Bryan Art 20Ten
Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Bryan Art could have made his full-length solo debut nearly a decade ago. Then, the guitarist-recently-turned-singer was doing phonetic pretzels with his name and was known as Brahyhan Art, part of the Fiwi Music outfit along with Yogi (now Courtney John). That album would have been released in about 2002. Then, there was another 'almost album debut' nearly three years ago, this one to have been distributed by Tads International which, again, was never released.
He is certain of getting out of the blocks this time, though, having marshalled his own affairs to release the 16-track Bryan Art 20Ten on June 1 on the Junction File (his own) and Jah Chin labels.
"Things always seem like it will happen and it never happen because of procrastination and we just decided that now must be the time. Come what may now is when we are going to release the album. Now is when we going to step up our game. Now is decision time," Art told The Gleaner.
The title comes from the 'now' frame of mind as well, "because for a while, we've been waiting on the album and it's like, really, everybody's been dragging them feet. It was really a drawn-out thing".
Some of the songs on Bryan Art 20Ten would have been on the previous albums, although different versions of two (Get It and Murder Them a Play) would have been released. So the original version of Get It is on the summer 2010 set, while Queen Ifrica makes a guest appearance on Murder Them a Play. Rock and Come In and Somewhere were also on the unreleased albums and Art points out that for his album debut, "the popular songs were drawn from other labels".
Other tracks on the album are Second Class (with Hawkeye), Taxi (Art playing acoustic guitar to a drum and bass), No Malice (a techno, rub-a-dub fusion) and Anyway (which he describes as "a raw track, just me and a guitar"). He is encouraged by the response to the singles Sweeter Love and Ready or Not, saying "they are doing well" - then he pauses, laughs and adds "relatively". Beautiful was released some years ago as a single, but Art says he has done a "totally different production" for the album.
Now that he is on the verge of having an album of his very own, Art said, "I feel much relieved. I was really under a lot of pressure to have it done and just to have an album. Is a lot of opportunities I missed because I don't have an album. It makes you feel like an artiste, ready for the road. Without it, you feel like a tradesman without him tools."
"It's not that you feel like that you reach. You feel ready," he added.
Being 'ready' has taken not only time, but a few very bold steps and trading of Art's talent with the strings to get his vocal chords heard. He played in the band that supported Luciano up to 1997, then up to 2000 was band leader for Grass Roots, the backing unit for Bushman, which he co-founded with Rupert McKenzie.
However, he stopped his band work cold turkey when he decided to divert his career path.
"I wanted to focus more on my solo career and I realised that people would not take you that seriously if you were doing that (playing guitar and singing)," he said. "Then, is a kind of move that would remind me each time what I am really about and not to confuse things. I decided I was going to stop all these gigs, focus on this and start thinking like a solo artiste and not a backing-band musician."
There were cash consequences, as Art said "though it was gradual, I did not catch on financially before I made the decision finally. I made the decision bravely".
It was not his first bold leap, following his heart towards an uncertain future and not the aspect of art that was putting cash in his pocket at the moment. He enrolled at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts part-time to do photography and graphic art, having started to establish himself in the field and earning an income. Then, "I just switched cold turkey to music".
'Sing your own songs'
He had some prior experience with the guitar, playing when he was about seven or eight years old. "I used to just improvise on primary chords for a while until I got bored with that and packed it up. I did not play for years at all," he said. So he was very nervous when he was required to play at the Edna Manley entrance exam, "but it was easier than I anticipated. What they were looking for was more potential".
He kept writing songs and doing demos to pitch them to artistes, but was told that he has a decent voice and should sing them himself, Art saying that Yogi was the last person to tell him so before he took the plunge.
Then the trading began. In England he exchanged guitar work for studio time to do recordings that turned out to be demos. In Jamaica he got his first drum track from Sly Dunbar at Cell Block studio; at Star Trail he exchanged his guitar chops for studio time, called in Chris Birch to do keyboards and had his first single Soon Come Back, which was also his first production.
He produces five of the songs on Bryan Art 20Ten. And, as for being a guitarist, "I only do it in the studio with, like, a friend. I don't do it for hire".