Brian Lindsay Brings It All Back Home With Revival

Brian Lindsay Brings It All Back Home With Revival

Sunday, 01 January 2023

I am a huge fan of the local music scene. Not any particular local scene, but local scenes as a concept; the local scene that can be found in whichever city you call home, for example, reader. If you look, I guarantee you can find talented and interesting musicians all around you. I consistently discover great guitarists, vocalists, performers, all across the musical spectrum in Rochester, NY.

As great a wealth of instrumental talent that I find in my local scene, however, I rarely encounter solid songwriters. By that, I mean songwriters whose work stands by itself beyond the context of their performance; songs which can be sent out into the world to stand on their own. I find plenty of good songwriters, even some great ones, but their songs are usually so entwined with their personalities that it is hard to imagine someone else singing them.

I recently met with Rochester musician Brian Lindsay to discuss songwriting, and his latest album Revival. We hung out in Fairport’s BSide on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, a room I have previously seen him fill with dancing fans.

Brian Lindsay writes solid songs. His songs feel like they have always been there, they just needed to be excavated from the bedrock of our culture. That may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it’s not; I contend that it’s quite an accomplishment.

Lindsay’s latest album, Revival, features some of his strongest writing to date. As its title indicates, Revival is an album of hope and redemption. Songs like the title track, “Love Lives Here,” “River of Faith and Healing” and “Better Angels” all point to a better future, to things getting better and to the human spirit which can take us there. The album is, he readily admits, a reaction to the past five or six years in America. “I was in the mood to write a new album. I had a whole bunch of songs, but it didn’t feel like a record,” the singer confesses, then he came up with “Love Lives Here” and the music’s fortune seemed to turn, spontaneously. “[When “Love Lives Here” began to come together] I felt like I was saying something… I wrote all the other songs really fast. I knew I was on the right track.”

When I point out that, despite the pain and challenges of recent years, the album still maintains a positive attitude, he replies, “Yes, that was hard…. We can get through this. This can’t be our future.”

Such a positive, hopeful approach is not new for Lindsay. His 2009 album was called Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”) and featured songs like “Lay Your Burden Down” offering charity, the antiwar “Brothers in Arms” and the tile track [about the Underground Railroad -ed]. it exuded a hopeful atmosphere. In a similar line, a key song on 2014’s The Monkey, the Tango, and the Boogaloo is “The Bully,” in which the singer asks, “Can you find mercy for the bully?” Obviously, a cathartic lede endures through all of those aforementioned examples.

Don’t get wrong. Lindsay is not all seriousness. He definitely knows how to have a good time; hence those crowded dancefloors. In his shows, Lindsay does mix his own songs with a careful selection of covers to keep the audience engaged. His music consistently rocks out; even when he’s singing about heavy subjects. Mixed in among the heartfelt songs on Esperanza are rockers such as “King of the Mountain,” “What Does Love Mean to You” and “Empty Heart,” but he never loses sight of his moral core. “I’ve gotta spend some time making sure it’s saying something,” the singer explains about the things which serve as the primary focus for his music.

Lindsay was interested in writing songs from the moment he first began playing. “I was lucky to have a musical background in my family,” he explains — His mother was a singer, and his father wrote for the theatre. His early favorites were the Beatles and Monkees (ironically, another group of musicians initially frustrated in their desire to write their own music). His first music lessons were on the drums but, by high school, he was singing and playing rhythm guitar. He tried to convince his first band they should write their own songs. “I thought that would be the way to go,” explains the singer/guitarist of his reasoning for how he shied away from bar-pleasing cover songs to more challenging originals. That was the most fun. The most interesting…. They didn’t want to put the work in, which was frustrating [for me].”

Eventually, Lindsay answered an ad for a vocalist/rhythm guitar player and his fortunes began to improve. “They had a game. ‘We’re going to do originals’ they told me. I thought, this is awesome. I finally found the right people.”

That band became El Fidels, who played around Rochester for several years, and acquired a good following. “The scene, is the late Eighties, was changing. It was going to the people doing more originals.”

El Fidels eventually broke up, as did several subsequent bands. Lindsay decided the best thing to do was record his music under his own name; that way the personnel in his band could change, but he could consistently market his music. His current band (the one featured on Revival) includes guitarists Scott Zani and Lloyd Gala, bassist Jim Lampert and Greg Andrews on drums.

Lindsay gives credit to the local Rochester scene, which has nurtured him. I ask what makes this a great scene, and he asserts that it comes down to venues. Venues where the owner loves music. Venues which give the bands room to play. Venues which don’t have giant TVs where the musicians are trying to compete with the sports-ball game of the day. Venues which genuinely support the musicians they present. He mentions BSide, Iron Smoke and Record Archive as just a handful of the great local venues. He also credits local radio. “WRUR 88.5 and Scott Regan have been very supportive of what the band and I have been doing,” says the guitarist warmly, before adding, “Jeff Spevak, who now works/writes for WXXI, as well.”

Not content to just play the same rooms for the same fans, Lindsay has been able to spread his appeal beyond Rochester. His songs have been played on over 100 different AAA-format radio stations around the country; “King of the Mountain” hit #1 in Ocean City, MD, for example. For Revival, the singer took a slightly different approach to promotion. While he sent physical copies of his CDs to the various stations in the past, this time he sent digital copies of the single (“Revival”), which did limit his chances, but saved a lot of strain and money, and, to Lindsay’s delight, it has been added to nearly 30 stations so far.

As busy as he’s obviously been lately, Lindsay says that fans can look forward to more music in 2023. “We will definitely be out playing in 2023, at least locally,” says the singer, when discussion turns to future plans. “We’re also planning to branch out toward the finger lakes and maybe Buffalo and Syracuse too. In addition to that, I’m always working towards new songs. I’ve got a few ideas and am just hoping inspiration hits soon to get me started. I’m always looking for something new.” [G. Murray Thomas]


Revival is out now. Buy it here, directly from Brian Lindsay’s website.

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