The Warren Brothers
The Warren Brothers
The Warren Brothers are siblings who turned their love for music into a viable career. In an interview on the Warren Brothers official website, Brad remembered, “We’ve been playing together in bands since I was in ninth grade and he [sibling Brett Warren] was in seventh, so there’s never been a time when we weren’t in bands together.” The siblings’ interest in music led to popular success and critical acclaim with the release of Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World in 1998 and King of Nothing in 2000.
Brad and Brett Warren started developing musically while still young, learning country guitar from their father and singing from their church-going mother. Brad picked up the guitar when he was eleven years old and practiced playing with Brett, then nine years old. Before they had turned 20, the brothers were working musicians playing the beach clubs in their hometown of Tampa, Florida. Brett elaborated in AMZ magazine, “for the past 11 years we’ve been nothing but full-time musicians, and [we] would play the Waffle House for chicken and eggs!” They would play not only for their supper but anywhere they could, continually developing their stage presence and repertoire. Brett continued, “We did three shows a day, 300 shows a year for a five-year period.” During that stint the brothers honed an energetic, confident live act that would prove to be a key to their later success.
The brothers lived a life of all work, all play, while performing in Tampa beach clubs. Their daily schedule was likely the envy of friends; they played a different club every night, slept late, and then spent the waning hours of the day on the beach before beginning again, all while making good money. The Warren Brothers became the most popular act on the beach scene with their original material and covers of both country and rock standards. It seemed an ideal existence, but one that couldn’t be maintained indefinitely, as Brett alluded to in an interview posted on CountryStars.com. “We looked at each other and said, ‘We gotta get out of here. We could do this forever. We need to go to Nashville.’” Both brothers realized that the only way to truly develop as musicians and test their material was to move to the center of country music.
As part of their move to Nashville in 1995, the brothers took with them the advantages of proven songwriting skills, a strong work ethic, and natural charisma onstage. They also had the advantages of being physically attractive and having a radiant, scruffy, hipster coolness. Realizing that the intense competition in Nashville was preventing them from getting regular opportunities to perform, though, they strategically decided to settle in suburban Murfreesboro. The brothers then established themselves as the bar band at the Bunganut Pig. “We worked our butts off to get people to see us. We tried to be great every night,” Brett told CountryStars.com. Their exciting live show earned them a rowdy, loyal, and appreciative audience.
Members include Brad Warren (born c. 1969), vocals, songwriter, lead guitar; Brett Warren (born c. 1971), lead vocals, songwriter, rhythm guitar.
Moved from Tampa, FL, to Nashville, TN, signed with BNA Records, a division of RCA, 1995; released Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World, 1998; released sophomore effort, King of Nothing, 2000.
Addresses: Record company —BNA Records, 1400 18th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212, (615) 301-4400. Website —The Warren Brothers Official Website: http://www.warrenbrothers.com. E-mail —[email protected]
One of the first to notice the Warren Brothers was prominent Nashville songwriter Tom Douglas. He not only collaborated with them but also gave a demo tape to RCA’s Renee Bell. Bell drove out to Murfreesboro to hear the Warren Brother’s live show and was amazed to see the packed crowd singing along to the brothers’ original songs. Other Nashville notables soon followed. In AMZ, Brett related what Harlan Howard, the famous country songwriter, said after seeing them perform: “What I love about you guys is that you represent what country music used to be and needs to be again. Namely, people singing, dancing, drinking and good-looking girls everywhere!” Howard then paid them an even higher compliment—he offered to collaborate with the brothers and subsequently wrote songs with them.
The Warren Brothers were quickly signed by BNA Records, an RCA imprint. The duo had earned Nashville’s respect just as they had planned. Nonetheless, the brothers were determined not to be absorbed into the Nashville machine but to make music on their own terms. Foregoing the traditional Nashville formula matching new acts with established songwriters and session musicians, the brothers insisted on recording their own original songs, playing their own instruments, and producing their recordings with a most un-Nashville rock rawness in their sound. The Warren Brothers’ sound is unlike anything else in country music but is still undeniably country. In CountryStars.com, Brett elaborates, “If I had to describe it, I would say our music is rooted in the pure harmonies of the Everly Brothers, the storytelling magic of Johnny Cash and Roger Miller and the heartlands soul of John Mellencamp and Tom Petty.” From this unusual blend comes a sound that is distinctly Warren Brothers but has definitive roots in the Nashville tradition.
As the brothers’ star rose in Nashville, country superstars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill invited the duo on tour after the release of their debut recording, Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World in 1998. The brothers’ live shows were incredibly well-received. Renee Revett of KXKC in New Iberia, Louisiana, as quoted in Billboard, said, “They came down to do a show at the Cajun Heartland State Fair, and I’ve never seen this happen—here’s an act that does original music that did the opening thing and had a tremendous crowd that would not leave. They had to do encores. They were doing original music and kept the crowd spellbound.”
The reviews of Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World were positive, hailing the band as a fresh, new voice in country music and predicting crossover potential. The Warren Brothers’ sophomore release, King of Nothing, in 2000, showed the duo’s more mature side. On the release, the brothers explore a lighthearted, philosophical take on life, love, and betrayal. A Billboard review noted the “guitar-based vignettes sometimes reminiscent of the country rock stylings of Don Henley and the Eagles. Throughout Brett’s singing is soulful, Brad’s playing is enthusiastic and appropriately loose and the siblings’ harmonies are fresh and effective. The songs are thoughtful and incisive, with a straightforward lyrical approach.” Again referring to the King of Nothing, Brad told AMZ, “I think this album is closer to how we are live, which is a raw, rockin’ country band! And I think the rebellion we have against the system makes us more country like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings in the old days…”
If success can be defined as living the life that best suits an individual, the Warren Brothers have it made. They write songs about being open to life, have formed their own ideas about music and songwriting, and are still living with the joy and freedom of a beach club band.
Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World, BNA, 1998.
King of Nothing, BNA, 2000.
AMZ, February 1999.
Billboard, September, 26, 1998, p. 32; August, 5, 2000, p. 39.
Country Weekly, September 19, 2000, pg. 39–40.
Kansas City Star, January 24, 2001.
Music Crow, October 2000.
USA Today, September 26, 2000.
“Warren Brothers,” Countrystars.com, http://www.countrystars.com (July 15, 2001).
“Warren Brothers,” GetMusic, http://www.getmusic.com (July 15, 2001).
Warren Brothers Official Website, http://www.warrenbrothers.com (July 15, 2001).