Breaking the Ice with Andy Braun

If staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve isn’t your vibe, kick off 2024 a bit earlier with an acoustic set by Andy Braun. The singer-songwriter is playing Door 44 Winery on the afternoon of the 30th, and we caught up him before his show.

The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Sam Watson (SW): When I Googled your name, “Braun Music LLC” popped up. What is that? 

Andy Braun (AB): That’s the booking company I started. I was getting so many requests for myself to perform, which is what I do full time, that I realized that [I was] turning away work that others would be interested in. I had signed some agreements with other agents, who effectively offered me work from time to time in exchange for a commission, and I thought I could start doing that myself. I started in 2020, after live music began to start back up.

SW: How many musicians are involved in it?

AB: 11 solo acts and a few duos [including other bands that have played around the peninsula, like Charlie Wiggins, Acoustic Blu and The Foo-Coustics.]

SW: How long have you been a full-time musician?

AB: It’s been over 17 years.

SW: How did you know that was what you wanted to do?

AB: I realized I had a passion for it in high school. I was in choir and I made a friend who really liked The Beatles, like I did. We played some Beatles songs for a talent show in high school, and in college, I did my first solo show. 

It’s one of those dreams that you had as a kid that ended up working out. I used to want to be a baseball player, then after freshman year of high school, I wasn’t in baseball anymore, so I was like, “OK, I want to be a musician.” 

SW: What musicians inspire you? 

AB: My biggest influences are the Beatles and Neil Young. What I like about Neil Young is his guitar-playing style, and that he plays the harmonica. I play harmonica too, and it’s a good way to add extra layers of sound while playing solo shows. I don’t like effects or looping, so I try to do everything naturally – I have a foot tambourine and a harmonica when I’m not singing, so I can have three things going at once.

SW: What instruments do you all play? 

AB: Primarily acoustic guitar and harmonica. I like electric guitar, too – that’s kind of why I wanted to start playing. “All I want for Christmas is a rock n’ roll electric guitar” [referencing Run Rudolph Run by Chuck Berry].

I picked up the ukulele once I realized it was tuned the same way as a guitar, just with four strings. That was a revelatory moment – I was like, “Wait a minute, I know this one.” Things kind of spawned from that, too. I don’t re-learn different tunings, I just re-tune equivalently. I have an electric banjo tuned like a guitar; I have a mandolin that’s tuned an octave higher than a 12-string guitar.

SW: Do you play mostly originals or covers during your live shows?

AB: Making my living, I’m primarily doing covers. In my experience, there are a lot more opportunities in Milwaukee, where I’m based, doing covers. There are lots of original bands and musicians, but it’s rare to find a normal-paying venue for original music. Some venues are originals-only, but you have to almost pay them to play there; you have to pay the bouncer and hope enough people walk in the door and pay the cover charge to even make anything. 

During a normal set, I might play for three hours and do five or six of my own songs, just to say, “Hey, I’m on Spotify and Apple Music if you want to check it out.”

SW: What are your feelings on doing mainly cover shows? 

AB: I love playing covers. I mean, I got into music because of artists I’ve been mentioning. It still gives me a great thrill to be able to connect with somebody when I’m playing their favorite song. 

People will come up to me and ask me if I know an obscure song, and once in a while I will, if it’s the right artist. It makes their night when I can play a song they didn’t expect me to be able to do. I just love it.

SW: What’s your original music like? 

AB: I usually describe it as folk-rock or singer-songwriter because I’m hugely influenced by the singer-songwriters of the early ‘70s. I see all kinds of live music, but my favorites are solo performances – just somebody and a guitar, or somebody and a piano. Those are the most moving to me.

“Folk-rock” tends to describe my influences, like the Beatles in the ‘60s when they were influenced by Bob Dylan, or Tom Petty, often. I like artists that go between solo-sounding songs – like Blackbird by the Beatles, which is just one guy and one guitar – and bulking things up into a small band sound. 

SW: Have you played in Door County before? 

AB: Yes, several times. I love it up there. The crowds I’ve had have been really good, even when the weather hasn’t cooperated. Otherwise I wouldn’t find it worth traveling so far.

Andy Braun will play at Door 44 Winery, 5464 County Hwy P in Sevastopol, on Dec. 30, 1-4 pm.