Warren Hood Settles Into Strange Brew

Second generation fiddler finds a home for Sunday residency

Warren Hood Settles Into Strange Brew
by John Halpern

Warren Hood, Emily Gimble, and Willie Pipkin are the Brewbirds, who play every Sunday at Strange Brew, 8pm. When the bandleader, son of late Austin fiddler Champ Hood, attended the Berklee School of Music, he took home the String Achievement Award. Later, he played with San Fransisco’s Waybacks before settling back locally.

Hood’s played with Emmylou Harris, Ben Kweller, Little Feat, Elvis Costello, Susan Tedeschi, Gillian Welch, and Alejandro Escovedo. He’s another homegrown musician making Strange Brew one of the best rooms to play in Austin.

Austin Chronicle: Strange Brew’s become a great place for residencies. How did yours come about?

Warren Hood: The first time I played there was with Jeff Plankenhorn at the Sunday morning gospel brunch with the Purgatory Players [Plankenhorn, Jon Dee Graham, Scarppy Jud Newcomb]. I really got to like the place. I used to play every Sunday over at Momo’s for about seven years. We hadn’t really found a good spot to move our Sunday night residency since it closed. We’ve been playing under the name the Brewbirds, which is mostly a changing cast of characters. I try to keep some core members of my band there as much as I can, but it changes around a bit.

AC: How’d your band come together?

WH: Willie Pipkin has been playing guitar with me for about 15 years. We were in the South Austin Jug Band together when I was in high school. I left for Berklee, but when I came back we started a new band. Pipkin had the idea to include Emily Gimble to sing harmonies and play piano. She’s so good that we feature her a lot. And we have a longtime bass player in Nate Rosemond. We’ve all played together a long time now.

AC: Violin before fiddle?

WH: When I went to junior high they forced us to pick an instrument and either be in the band, orchestra, or choir. I wanted to play fiddle, but they turned me into a violinist. I really took to it and stayed with it. Later I crossed over and started improvising and getting away from classical.

AC: What do you like most about living in Austin?

WH: Well, the music scene for starters is a very tight community and everybody knows everybody and looks out for everybody. There’s not a lot of people here who have delusions of grandeur and are trying to climb the ladder to be superstars. You don’t have a lot of the drama that comes along with that world of people trying to outdo each other or stab each other in the back. It’s a real great place to do the kind of music you want to do for the love of it. And of course I love the food. Austin is a great food town.

AC: How’s the music scene in San Francisco different from Austin?

WH: Austin seems to have a lot of bands that you can’t really categorize and players that can do just about anything, from country and blues to rock and jazz. So many of them don’t really do any one thing more than another thing. I feel like in most other places you’re going to go and hear a jazz band at a club or you’re going to go see a rock & roll band. And they’re not quite as diverse as you might find here.

AC: At what point did you decide to pursue music as a career?

WH: When I was about 14. I got into a band and made money. I really enjoyed it and once you get bit by the bug you can’t get away.

AC: Name your category?

WH: Well, I say I’m Americana, but it’s not really Americana in the sense of the word that we know. My music draws all of the various American music styles into one. There’s a lot of blues, jazz, country, and rock & roll. America’s gift to the world is jazz, blues, and rock & roll.

AC: Describe the path you’ve been on?

WH: I started off just playing as a side guy with a lot of different people. You start off small and as your crowd develops, so does your profile. I started getting bigger gigs and going on the road. Eventually I formed my own band and started opening for those people who I had been playing in their bands. I believe in a long, slow building career, and not so much a one-hit wonder with 15 minutes of fame and then you’re done.

The people I idolize and look up to had a long, slow build. People like Lyle Lovett and all the Texas songwriters, like Guy Clark, who never had a Number One hit. That’s the best way to go about it: stay true to yourself. Do what you want to do and don’t feel like you have to be discovered.

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Warren Hood, Champ Hood, Strange Brew, Brewbirds, Emily Gimble, Willy Pipkin, South Austin Jug Band, Purgatory Players, Jeff Plankenhorn, Jon Dee Graham, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Emmylou Harris, Ben Kweller, Alejandro Escovdeo, Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark

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