Damon Bramblett – Quit your day job
If you’ve ever been to Waterloo Records, you may have seen Damon Bramblett behind the counter; his lanky 6’4″ frame would be hard to miss. Like most aspiring musicians who call Austin home, he works a day job — all the more necessary now that the technology boom has made the Texas capital among the most expensive places to live in the state.
Lately, however, Bramblett has made enough of a dent as a songwriter for other artists, and with his debut CD, that his time his becoming devoted almost exclusively to making music. “I’m scheduled on the weekends, but I’ve been playing so much that I haven’t worked there in two weeks and I’m not gonna be there next week,” Bramblett explained in a midsummer interview. “I still work there on paper, but the record just came out in Europe and it’s only a matter of time.”
Bramblett can thank artists such as Kelly Willis, Sara Hickman, Bruce Robison and Charlie Robison for his prosperity. They’ve all recorded his songs on recent records and have made his name more prominent among the long list of up-and-coming Texas singer-songwriters.
What makes Bramblett stand out is his ability to write songs that cannot be taken literally and are open to interpretation. “Heaven Bound”, covered by Willis on her 1999 disc What I Deserve, is the one he’s asked about most often. “I wrote the song, but I leave a window open for the listener to finish it,” he says. “I don’t tell anybody what that’s about. I just tell folks that whatever you think it’s about, is it. It’s very vague. I guess I’m the only one that knows. There’s definitely a story in there, though.”
It should come as no surprise then that when you speak to Bramblett about songwriting, Bob Dylan’s name comes up. “My favorite songwriters are those that use a lot of imagery,” he acknowledges. “A lot of Dylan’s stuff, you can’t really say this is about ‘X’. But, for me, all songs are equally difficult to write. I would just sit down at a typewriter and just type whatever came to mind. I’d be typing along and a phrase would come into my head and I’d stop and say to myself, ‘God, what a stupid title; I’d never write a song called, “Heaven Bound” or “Nobody Wants To Go To The Moon Anymore”.’ I’d say, ‘How silly’ — and then proceed to see if I could do something with it.”
Originally from the tiny town of Bangs, Texas, around 200 miles northwest of Austin, Bramblett, 32, first came to the attention of many Austinites through his participation in “Too Many Guitars”, a series of songwriter showcases Kris McKay organized in Austin a few years ago. Through those gigs, he befriended Willis and the Robison brothers, who subsequently tagged Bramblett act as their opening act on countless gigs.
In 1997, he had some discussions with Bloodshot and Watermelon about releasing his songs, but neither deal materialized. It was during this time he recalls, “I was sitting around with some friends and I said, ‘Ya know, I should just get each one of you guys to pitch in two grand and go do it myself.’ I was joking, and one of them said, ‘I’d do that and I could talk some one else into doing it.’ It snowballed. I had five people pitch in two grand apiece and I went and did it myself.”
The self-titled disc came out this spring and was picked up for European distribution by Munich Records. He’s currently working on a deal for a follow-up record with a domestic independent label. “I have to write the songs first,” he says with a bit of trepidation. “It’ll be a while. I’m planning on touring Europe in October. I’ve written some, but nothing I want to commit to tape. It’s gonna be another year, at least.”