From jock to rock with Taddy Porter
Long days of cross-country travel by road are nothing new for Taddy Porter lead singer Andy Brewer, who followed his pitching coach father to minor league outposts across the map.
Brewer's father, Mark, is the pitching coach for the Double-A Binghamton (N.Y.) Mets and has had coaching jobs in San Bernardino, Calif.; Vero Beach, Fla.; Yakima, Wash.; Great Falls, Mont.; Savannah, Ga.; San Antonio; and Salt Lake City.
"It's funny, because I get to go travel around and play places [I've lived in]. We've been to Savannah, Ga., we're going to Washington state and these are all places that whenever my dad was in the business for, I wanna say, 16 or 17 years, and I got to go and travel with him," Andy Brewer said in a phone interview last week. "I drove from Tulsa, Okla., to Binghamton, which was like 25 hours worth of driving. I'd get a job working in the business and clubhouse, or whenever I was younger, I was [a] bat boy and stuff just to get a couple extra dollars while seeing him."
Before embarking on a music career, Brewer played high school baseball in Wagoner and Tulsa, Okla., and college baseball at Lyon College in Batesville, Ark., and Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. As a middle infielder and pitcher, he was continuing the tradition of his father and grandfather Jim Brewer, who pitched from 1960 to 1976 for the Cubs, Dodgers and Angels. Jim Brewer was a member of the 1965 World Series champion Dodgers and picked up a save for the National League in the 1973 All-Star Game.
"I was drafted out of high school; I think I was drafted in the 47th round [by the Dodgers]. And so I was like, 'I don't think I'm gonna do that. I think I'm just going to go play college baseball," Andy Brewer said. "I didn't even tell my coach that I was drafted. That was more of a thing [where] I would like to play and then earn my spot without you knowing anything or having any expectations or anything like that."
Although his baseball heritage and skills led him to a college scholarship, Brewer's college baseball career ended after his junior year at Northeastern, and he transferred to Oklahoma State. From there, his journey that began with baseball led to the formation of his blues-based rock band, whose self-titled debut album on Primary Wave Records hit stores Tuesday (iTunes | Amazon).
"I kind of lost some fire for baseball, but I think it was because as I was getting older, I was enjoying music and enjoying writing music more," Brewer said. "So I think at some point in time, I just decided to further my music career than continue to play baseball.
"But I still watch baseball; I still watch all my favorite teams all the time. Sometimes I see people playing, and you can't help but miss it when you see people playing it. Music's rewarding, baseball was rewarding, but I have to say music is just a little bit more fun."
Taddy Porter's debut single, "Shake Me," has been heard on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" and "SportsCenter LA" and ABC's "Cougar Town. "Mean Bitch" and "King Louie" were played on Sunday's season premiere of HBO's "Entourage," and "Railroad Queen" and "King Louie" will be heard in the upcoming John Cena film "Legendary." And New York Mets fans might recognize "Shake Me" as pitcher Mike Pelfrey's warm-up and at-bat music.
Brewer spoke with The Life last week while he and bandmates Joe Selby (lead guitar) and brothers Kevin Jones (bass) and Doug Jones (drums) were traveling for a show in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Life: What's the feeling for you and your bandmates with the album coming out?
Brewer: It's kind of like Christmas, you know. Or graduation or something like that. I remember whenever we got our album, just to look at it to see what it looked like. That was like Christmas. It was like, "All right, this is mine." It's like a gift that I can give to everybody, but no, it's really cool. It's by far one of the most exciting experiences that we've had in a long time.
The Life: Where did you get together with your bandmates?
Brewer: It was right there in Stillwater, Okla. It was funny because I was a senior in college and I was pursuing graduating and everything. But then I met a bunch of guys. I randomly walked into a house where there was a party going on and I heard live drums being played.
I had been writing my own songs for a little while and I was looking for a drummer, another guitar player and a bass player. I walked into this house and I met my drummer just by coincidence. He was just playing and he just asked me, "Do you play?" And I picked up one of his guitars that he had in his room there and I played one of the songs that I had written. And the song that I wrote and the drums that he was playing, everything just came across, came through really fast. So I felt, OK, well I got something here.
And from then we met our drummer's brother, who is now our bass player. And I started taking guitar lessons there in Stillwater, and my instructor at the time was and is now my lead guitar player. He was in a band at the time I started taking lessons from him. And that band ended up not going so well, and I was like, "Why don't you come play with us?"
The Life: You've seen all stages of minor and major league ball in your family, so with the album coming out, would you say this is your graduation from Triple-A to the major leagues?
Brewer: I would say so. This would probably be our rookie year with the album coming out. Then after that we'll just see how it all works. We have a really good team of people that are working with us, and they're helping us get on ESPN and get our music inside commercials and everything. So they continue to do that, and we continue to just progress as a band.
It really is, it's a learning experience. We've only been a band for close to three years and we've been touring for two years without an album out. So now we'll be touring with our album out; that will be really fun, very exciting.
The Life: What are your favorite baseball teams?
Brewer: I'd have to say, whenever my dad first started and my grandfather, he played the majority of his career with the Dodgers … I've always been a Dodgers fan. And now that my dad is now with the Mets, I'm also now a Mets fan.
It's funny, because in the music industry, you get to know people, you get to know people a lot, and I found out that in baseball it's the same way. I see guys like … Mike Pelfrey, I hung out with him whenever he was in the minor leagues, and then he got sent up. I remember whenever I was with the Dodgers, my dad was with the Dodgers, Eric Gagne was coming through and I got to know him when he was a real young guy.
And you just see those guys who start off in certain organizations and then they will end up in different organizations. Guys I saw with the Dodgers, or my dad used to also have a short stint with the Rangers, and you see guys from there move to other organizations and it's cool.
The Life: Your grandpa [who died in 1987] played on some great Dodgers teams in the 1960s; did you hear many stories of those days?
Brewer: [My dad] told me about my grandfather having Duke Snider and Sandy Koufax come over and eat lunch and then go fishing with them. And I thought that was pretty cool. And I remember hearing stories about him just being kids, being able to hang out with these Hall of Famers now. He didn't know at the time.
But they would climb up on the top of Dodger Stadium and throw paper airplanes off the top and just let them float down in the outfield. I guess my grandpa would get mad at him for doing that, but everybody else thought it was just funny.
The Life: When you're on the road, you probably don't get many days off, but do you check out many games?
Brewer: Do you know what? I will get a chance to do that whenever … at minor league games because we were at Savannah because the Sand Gnats are there. And my dad used to be with them because they were a Dodgers affiliate at one point in time, I think. Yeah, most definitely. Especially if my dad's around, he can usually call up somebody and get us some tickets.
I wasn't old enough to enjoy the whole spectator experience with a big beer and a big hot dog in my hands. So now whenever I can go back there I love to take all my bandmates and just do the exact same thing, where they may not be as big of a baseball fan as myself but they can still appreciate the camaraderie of beer [laughs] and hot dogs. And if I were to get upset like, "Ohh, that was a bad call." They'd probably be with me, too, they'd be like, "Yeah, yeah," and be with me, so we've got to do it sometime soon.
The Life: And with your name and the band's name, beer is a common theme anyway.
Brewer: I know, yeah. We didn't plan it all that way. But it's funny our name is Taddy Porter and it's a name of a beer. But we've never tried the beer just because we're superstitious, you know. We feel that if we drink the beer that some negative things may happen. So if we get a No. 1 song on the radio, a true No. 1 song, we will probably try the beer. …
We're all beer drinkers, connoisseurs. We've all had the Samuel Smith [beers], all those Tadcasters he does. I've tried all those but I have not tried Taddy Porter.
The Life: You guys are just like athletes with their superstitions.
Brewer: Exactly -- I used to wear the same socks always. I never went so far as wearing the same jock strap. That's just a little bit too much. But yeah, superstition is also in this, that's for sure.
The Life: Do you do that with shows -- if you have a good gig, do you wear the same shirt?
Brewer: Yes, if you have a good show you wear the same shirt. It may stink or it may have a ring of sweat a little bit, but you know, I've done that before, most definitely. I have an Oklahoma shirt that we played a really good show with and I probably wore three or four days in a row. That's because we didn't have any access to like washers and dryers at the time. … Yeah, you have to conserve.
The Life: So when did you start learning music, when did you first pick up a guitar?
Brewer: I got a guitar probably when I was about 16 or 17. And I didn't really play it all that much. I picked it up and it didn't come to me real fast, so I lost interest. But then later on whenever I was probably like 18 or 19, my freshman year in college, senior year of high school, I had friends who played a lot and I kind of picked up as I went along. I'd say freshman year of college is when I really started playing more, and then writing songs came along.
It was funny because players on my team would be like, "Damn, Brew, you're pretty good at that. You could do that if you weren't playing baseball." And I kind of took it to the next level and was like, "Well, I could do this instead of playing baseball."
This business could be more lucrative if you do it the right way. So I figured I probably wasn't going to be able to do as much playing baseball as playing music.
The Life: Before you started to play in a group, was the blues-based classic rock more of your favorite?
Brewer: Yep, definitely. I had always listened to bands like Free, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers, all these classic rock bands that have a blues influence. It seemed like it had more feeling.
And nowadays music can be a little bit jaded and have a kind of a skewed message, I think. You hear a lot of songs on active rock radio right now that are very, I don't know how to say, "angry." And I've been angry in life, but I'm not anymore, so I don't write my songs about being angry. I mostly write 'em about love and women.
The Life: So "Mean Bitch" isn't angry?
Brewer: "Mean Bitch" is more of a … what's the word I'm looking for … no, it's not a fat chick. My band driving around in a van right now, they're telling me what to say [and] I'm trying to block them out [laughs]. It's more an endearing term. She's mean, she's a strong woman, she's opinionated, but you like her because of that. So that song's supposed to be more about that, less derogatory. I guess it could be misleading because of the name.
Jim Wilkie is the editor of The Life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.