Will Courtney: Simple Man

Brothers and Sisters' Will Courtney talks California dreaming.

Will Courtney was born into the music business, literally. His mother, Grammy award-winning gospel singer Cynthia Clawson, went into labor with him in a studio in Nashville, while his father, Ragan Courtney, a Baptist preacher, penned several of her hits. Raised on lovin’ spoonfuls of the Byrds and Beach Boys, Will, along with real-life sibling Lily, formed the aptly titled country-folk collective Brothers & Sisters as a reflection and extension of their roots. The group’s eponymous debut, released last year on the family label, Calla Lily Records, is rich with pastoral scenery and sun-kissed choruses that are as instantly familiar as they are welcoming. The ensemble recently recorded a new EP, which includes a cover of Neil Young’s “Albuquerque” in Los Angeles, where they recently took up a residency. Off the Record chats up Courtney after the jump.

Off the Record: How did Brothers & Sisters end up with a residency in California?
Will Courtney: Spaceland was just up the street from my house when I used to live in California. I went there every Monday night. It was a free residency for local bands. I always wanted to play it so I had our booking agent look into it. It ended up being a split residency with the Echo. It was terrific.

OTR: Did you play for free as well?
WC: Yeah. It was a great chance for us to come to California for a month and record and hang out in nice weather.

OTR: Why did the band choose Red Rockets Glare to record at?
WC: The studio is run by Raymond Richards, who played pedal steel in Brian Johnston Massacre and Mojave 3 and has recorded the Broken West. We saw his band, the Idaho Falls, perform and he heard us on MySpace. Last summer we came out and recorded one song with him and it went real well so we decided to do it again.

OTR: Why did you choose to record an alternate version of “Sunday Living?”
WC: When we recorded the first album, it was almost an afterthought. When we were starting to play it, it sounded like more of a straight forward country song, but we recorded it as a slowed-down piano tune. Then after the album came out we continued to play it as like a country tune so I always wanted to go back and show that side of it.

OTR: Were the three new songs written recently or have they been collecting dust for awhile?
WC: All of them were written in the last few months. Lily, my sister sings lead on one. I’ve been trying to push her into doing that more so hopefully that will add a new dimension to the music in the future.

OTR: Lomita’s Ray Jackson plays pedal steel for Brothers and Sisters and you sang on Downtown Mystic’s “Pictures and a Postcard.” Do you have any other future plans to collaborate?
WC: We’ve been talking about doing a country record together for about a year. I really hope that happens. I have some older songs that never really worked for Brothers and Sisters that I would like to do something with. We play a lot of solo shows together and it seems like it would work pretty well.

OTR: Conrad Keely from …Trail of Dead has spent some time in Brothers and Sisters as well. How was the tour with them and Blood Brothers?
WC: It would have been less odd if Blood Brothers were not on the tour. Their fans are a bit different, but we loved it. We got to play the Fillmore in San Francisco which made the whole thing worthwhile. Ray [Jackson] didn’t play with us on that tour and he’s pretty jealous of that. He still talks about it every few days.

OTR: You recently produced your mother’s new album, Episode, at Cacophony Recorders. What was that experience like?
WC: We finally finished it a few weeks ago. It’s mostly a sad country record. There’s a cover of Jimmy Webb on there, but the rest are all originals that she had wanted to record for awhile. My mother believes in me and my abilities which made the whole project a real treat. It seemed to bring everything full circle.

Brothers and Sisters play with Li'l Cap'n Travis Saturday at the Continental Club.

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Brothers & Sisters, Will Courtney

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