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Published: 2014/12/30
by Dean Budnick

Brothers Keeper: Trio Plus Two with Popper and Jono

Starting on New Year’s Eve in Durango, the Colorado based trio, Brothers Keeper, will embark on a three week tour with John Popper and Jono Manson. Brothers Keeper, which features Scott Rednor (guitar, vocals), Michael Jude (bass, acoustic guitar, vocals) and John Michel (drums, acoustic guitar, vocals) also expanded to a five piece with Popper and Manson for their debut album, 2014’s Todd Meadows. Scott Rednor takes some time on the eve of their tour to discuss how it all came together.

You originally crossed paths with John Popper and Jono Manson about 20 years ago. How did that come about?

It all started with Dear Liza back in the mid-90s. Dear Liza was a band that formed in Fort Collins, Colorado. Dave Precheur who was working with Blues Traveler back in the day, heard our tape and loved the band. So he picked up and put us on tour with Blues Traveler and on the H.O.R.D.E festival for a bunch of years, basically late 95 through 99. During that time we were playing 250 dates a year.

What did you take away from the whole Dear Liza experience?

When I went to CSU I started playing with the right guys for the first time and once you recognize what chemistry is for the first time, it’s so powerful that it’s what will give you the steam to push the boulder up the steep icy hill of the music business. I learned so much and met so many people on those dates but with a young band on the rise to whatever success would be, somebody slept with the wrong person and the next thing you know everything blew up. The lessons you learn along the way are so important. [Laughs].

We lived in San Francisco for a while and then Bobby Sheehan passed away. He was a real brother and was giving us instruments and was such a great guy to us. So we went back east for his funeral and stayed in New York. Dear Liza basically broke up then. We had changed members two and a half years into it after we got rid of the guy who slept with the wrong person—we were co-frontmen and that was a lot of the chemistry in the band so when that all changed I rode that ship for a little longer and then I said, “This isn’t what it was and it isn’t what it needs to be to do this.”

Where did you go from there?

I ended up in New York playing with a couple of bands out of the city. I lived in the Bronx for a while then I got picked up with a band called Tony C. and the Truth that was on Atlantic Records. I toured with Tony for a couple years and had a blast with that, then moved to New Jersey, bought a house, built a studio and recorded my own solo record. But the scene was not what I needed it to be, it was fizzling.

Throughout all of this I was coming back to Colorado to ski and I was at the Red Lion in Vail and I went up to this guy Phil Long and was like, “Hey, can I come out and sing a tune with you?” He gave me the opportunity to play a few songs, then he gave me a gig one night and then called me and asked me to come out full time. So I decided to give it a go. I came out and played two weeks and then I turned it down because it was all cover tunes and not what I wanted to be doing.

So I came back to Jersey and spent about two weeks running my construction company, playing in this go nowhere scene in Trenton and I said to myself, “Forget this, man. Beautiful Vail Colorado awaits.” I figured that would be a good stepping stone to get to the next place I needed to be. It was 8 to 10 gigs a week and I got to become the best player I’d ever been, the best singer I’d ever been. Then after a few years I said, “Okay, now it’s time to find a rhythm section out here and build a new band in Colorado because the music scene is just thriving out here.” And everyone pointed me towards John Michel and Michael Jude who were John Oates’ rhythm section. They lived over in Aspen, so I went to one of their duo acoustic duo gigs, pulled up in my truck behind Johnny’s car and said, “I hear you’re the rhythm section I’m looking for.” He sort of scowled at me with his New York attitude, like “I’ve been playing professionally since I was 14” and I followed up with “It’s cool I’m from Jersey.” So I gave them my solo disc and they called me up two days later. We got together and sang a bunch of tunes by The Band, CSN and there was that chemistry again.

You mentioned the Red Lion but these days you have your own bar where Brothers Keeper often serves as the house band?

That’s right. Around that time someone came into the Red Lion when I was playing and said, “Dude you rock, you need your own bar.” So that’s when my partner came in and basically bought me a club around the corner from the Red Lion which I own known now and is called Shakedown.

When did all that take place?

I took over bar in the summer of 2012. The trio was maybe three or four months old. We had done some sporadic stuff but it really clicked right away. I remember our first gig, it was epic.

What led you to reconnect with Popper and Jono?

Once we got into our thing we said let’s do a Featuring series and that’s when we called them to come do the first of those. I hadn’t connected with Popper since 99.

You went on to record with the two of them and now you have an extended run of dates as a five piece. What expectations did you have when you first contacted them about coming out to Vail?

I don’t know what my expectations were, it just felt right. Do you remember High Plains Drifter? That was Popper, Jono, Eric Schenkman, Mark Clark and Bobby Sheehan. They were a rock and roll powerhouse and we got to open for them in Vail twice. So I wanted to mimic that a bit but I didn’t have expectations, I’m all about organic growth. If it’s going to go somewhere, let it go there.

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