Singer and songwriter Tom Brosseau doesn’t need much of an introduction, especially around here in the Midwest. But other places as well. The Grand Forks native has performed in Australia, Japan and elsewhere around the world. In a few days, he’ll be back home, along an excellent group of performers, singing for a good cause.
Tom has collaborated with the likes of John C. Reilly, Jack White and many others. He is the producer and host of the weekly “Great American Folk Show” on Prairie Public Broadcasting at 5 p.m. Saturdays.
Tom Brosseau & Friends: A benefit concert for the proposed Grand Forks Children’s Museum will be held at 6 p.m. March 26 at Grand Forks’ Empire Arts Center. It will feature singer Heidi Gluck, bassist Bob Cary, guitarist John Jay Lardinois, violinist Tamara Caroline Bertram and The Waddington Brothers. Tickets available at Opp Construction and Empire Arts Center. Or call (801) 548-3884.
Not to bury the lead, but a very special guest has been added to Tom’s lineup of excellent performers since it was first announced. Singer, musician — oh, and A-list movie star John C. Reilly will be joining us. Yes, THAT John C. Reilly. “Boogie Nights,” “Chicago,” “Wreck-It-Ralph,” “Anchor Man,” “Talladega Nights.” Tom and John performed together at the Empire a number of years ago, and it was one of those evenings not to be forgotten. This time around, expect the same.
But first, here are 20 (or so) questions for Tom Brosseau. Why? Why not?
TD: What is the smallest audience you’ve ever played to?
TB: I once played to a completely empty room. Actually, that’s happened a number of times over my career.
A performer — singer, comedian, actor, motivational speaker, etc. — will be confronted with certain truths while they purse their dreams. And one of those truths is not everyone is going to know who you are. Despite best efforts, there are no guarantees, even if you’ve got a poster up at the venue, you promoted the heck out of the date, you prayed nightly to do extra good deeds every day if only the place could be packed.
So no one showed up. Now what do you do? Cancel the gig? Play to an empty room? Quit? Here’s what I’ve learned. It all matters. Always play the show, even if it’s to the bartender. Character’s determined by how well a person’s able to hold onto their hope and love. Not only play the gig, put heart and soul into it as well.
TD: Who are your musical influences?
TB: My musical influences list is miles long. Here’s a few from a couple of different categories. Songwriters Cole Porter and Jerome Kern, Maybelle Carter and Peggy Lee; musicians Elizabeth Cotten, Eddie Lang, David Helfgott; singers Marion Anderson, Buffy Saint Marie, Mario Lanza, Matteo Salvatore.
TD: What’s your favorite song?
TB: Right now,it’s “Mo ve’ la bella mia da la muntagna.”
TD: What’s the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
TB: Someone once told me, “You’ll never make it in music by being a guitar player.” I was so hurt by this that I seriously wanted to die. Playing guitar meant the world to me when I was growing up. When that person said that to me it felt like there was no hope for me. But who were they to say such a thing? Certainly, there were no guitar aficionado. They were just passing judgment. So, so what if that’ what they said? I never stopped playing guitar, and I think I just got to be a more confident player. I really wanted to improve my chops. And I did. In the end, I was thankful. The worst advice I was given was also the best thing that could’ve happened to me. I discovered my own grit.
TD: What do you procrastinate about?
TB: I find that I do procrastinate. But I try stay away from it. I procrastinate, like anyone, when I’m supposed to be doing something that someone else want me to do that I’m really not that interested in doing.
TD: What’s the name of the last book you read?
TB: “The Farmer’s Lawyer” by Sarah Vogel.
TD: How many cell phones have you broken or lost?
TB: Luckily, I’ve neither lost one nor broken one. But I am superstitious. (I’m knocking on wood right now.)
TD: What are you most proud of?
TB: I’m proud that I’m a North Dakotan.
TD: What is your biggest fear?
TB: My fears change over the years. Sometimes they change weekly. But when I wake up in the morning, and life returns to me, I am mostly fearful that I won’t be able to provide for my family.
TD: Who are you heroes?
TB: My dad. My brother. My sister. My mother. My kids. My wife. My grandmother Lill was my guitar hero. She taught me the secret stuff and also encouraged me.
TD: Who is your favorite singer, male or female?
TB: Jimmy Scott.
TD: Coke or Pepsi?
TD: What are you tired of hearing about?
TB: It’s not things that don’t matter that I get tired of hearing about but the things that do really matter. I’m tired about hearing about pollution. It makes me feel helpless. I wonder, What can I do? My whole life it’s what I’ve been hearing about. In elementary school at Viking we learned about pollution. It felt like it was my generation’s problem to solve. And just think about what pollution is connected to and what it impacts. Everything. It’s a maze, a spiral of thought that I can’t stop rolling over and over. So, I’m tired of hearing about pollution I do my best to recycle, to walk as opposed to dive, to think about ways to reduce my own carbon footprint and really apply those new ways to my day to day. My wife and I teach our children about the preciousness of the earth’s resources. Pollution is everyone’s problem to solve. We must all do our best to solve it.
TD: Who is your favorite actor?
TB: Anne Bancroft.
TD: What is your favorite food?
TB: Huevos rancheros.
TD: Is a hot dog a sandwich?
TB: Especially when it’s on a bun, with relish, onions, mustard and ketchup and a cold beer.
TD: What’s you favorite movie?
TB: “The Straight Story” by David Lynch.
TD: Do you have any tattoos? Please be specific.
TB: No, not physically, but I feel like I’ve got one that goes right across my heart.
TD: What historical figure, living or dead, do you most admire?
TB: I admire Moses.
TD: What is something you would never spend money on?
TB: When I can, I try not to spend money on checking a bag on an airline.
TD: What would you change about yourself if you could?
TB: I would change my tendency to bite my fingernails.
TD: What would you name your boat if you had one?
TB: The Judy Collins.
TD: What is the most important object you own?
TB: My great grandfather Buck’s violin.
TD: If you could live in any other time, when would it be?
TB: I will always only live for right now.
TD: Where would you most like to go on vacation?