By Johnny Griffith
If variety is the spice of life, then the gents in The Mansion Family Band (TMF) are Carolina Reaper Pepper Hot right now. The Marshall, Texas-based quintet has put together a unique sound borne of the eclectic tastes and background each member brings to the table. A departure from the classic-country, pop-country, Texas-country, red-dirt-country, and hard-rock that you find around most live venues on a Friday night in East Texas, TMF brings a raw, rootsy, growl to their music that’s been described as “one part whiskey, one part broken heart, one part bar fight, and five parts brothers in soul.”
Born out of a wedding gig at Charlie’s Backyard Bar in 2012, TMF has gone from night long jam sessions at their house to consistently playing 2 to 3 times a month. Eager to find out what makes this creative machine click, I reached out to The Mansion Family for a conversation:
Johnny: Where is everyone from and if not local, how did they end up in Marshall?
TMF: Well, Nick Brumley is from Farmersville, Texas. He came to Marshall to attend East Texas Baptist University.
John Fox is from Sulphur Springs, Texas. He also came to Marshall to attend ETBU. That’s where he and Nick met and began playing together, and the seeds for The Mansion Family were planted.
Kasey Brown, he’s from Kirbyville, Texas, and attended ETBU and was the assistant band director at Marshall High School. It was during the latter that we hooked up.
Eric Gardener is from Shreveport, Louisiana. Nick and Fox saw Eric play with his previous band in Shreveport and were immediately impressed. The Good Time Rounders were in need of an upright bassist; Eric was between bands and was kind enough to sign on.
Chris Dean, is from Shongaloo, Louisiana. Chris was living in Little Rock, Arkansas, and moved to Marshall for, you guessed it, a woman. His wife Bethany and he met through a mutual friend and he headed south as quickly as he could.
Johnny: Okay I have to ask, what inspired the name of the band? It’s obviously going to make people do a double-take to make sure they read it right. Was that intentional or simply a nice byproduct?
TMF: In the fall of 2012, we put to bed a previous band Nick, Eric, and Chris had been in for several years called the Good Time Rounders. It was primarily a string band with the core being acoustic instruments and no drums. We used to host an electric jam every Thursday night where we had the freedom to really stretch out and be creative musically. We wanted to form a new band with that same freedom. At this time, Fox, Eric, and Nick were renting a huge historic two-story home in downtown Marshall, which became the hub for many an after party and late night jam session. It drew the nickname of “The Mansion.” We were looking for a name that incorporated that atmosphere and our relationship as a family. Someone jokingly suggested “The Mansion Family” for obvious reasons, and it stuck.
Johnny: How did everyone get started in music?
Nick got started in high school after a friend showed him some chords, and he got into old country music after moving to Marshall, which is when he started writing. Fox’s earliest memory of music was perched on his uncle’s shoulders listening to Jerry Jeff Walker. He played percussion in school and eventually picked up bass and guitar, honing his skills in churches along the way. Eric was involved in some great orchestral programs as a kid and eventually realized he could have fun playing original music on the upright bass. He was able to meld his classical background with rock and jazz influences to make something completely new and exciting. Chris credits his grandfather as being a spark for him as he was a musician, playing fiddle, piano, and accordion. Kasey picked up music in the high school band and, due in no small part to a great teacher, has turned that into a lifelong passion.
Johnny: What would you say the biggest influence is, as a band, you’ve had so far?
TMF: Each other. We’re not sure anyone in the band is exactly playing music in their comfort zone, which is what we wanted. We wanted to stretch out, learn, and push ourselves. We learn something in one way or another from each other every time we play together.
Johnny: How would you describe your music?
TMF: That’s always been tough to answer. The easiest definition we usually throw out is East Texas roots rock with jam band tendencies. When people look at us like “What are you talking about?” sometimes we just say Americana, though that doesn’t really fit either. Sometimes we just say it’s like “tyrannosaurus chicken fried steak with jam-jam gravy” and let their minds chew on that for a while.
Johnny: You have a sound that’s not typical of this area compared to what you can usually hear on Friday or Saturday nights. How did that style evolve?
TMF: There was a conscious choice not to do what everyone else was doing, but I don’t think we could have even if we’d tried. Our sound came about very organically. We all have our different influences, and we just draw on those to do what’s best for the song.
Johnny: How has this year been for you the band so far?
TMF: Pretty great and crazy, as usual, all wrapped up in one. We have definitely seen our fan base grow, mainly by finding some new venues in which to play. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have caught on at Stanley’s Famous BBQ in Tyler. The folks, both management and patrons, have been overwhelmingly supportive. We have a good following in Shreveport. We are regulars at a few clubs over there, and we love it. One goal we had set as a band was to try to push a little further west, and Stanley’s has been like finding a second home.
Johnny: What is The Mansion Family’s next major goal?
TMF: To record something again. We have been in various studios and haven’t come away yet with anything we wanted to put out. We also came away from one studio $1,500 lighter with nothing whatsoever to show for it, but that’s a different story for a different time.
Other than that, just to keep adding fans to the family and expand our reach geographically.
Johnny: What has been your best memory so far as TMF? What has been your biggest challenge?
TMF: Wow, that’s tough, because we shared a lot of experiences over the past several years. Maybe the best is not one single instance, but the sum of those moments when it just “clicked” with a crowd. When they are moving as one and you see the majority singing along, knowing the words to something we wrote – that’s the best.
Finding new venues that appreciate our unique sound is always a challenge locally, which is strange because it’s not “weird” or anything. It’s just not top 40 country or classic rock covers. Aside from that, the whole recording thing is always a thorn.
Johnny: What experience are you hoping the first time listener takes away from a TMF show?
TMF: Our music has many layers to it, and we want people to appreciate the songs on at least one of those levels, but hopefully all. Nick’s lyrics are great stories with great messages, and we hope that someone can take something away with them from that. We also work hard to make it very sonically appealing, again with the layers thing, but we hope that they can appreciate that as well. We also rock the “you know what” out, and we hope that’s just flat out a good time for everyone. If we can connect with people on at least one of those levels, we’re doing well. If we can find someone for whom it clicks on all three levels, that’s when it’s special for them and us as well.
- October 8th – Great Raft Brewing, Shreveport, Louisiana (Multi-band show for the venue’s three year anniversary)
- October 21st – Rockers, Riders & Ribs Kick-Off Party – Cajun Steamer, Longview Texas, headlining kickoff party for festival with openers White Trash Wannabees and Stink Bait
- October 22nd – Sulphur Springs Texas, Hopkins County Civic Center Auditorium with Sulphur Springs own Hannah Kirby of “The Voice”
- November 25th – Stanley’s Famous Bar-B-Q, Tyler
For more info on The Mansion Family and to hear samples of their music, go to Facebook via @mansionfamily or soundcloud.com/kasey-brown-443687765.