Newberry’s Country Music Claim to Fame: Brendan Roberts
Writing lyrics comes before playing the song; that’s just how it works. Artist Brendan Roberts has a game plan for his country music career and that’s how he plans to find success – through writing. Though his personality and stage presence are both relaxed and laidback, his intensity about his music career is anything but.
A Newberry local, Brendan Roberts didn’t start out life knowing that he wanted to be on stage or that he wanted to write music. His first career began with the military where he learned to play guitar. Writing came first though, of course. Brenden remembers enjoying writing in school as early as 8 years old, something that continued through his life as he delved deeper into poetry, music, and life experiences. Between writing poetry and playing the guitar, making his own music was the natural progression.
Right away the shows started coming. His first show in Newberry brought out about 100 people and he didn’t look back from there. He started booking more shows right away and credits the fact that the venues wanted him back to his friends’ support.
“I was terrible, it was awful to listen to,” he said. But his friends came to see him play (and buy drinks) and venues continued to book him because he was making them money. A booking deal with an Atlanta company helped him expand the shows across the southeast region where he gained experience and confirmed that music was what he wanted to do. And in country music, there’s only one place to go once you’ve made up your mind. So about 6 months into making music, Brendan Roberts moved to Nashville.
“If you’re going to make this a career, you have to be around the best, I think,” Roberts said. “You have to learn from the best songwriters in the world, so that’s why I moved there.”
He’s enjoyed playing at local venues like Bar Figaro in Newberry, the Frayed Knot in Chapin, and Aussie’s in Columbia. He’s opened for Old Dominion, Travis Tripp, and many more, with his biggest show opening for Chris Jansen in Clemson in front of 5,000 people. He first time he played was at the Newberry Opera House, while he was still in the Army; he opened for A Thousand Horses and was “starstruck.” But he speaks most fondly of a recent show of his, where he sold 1,200 tickets and the entire crowd seemed to be singing his song back to him.
Roberts has been playing shows wherever he gets booked, from Newberry to Las Vegas and even a seven-day booking in Belize. His current focus is to get a publishing deal, where he would work as a writer for a record company, playing shows on some weekends and improving his craft. He has a realistic take on the Nashville music scene and knows that getting a record deal is a process.
“You move to Nashville, you write for a few years, publishing companies take notice of you and then they sign you, then you do artist development and you go on tour with somebody, and they teach you everything you need to know about being on the road. They put your music out and see how it does on the radio and if it takes off, then it does” he explained. “And if it doesn’t, you just go back to being a writer.”
Writing is a process, Roberts explains. In the three years since he’s been making music, he’s completed about 70 songs all the way through. But, as he explained, recording is more expensive that the pen and paper it takes to write lyrics. He has released two songs, “Girl in a Bar,” and “We Still Do.” The first is exactly what the title hints at, a country ballad with a catchy chorus including tequila and the classic dance of boy meets girl. “We Still Do” is more upbeat, with a feel-good, All-American theme that speaks to tradition and nostalgia. Roberts plans to release an EP of five to seven songs later this year. He’s hopeful that he’ll have a release date by the end of May.
And his music?
“It’s true, and real,” he said. He emphasized that it’s not like everything on the radio right now, that it’s a little bit different. He’s right on target. Live, he’s a natural on stage. He seems more comfortable talking to an audience-filled room that he does answering questions for an interview, and seems more at ease with a microphone and a guitar than he does without it. It’s clear that the stage is where he is meant to be.
Will this Newberry boy make it big? Only time will tell, but for now, Brendan Roberts is sticking with it.
“I could always go back to college,” he said, laughing. “But I might as well ride this train while I can.”
Photographs by Charliene Maier