Brett Newski is the next generation of American singer/storyteller, telling the story of his life with his unique musical touch while at the same time laughing in the face of social constructs with wit and self depreciation. His music invokes the free spirit of Woody Guthrie as his indie rock sounds recants the charming stories of his travels on his life’s road, a road that is, in this instance, far less travelled. Through his music, he inspires others to look at life in a different way. Even the title of his latest release, Land Air Sea Garage, which was recorded between a surf camp in the Sri Lankan jungle and Madison, Wisconsin, invokes that sense of adventurism. I hope you’re now getting the picture, because that is just how Newski rolls.
We got a chance to sit down with Newski when he came to New York City and this is how it went down.
BC : What is your first musical memory?
Newski : I think the first time I was really amped on music was getting the “Batman Forever” soundtrack on cassette. I probably wasn’t even ten and then swiftly followed that up with Ace of Base, “I Saw The Sign” on CD. It was my first CD, in addition, stints with glory for me were Hootie and The Blow Fish on cassette and Collective Soul, 90’s grunge that sort of thing.
BC : Do you think any of that influences your art now?
Newski : Probably indirectly. I mean […] being so stoked on music, and having that be the catalyst and then finding all the guitar bands. I was super into guitar bands and grunge bands, Green Day, Weezer and that sort of thing. What was your first CD?
BC : My first CD was Cyndi Lauper, “She’s So Unusual”. Apparently, I knew all the words to “She-Bop” and had no idea that it was about masturbation.
Newski : Is it? No relation to “Ummm Bop” by Hanson?
BC : No, I think that was a very different message there, although, hang on, maybe, I have to listen to the lyrics again.
Newski : I didn’t think there were any lyrics, I just thought they were humming something that wasn’t English.
BC : Ha! Yeah, I don’t know, I’m kinda dense. I miss a lot of those innuendos.
Newski : Oh you thought it was a sex-u-al innuendo?
BC : No, I didn’t, not until just now comparing it to She-Bop. Which was totally about female masturbation in particular.
Newski : Oh nice.
BC : Shit, HA! There was an interview… You’re not supposed to have a favorite, but what’s your favorite song that you’ve written :
Newski : Aw, man, favorite song that I didn’t write is probably “Say It Aint So” by Weezer. Remember that song?
BC : YES! Good song. (High five)
Newski : I don’t know if I have a favorite song. I mean there are songs that people like more than other songs. Like … I have a song “D.I.Y” that’s kind of an autobiographical song about playing the worst show that you can possibly play in your whole career to four people where they just hate your guts and they want you dead. That one. I need to start writing more songs about masturbation. I don’t have any. A lot of hit songs are about masturbation. The Cyndi Lauper tune, “Blister In The Sun” by Violent Femmes.
BC : B-52’s, “Bush Fire”.
Newski : Hahaha!
BC : Ok, that one wasn’t quite so subtle … but definitely some good songs about masturbation out there.
Newski : Practically a mainstream genre of songwriting now.
BC : When you go to write your songs, are you taking from your life? Where do you find your inspiration?
Newski : It’s pretty autobiographical I guess. Yeah. A lot of it is about traveling and breaking free of the baby boomer ideals and the American dream and not becoming a victim of the American dream. That’s definitely a recovering theme … and yeah …. freedom. Not like American freedom, but your own personal freedom and enjoying yourself. Getting more than a two week holiday a year. Shame in this country, nobody gets out.
BC : As an artist with a platform to speak out, is there anything that you’d like to talk about?
Newski : I’m working on a record called “The Worst of Brett Newski”. It’s going to come out in April and it’s not a political record. I’d never say that I’m a political writer, but it’s definitely socially conscious and the themes of that definitely trickle in and some social satire’s in there. It’s a very lyrically driven acoustic throw back, some moments of Woodie Gutherie thematically stuff like that. A couple of people messaged me over the years and said that my music inspired them to quit their shitty jobs. Some of them were musicians and some were not and I thought that was one of the highest honors that’s happened. A couple of friends and acquaintances started playing music full time and that made me feel pretty good.
So many people are smart enough and adept enough that they could quit their jobs that are imprisoning them, but it’s just, there’s no people influencing them to do it … or it’s scary. It’s pretty hard to get free. I feel like I barely got out. Even me coming from a really supportive family, but still old school thought process, so it was still like ‘get a real job’.
More often than not, you’re going to land on your feet, even if you get your ass whipped for a while, which you will … No matter what, you’re going to be better for it in the long run. You’re going to be smarter and … I don’t know …. and have more iron sack.
BC : Was there a moment for you when you sacked up or had that “Ah Ha!” moment?
Newski : Probably going on tour for the first time, by myself in a car. It was so exciting even though the gigs that I was playing weren’t even probably that good. Even though I’d probably consider them soul crushers at this point. But yeah, it was such a good feeling. Like … yeah I’m finally doing it. I’m doing it for real. It might not be the highest level yet, but it’s … you know … it was stage one. I felt like it was the little turd of the snowball that had been built and now it was rolling down the hill and collecting steam and packing snow. The base of the snowman.
BC : Was this the tour that you had the four people at your show?
Newski : Yeah, I think it was. one of those early tours.
BC : Where did you go when you first toured?
Newski : I think it was a mid west tour. I feel like the base of the snowman has been built and now I’m getting to the midsection and then I’m going to get to the head and maybe I don’t want to peak too soon, so maybe in my 60’s or 70’s I’ll be putting the carrot on the nose.
BC : What was your best day as an artist?
Newski : The most notable days, one time a couple of years ago, I played a show in Johannesburg, South Africa to 2000 people and the next day I played to two people just down the road in the neighboring city. So that was probably the biggest juxtaposition but it was all fun and games.
BC : How did you get to Vietnam?
Newski : That was just a backpacking trip by myself. I didn’t want to live in the states for a while, I felt like […] my brain was turning into cement and I wasn’t getting any new ideas or getting stuck and not making progress and freaking out and having lots of anxiety and none of my friends were happy cause they were all just out of school getting jobs they all hated. So I was like “Fuck this” I’m just going to wander around Asia for a while. it was pretty fun and honestly the most anxious I’ve ever been but wrote some cool songs and recorded in some pretty crappy studios all around South East Asia and at the end of the day it was worth doing and that’s how I found Vietnam and lived there for a while. It was a weird couple of years.
BC : In three sentences or less how would you describe your life so far?
Newski : Crusty adventures.
Crusty Adventures is also his hilarious youtube series that you can catch here :
Catch Newski on his West Coast Winter Sucks Tour 2017
2.15 – Billings, MT – House Show
2.17 – Seattle, WA – Central Saloon
2.18 – Portland, OR – Waypost
2.21 – Pamona, CA – The Glass House
2.23 – Santa Barbara – House Show
3.3 – Denver, CO – Walnut Room