Q&A with Chuck Mead of BR549

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That guy in the hat singing for Nashville favorites BR549 is from Lawrence. But did leaving our campestral municipality make him all highfalutin'? Hell, no. He still answers the phone when we call, and answers the stupidest questions we can throw at him. Nice manners, that Mead boy.

lawrence.com: So what do you know about this Wakarusa Music Festival that's coming up here. Do you have any idea what you're getting into?

Chuck Mead: You know, back when I was living in Lawrence - back in "the day" - they used to have a little thing called the Mega Kegger. Do you remember this? It metamorphosized into the Omega Music Festival.

Which then became a big scam for ripping off bands.

No, not really. It wasn't, because I know that every Mega Kegger and every Omega that I ever played, where Matthew Moore was promoting it, everybody got paid before you went on stage. Later on, I don't know what happened with other people. I played virtually the first six or seven of those things. And they're always fun. And they're always a bunch of people out ready to have a good time, and this is just a little more grander scale Mega Kegger for me, except for I don't know if the bikers are gonna be hanging around the keg. They used to have these big keg trucks where they just had a spout, like six spouts on the side. (laughs) They just backed these trucks up and people went at it. Beer. (laughs)

And I think that the VIP campers get all the food and beer they want, and it's like $250 or something.

It's great. And look at the line up. It just has such a diverse thing, and that's what music is. It's not just one thing. It's the great neutralizer that brings everybody together always. No matter how you commercialize it and all the people that make a whole lot of money off of it - and some people don't - but it still boils down to that. That's why you deal with that other shit. Because ultimately it's bringing people together.

Have you played a lot of these festivals?

Past Event

Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival 2004

  • Saturday, June 19, 2004, midnight
  • Clinton State Park, Clinton Lake, Lawrence
  • All ages / $40 - $105

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... We feel that we can fit in in any situation because it is just music. And I love an interesting mix of different takes on what people, what goes through their minds. Basically, that's what music is. People - "Here's what I'm thinking about." You know what I mean? And that's great. And people can come out and get drunk with the bikers around the keg.

If anything is gonna put this thing on the map it's gonna be this line up. Everybody I talk to is confused, in a really exciting way. A little heavy on the jams, but there's plenty of other stuff too.

Well, they know where their bread's buttered. The jam band guys, they always draw huge crowds.

Crowds that are willing to travel cross country.

Exactly. And I think that's great. We had kind of a following of some of those people 'cause we opened up a whole bunch of shows for the Black Crowes a few years back and some people who like the Black Crowes are into jam bands and all that kind of stuff too, and they ended up hooking on to us, and we still see them at our shows as we go around. We met a lot of people that are like that, and we dig playing for everybody. We're playing Joplin, Mo., tomorrow night. It's a big country fest. So we get to do that kind of thing, and then we come and do this kind of thing too, and it's a lot of fun.

This is going to be your first time playing in Lawrence in quite a while.

Yeah, I think so. When was the last time we played Lawrence? It was at Liberty Hall, I think.

You've been in Nashville for a while now.

Yeah, I've been living here since 1993.

You're like the human equivalent of the Outhouse as far as claims people make about knowing you.

The Outhouse. Man, I played the Outhouse. In fact, I went to see John Doe play here last night. We went down to see John Doe play at this place here in Nashville, and I ran into Rosie Flores ... She's been around for a long time. She was in the L.A. punk rock scene. She was in a band called the Screamin' Sirens, and we played with the Screamin' Sirens at the Outhouse. I saw some pretty great gigs out there. The last great punk rock moment in Lawrence history, when Fear played out there, in like '92, '93, we were the old guys in the back now. But we still had beer.

You've still got warm feelings for Lawrence?

Oh, sure. My family still lives back there. I got tons of friends. It was great. They never tried to put me in my place, but yet they always do. (laughs)

How's Nashville treating you these days?

I'm doin' good. We're travelin' around. We played the Opry, the Tuesday Opry they have on Tuesday nights in the summer time as well as Friday and Saturday, and so we just played a Tuesday Opry this week. It's great to be around town 'cause you can still do stuff and there's a lot of things going on - it's Nashville. It's f*cking Music City, USA, man!

I need to get over there. I need to get over to Hatch and see Jim Sherraden.

Yeah! He's from Kansas.

I had dinner with Jim and his parents last time he was in town. They were off to Topeka to see a statue being dedicated.

Of him? (laughs)

No, some Indian I believe.

Man, I got all excited for a second. I just saw him the other night and he didn't say a damn thing about a statue of him.

There's no excuse for me not going to Nashville right this very minute.

They've got a great exhibit. You need to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame anyway 'cause it's really great. They really did a good job on it. Now they have an exhibit called "Night Train to Nashville," and it's the R&B scene here in Nashville. And it was pretty healthy back in the day, before they tore down the buildings where all those clubs were. Everybody came through town. Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix -- before he was anything he was still playing R&B. Otis Redding. All these people came through, and Nashville had their own guys, too. And they even had an R&B television show. It's really great, and that exhibit is up right now. You might want to take a little weekend trip down here. It's not that far to drive, and it's cheap to fly.

Is it a short flight?

Southwest out of Kansas City, it sure is. Like less than an hour.

I'm a bad flier.

Well, just drive.

They say you're more likely to be kicked to death by a mule than die in a plane crash.

I don't like the sound of either one.

What's BR549 working on right now?

We've got a few irons in the fire. We're working on doing another tour with the Mavericks comin' up in the Fall, 'cause that was fun. We did that earlier this Spring. And I suppose writin' songs, gettin' stuff ready to do another record, hopefully.

Do you guys ever play at the boot shop anymore?

Well, we played there on New Year's Eve this year. It's not owned by Robert anymore, but we had Robert down there, and he's real sick. He's got tumors in his brain. Yeah, it's not good, but he was down there. And this guy named Jesse owns the club now, and it was great to play down there, but usually when we're in town we play next door at this place called the Bluegrass Inn. It's a little smaller place, and I don't know, it just feels a little more like home these days. That other place was a different place in a different time. The street was so different down there then.

I was just thinking about the nostalgic aspect.

Oh yeah. Oh yeah, that's why we did it on New Year's Eve. It was great. But things are kinda changin' down there, and Layla's really great to us at the Bluegrass Inn. We love her. She lets us go in and rehearse when the club is closed, if we ever do rehearse - the outside chance that we need to rehearse.

Do you guys all have Nudie suits?

You know, actually, ironically, Donnie, the guy that used to wear overalls all the time, is the only guy that actually has a Nudie suit.

Really.

Yeah. We're too poor to buy that kind of shit. Those are expensive, and plus, Nudie's not around anymore. Now Manuel - I'm trying to save up some money to get Manuel, actually Manuel's son to make a suit for me. 'Cause Manuel, he's the man in town.

He's probably making Marty Stuart's stuff.

Oh yeah, and Dwight Yoakam, and whoever. He is the tailor to the stars. ...

How long do you get to hang out at home this trip?

It's kinda gonna be in and out just because we've got other road stuff to do. But I'll be able to hang out. I'm sure - There's a lot of waiting around in music, so I'll have plenty of time to hang around, and hopefully drink some beer with the bikers at the keg.

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