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Published: 2014/12/30
by Dean Budnick

Brothers Keeper: Trio Plus Two with Popper and Jono

Our readers are certainly familiar with John Popper but can you talk a bit about Jono Manson. He is someone who doesn’t always get his due.

Jono is one of the most honest rock and roll blues musicians and a pioneer in the scene. There’s nobody like him and that guy should be recognized more than he is.

Jono lent a hand to Blues Traveler and Blues Traveler lent a hand to Dear Liza and it’s like three generations of players coming out of the same place. That’s what I feel like we’re doing at Shakedown too, lending a hand to the younger kids and helping to build the scene.

One thing that surprised me about your record is that the two of them don’t just play on it, they also wrote quite a few of the songs with you. What was that process like?

We all spent two weeks in Santa Fe. We rented a house, wrote the whole record together and we all contributed equally. Popper has said that we came out with our guns blazing which is such a nice compliment because we’re all about standing on our own feet. I don’t want to rely on anybody else but I also want to collaborate with good old friends who come from the same lineage.

Basically as we were packing our luggage we all went through all our drawers of song parts we had been collecting for a bunch of years. We brought it all to the table and it was one of the easiest collaborations I’ve ever been involved with. Everyone was just really involved with every part of it.

We lived for two weeks in that house together. We’d wake up, eat, go into the living room and then break off in twos, no structure really, just going with it and it worked.

Can you talk about your two bandmates in Brothers Keeper and what they bring to bear?

Those guys are just the best ever. They toured with John Oates for 15 years as his rhythm section when he wasn’t doing Hall and Oates. They’re older than I am by 15, 16 years and they’ve played with David Crosby and so many other people that I can’t even go over the list.

They’ve done so much an they’re such a great rhythm section but the big guys don’t tour all the time and you don’t always get the call to do that. So right here in Colorado they had a band called Take The Wheel and one called Little Blue and they’ve been around for a long time but they always had someone in the band who was just an ass and would destroy it. So after they fired the last guitar player in the band they were like, “That’s it, let’s just do the duo thing. We’ll live here in beautiful Colorado play some acoustic stuff and go out with Oates.” Then I came along, they decided they’d give a try and next thing you know it’s all happening.

We’re all brothers that’s why we call the band Brothers Keeper. We look out for each other and we just want the best for each other. I’m so lucky to be able to play with them and when we all sing it’s really something special for us.

I’d imagine that’s all the more so with John and Jono, as now you have five vocalists.

It’s something that you don’t see and that’s part of what makes us so comfortable with pressing on. Because again it’s pushing a boulder up a steep icy hill and unless you have the chemistry and confidence don’t even bother.

So when we go out there I know we’re going to turn heads because you don’t see five lead singers in a real rock and roll band.

So what can folks expect when they see over the next few weeks?

They can expect a real live rock and roll show. It’s the real deal. You’re going to see five lead singers, you’re going to hear big harmonies. We’re going to be doing our entire record and some older solo stuff. We’re going to throw some Zeppelin into the mix, Popper and Jono have the Duskray Troubadours so we’re going to be doing some of that stuff and also a couple of Blues Traveler tunes. It’s going to be a two hours and fifteen minute powerhouse set, that’s for sure.

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