Features Interviews Interview: Brett Caswell Vs. Pad Thai

Interview: Brett Caswell Vs. Pad Thai

Brett Caswell

In between nose blows and yelps of pain, Brett Caswell is really quite charming.

Allow me to clarify. The sneezes were caused by an allergy attack, and the yelps of pain were caused by one incredibly spicy Pad Thai (he was having issues finishing it, although I suspect that was his hangover talking).

Yet somehow in and amongst all of the bodily chaos, Caswell was able to really make me believe in his music.

“I write with my heart on my sleeve,” he says. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t, but it’s the only way I write.”

It can be risky business, sharing such personal information with complete strangers. Caswell is aware of this, but does not let it stop him.

“For the most part I just say, ‘Fuck it,’ and just put it out there,” the Ontario native says. “I mean what’s the worst that could happen?”

Caswell and his back-up, The Marquee Rose, released their first album this year. A New Balance is hard to categorize; part folk, part pop, and part rock, it is a heartfelt, romantic, and heartbreaking record.

“We’d be hard to market,” he says. “You can’t pinpoint us toward a demographic or audience. I have so many influences I can’t just write in one genre.”

Writing music is something that has always come naturally for Caswell.

“The first time I could play a chord or a power chord on the guitar I was writing riffs,” he says. “I just thought that’s what you do; I didn’t know any other way. I thought that every musician wrote songs and was creative. It just naturally came and I didn’t really have to work at it. Obviously I have worked at it over the years as a craft but it’s just kind of come naturally. I got lucky.”

He started playing guitar when he was 12-years-old and started playing in bands once he hit high school. For Caswell, music was always more than just a hobby. And while he says he will keep on playing music whether or not it makes him a living, he really hopes it does.

“My biggest goal is to be able to pay my bills and feed myself playing my own music,” says Caswell. “I play some cover gigs and people pay a lot more money for covers. So the biggest goal in my life is just to make records and feed myself and put a roof over my head.”

But the money is not what drives him. One thing Caswell made blatantly clear to me in between sniffles and gulps of iced tea was that music is not his job, it is his life.

“I don’t think I’d be a happy person if I didn’t have music,” says Caswell. “I don’t know how people go through life just listening to music in the background, like on their mobile radio station, and that’s what they listen to. I don’t know how people go through life like that, without actually embracing music.”

“I hate the music industry so if I wasn’t a musician I wouldn’t want to be on the business side,” he continues. “It’s slimy. It’s all about power hits and who you know and this and that. I don’t even like the fact that there is a business side to music.”

Still, dealing with that business side is a price Caswell is willing to pay. He got so passionate when talking about his love for his art that at times I thought he would burst (and what a waste of Pad Thai THAT would be).

“I love the fact that it’s like a universal language,” Caswell says. “The other day I played a solo show and there was a violin player who was playing with the headlining act and she was a nice girl. And I’d never met her before in my life and I saw her and was like, ‘Would you mind joining me for a song or two at the end of my set? Could you improvise?’ Because any good musician can usually improvise.”

“So she said, ‘Yeah I can improvise,’ so she joined me for two songs and it was fucking unbelievable,” he continues. “She was incredible ... I didn’t know her, never met her, never talked to her, and we got on stage and made this crazy energy happen. And we communicated in a way that, if you’re not a musician, it’s hard to understand. It was just magical, really just a magical thing.”

Satisfied, I end our conversation and we get up. He never did finish that Pad Thai.