the creative freedom to finally record the country album he has always wanted to make, while welcoming Hot Apple Pies musical contributions and infectious enthusiasm on three tracks on Play Time.
"When we began to look at doing a second Hot Apple Pie album, it became clear that we were all on different pages. I just felt it was time to do my own thing whatever that might be."Ultimately, it was in writing "Eeny Meny Miny Moe"that Seals ultimately found the tone hed been looking for and the direction he wanted to go with the project. Playing like a pick-up artists theme song, the track is as whimsical as it is risqué. Wondering whether anyone would actually take it seriously, Seals had the epiphany that led him down the path to Play Time. "I just want to have some fun. Its time to play."
And play he did. In reference to the ganja-growing "Farmer Brown," Seals laughs: "That was a true story that someone told me, and I just had to write a song about it - with names changed to protect the guilty, of course."Seeking to capture that Appalachian Bluegrass twang ( "Like The Darlings on Andy Griffith, you know?"), Seals time-compressed his vocal, later speeding it up to achieve the higher-pitched sound he desired. From selecting songs, to hiring musicians, to experimenting in a variety of Nashville studios, Seals reveled in his complete creative control.
Of course, hes the first to admit he had help. Having studied, over the course of his career, under Rodney Crowell, James Stroud, and Stan Lynch, and having spent the last couple of years developing and producing up-and-coming artists on his own, Seals discovered that when it came time to start working on a new solo project, he possessed the expertise, the confidence, and the instinct to man the helm. "I think a big portion of producing is having the right players, the right studio, the right engineer, and of course the right song,"he says. Not to mention access to a deep talent pool.
Play Time features contributions from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers drummer Stan Lynch, who co-wrote and plays on "Trucker Song,"an ode to the free-wheeling vagabonds existence that has become Sealss favorite tune on the upcoming album. "What a joy to watch him create in the studio,"Seals says. "Here hes worked with Don Henley, Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra), and I was able to find out all his secrets. Just to sit down and hear his stories is priceless."Seals also worked with pop icon Richard Marx, with whom he co-wrote "Youll Come Running"some time ago. "The album track is actually an old demo I did with Richard a while back that I ended up digging out and re-mastering because I really loved the original recording just the way it was."
With the album complete, Seals began preparing to independently release Play Time online when StarCity Recording Company entered the picture. An industry friend had passed Sealss album advance on to StarCity head Jeff Glixman, best known as producer of 1970s progressive rock band Kansas, among others. "I hadnt really shopped my record around,"Seals explains, "because I was leery of people not getting it. But of course Jeff got it right away - and no wonder. This is the guy who produced the Georgia Satellites Keep Your Hands To Yourself."StarCity quickly contacted Seals to set up a meeting, telling him, "Start thinking up your dream scenario, because we want to make it happen for you."
Upon meeting, Seals sensed an instant connection with the StarCity team, who promised him a level of creative control that hed never before experienced with a label. "I was thrilled,"Seals explains, "to hear from this boutique indie label that wanted to release my album exactly as I had hoped to on my own?only with more money to put behind it."Backed by an A-team of Kansas drummer Phil Ehart as manager, CAA- Creative Artist Agency, for booking and Nine North covering radio promotion, Seals has high hopes for the forthcoming album and lead single "Ho Down,"a new video, and upcoming appearances at CMA Music Fest and Summerfest.
As Seals enters the next phase of his topsy-turvy career, its evident that one thing thats been constant in his professional life is change - and thats not about to change now. With remarkable resilience, hes proven his continued relevance since the Little Texas era, throughout his solo career and stint with Hot Apple Pie. The secret to his longevity, perhaps, is that Seals creates music to satisfy his own soul first, with undying faith in the "if you build it, they will come"philosophy. "Im really only interested in having a damn good time," Seals declares, "not being so serious all the time, and not playing anybody elses game but your own."