Hardcore rocker dude and lead vocalist for One Less Reason, Cris Brown, has been in the game for some time and anticipates the release of his sixth studio album, The Memories Uninvited, on August 19th. While tirelessly working on his craft and spending a lot of time on the road, Brown has been away for some time and is now ready to show off his follow-up to 2010’s Faces & Four Letter Word. Wanting to make sure everything was produced the way he envisioned, the album does live up to that dream.
Coming from a metal Christian background, Brown created his own label, produced countless of bands and self-produced all of his own albums. Now on his sixth record release, the lyrical connection is there between artist and audience. One Less Reason is an ever-evolving band that explores all angles of rock music and create powerful rock music that collects fans at every listen. We caught up with Cris Brown as he had his sights on the upcoming release, his influences and the road ahead with his latest release.
Can you tell us about the origins of the One Less Reason? Where did the musical adventure begin?
I was in a Christian metal band up until I was 17 or 18 years old. I was so intertwined with this prog-rock, really fast—I was into all this technical music. I guess it was around ’97 or ’98 I ended up, by accident, picking up Matchbox 20’s first record, Yourself Or Someone Like You and there was a lyric, ‘sitting by the overcoat, the second shelf, the note she wrote, that I can’t bring myself to throw away.’ And I remember thinking, ‘Wow what a lyric.’ I started to want to write more lyrical content being more so than the music. I took a couple years off and started a band called Lapdog. We were really, really heavy and we hated everything and everything was all screaming [screams into phone] and everything was all that.
We went to work with Rick Beato, a producer out of Atlanta around 2003 or 2004. He heard me sing in pre-production and we started playing our songs and he was like ‘Are you stupid? Why are you not singing?’ He said, ‘We’re changing all this. You want to make money playing music?’ I said, ‘That’d be great,’ because we never had it until that point. He said, ‘Alright, when you leave here, you’re going to have a product that you’re going to be proud, you’re going to want to play and it’s going to make you a living.’ We spent a week and a half with him and we left there and sounded nothing like we did before. A lot of our older fans were not happy about that.
That’s where the name came from. It was ‘one less reason’ to be what they wanted us to be. It was kind of in your face. I took a stand and we honed our skill set and we have a sound now that sounds like us. We get compared to Shinedown and Nickelback. But being part of this genre is going to get compared to the bigger bands. ‘You just want to be this band or you want to be that band,’ and that’s just not true. We’re all into this same style of music. That’s where we are. This is our sixth record and it’s been a long journey.
What is the songwriting process like? Is it collaboration? Do you need to be at a specific place can you write on the road?
I write all the songs by myself, and then add to it. Every One Less Reason song starts off with a piano and a vocal or an acoustic and a vocal. I’m a firm believer that if you can’t strip a song down to just bare bones and still entertain people, then it’s not a good song. That’s where I start off. A lot of those demos get demoed first, then the idea gets put down. Every song, the first interpretation is the bare bones of what you can possibly get. People said that about our last record Faces & Four Letter Words and released a piano version and people were like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’
The song “Break Me” is such a tough and powerful opening song on the album. What is this song about?
“Break Me” is about relationships and whether it’s mother/father, husband/wife, brother/sister, whatever it is. It’s about the human condition. That eventually we all end up having the same emotions. We’re all, in some point in life, are going to end up broken. And we all need a little help picking up the pieces. That’s pretty much what it’s about. Everybody needs a little help along the way.
What was the hardest thing about making the latest album The Memories Uninvited?
The hardest part was being really, really happy and trying to write songs. I can’t write songs when I’m happy, it just doesn’t work. It took a long time to write this record because I refused to just jot some things down and put out records that were fake. I wanted the real deal, the real emotions of what people feel. Who wants to hear songs about how I’m so happy and things are so great. Nobody wants to hear that. It’s kind of just therapy sessions for me. These days my therapy sessions are fewer and far in between than they used to be which makes a long time to make a record.
You have self-produced your albums under your own label, Tattooed Millionaire Records. Have you worked with any bands you people should be listening to right now?
I’ve produced a ton of bands. I’m really excited about a band we have coming out call Empire City. They have a record coming out next year in 2017. They’re really just a great band. It’s nothing like One Less Reason, but it definitely has the lyrical content and the depth. Also, I’m producing the Surrender The Fall record that should be coming out next year. Both of those bands are fantastic that people should check out.
Do you handle the arrangements or do you work it out with other musicians in the band?
I do everything on the records. I play bass, guitar, do all the vocals. I do everything except for drums. I have a guitar player named Cody Landers who’s this 22-year-old shredder that can just play anything on guitar. I brought him in for the “Where Were You?” Crazy vocals and crazy leads, that’s all him. If there’s something that I can’t do that I’m hearing in my head, I’ll always bring somebody in instead of not doing it because I can’t wrap my head around it.
With your current and previous bands, have you tour the country back and forth?
Yes. There was a six year time period that I was never home. We did one where we did 260 shows in one year. That’s all I wanted to do but then again, at the same time, we were a working band and I had nowhere to come home to. Staying out on the road was the only choice that I had.
Do you have a horror story on the road that became a learning experience for you?
We were in Ohio and somebody broke into our trailer and stole all of our gear. We had two days off and we literally became junior detectives and we scoured the city until we got our gear back. Most people would be like, ‘Eh, it is what it is, whatever.’ But no, we literally scoured the planet until we found our gear.
And you found it?
Yup. We got it back.
What 3 albums would you take with you on a deserted island?
I would take Matchbox 20, Yourself Or Someone Like You. I would take Better Than Ezra, Before The Robots and Brand New, The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
What has been your greatest rock star moment, so far?
I’ve done a lot and playing Memphis in May, the first time, here in our town, being from Jackson, Memphis area, that really is the pinnacle of we’re definitely moving forward now. You get to go up and stand in front of 20,000 people and play your songs. But honestly, the time of my life that made me the happiest and I felt the most like a rockstar was the first month that I was able to pay my bill by playing music. Everything else was icing on the cake but that was the cake.
Is there any advice you have for new bands just starting out?
It’s a whole different world now. Everybody expects everything for free, now. I was lucky enough to get into the business before the bottom fell out. I would say, be smart enough to know better when somebody is telling you to do something differently and be too dumb to quit. That’s the only way you keep going in this business. We’re either really dumb or gluttons for punishment. This is a tough, tough business to be in. Everybody is trying to take advantage of you. Everybody wants to put their hands in their pockets. But here’s the thing, whatever you do, do it on your own terms. If you’re going to succeed, succeed by that it is you set out to succeed by and the thing that you wanted to do. If you’re going to fail, fail by whatever it is that you wanted to do. Don’t be 60 years old saying, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have listened to my manager and put out that metal-polka record because it didn’t just go over.’ It’s okay to fail, as long as you’re failing at what it is you do. But don’t go out there and fail at somebody else’s interpretation of what it is you do.
What is next for One Less Reason?
We go tour. We’ve got a Sick Puppies tour that we’re doing in September through October. There’s another tour lined up after that. I think we go to the U.K. for a while.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The Memories Uninvited, the best record I’ve done to date. Hopefully you’ll find something on this record that is where you are in life and you can attach to it. That’s what it’s all about.