Brad Byrd, Chasing Down the Sun

By Jacque Guevara

“Chasing Down the Sun” is my personal favorite from singer-songwriter Brad Byrd’s latest EP, Where Were You When the World Stopped? Recorded at Dan Joeright’s Gatos Trail recording studio in Joshua Tree, the 5-song offering was released in the summer of 2021 and is Brad’s self-described effort to capture the essence of the pandemic. I believe it does – especially the experience of the pandemic in the desert. But then, Brad seems to capture the essence of the desert itself, without even seeming to try.

For a relative newcomer to the desert (Brad’s first trip here was in 2016, when he opened for Jay Farrar of Son Volt at Pappy & Harriet’s), he captures the peace and calm of the desert perfectly in his music. As he told me recently about his first visit here, “I stayed at the Hicksville Trailer Park, and I was immediately intrigued by the energy of the hi-desert. I think it took a couple more trips out from L.A. before I pulled the trigger on a place in Landers. Initially, it was just a weekend thing, but I kept being pulled back, finding myself wanting to be in the quiet and space more and more.” He says, “There’s something about the openness of the desert, the sky, the stars, the vibe that agrees with me. Ultimately, it’s allowed me to relax more and appreciate living. As an artist, I feel more realized than ever before. In turn, that has benefitted all my relationships. I don’t feel the overwhelming pressure to figure it all out that I did when living in cities.”

Originally from a very musical family – mom played piano, dad and brother played guitar – in Massachusetts, Brad remembers daily jam sessions in the basement, and “records always being spun on the turntable.” Early influences were The Beatles and John Denver, a “6-year-old obsession with Kiss,” and lots of air guitar (on a hockey stick) to The Cure, U2, and Def Leppard. Later, Brad went to Syracuse University on an athletic scholarship, where he befriended fellow singer-songwriters, Pete Yorn and Adam Cohen (Leonard Cohen’s son), and spent most of his time listening to and playing music with them while cursorily working on his Liberal Arts degree. After college, he moved to New York City and continued writing songs, turning his Brooklyn studio apartment into a recording studio. Later years found him living and roaming all over the United States, before finally landing in Los Angeles.

All I ask
Is to relax
And enjoy a little bit of this short life
Is that too much
Some say so
Well I really don’t know which way to go
We’re all just chasing down the sun ~ Brad Byrd, Chasing Down the Sun

In addition to being a musician, Brad is an accomplished and talented artist. His abstract paintings radiate the same sense of peace and calm as his music does. Evoking works by Rothko, his colorful canvases are influenced by his songs. He describes a typical day as: going into his garage studio, running through some songs, looping guitars and creating a soundscape to paint to, and going outside and painting to the loop. Some of the works are named after his songs, and he shares his belief that paintings in many ways are like songs. For me, his pieces radiate the same chill vibe his music does.

During the past couple of years, Brad found his way of life affected by COVID, as many musicians did. A self-described homebody when not on the road, he shared that he didn’t mind being forced to stay home too much, but that putting touring on hold was quite strange for him. “I think my body was naturally used to getting into a vehicle and driving around the country. Ultimately COVID pushed me to create more, and try to capture the essence of the pandemic, which I’d like to believe I did in the EP entitled Where Were You When the World Stopped?  All in all, it made me appreciate who my close friends and family are and how fleeting this whole trip really is.”

Through it all, Brad hasn’t stopped creating and sharing his unique brand of feel-good music with the world. During the height of the lockdown, he started doing Facebook and Instagram live-streams, and would jam out virtually from his place in Landers. Those weekly sessions served as a lifeline for many, including my family. They brought some sense of normalcy and assurance and calm, despite the circumstances.

Byrd has major plans for the future. He has a new single coming out on February 11 called, “Go”, which was also recorded at Gatos Trail. He shares, “It’s the first song I wrote out here in the hi-desert, and I’m super excited to share it with the desert community. I even reference “Reche Road” in the lyrics! As much as I’ve loved slowing down and playing around the desert, I do realize that I’m going to need to get back on the road more once this, ugh, pandemic lifts. If it ever really does. That said, we (my management team and I) are looking into a March or April 2022 tour.” He also told me that two of the songs from the Where Were You When the World Stopped? EP will be featured in two major films coming up this year – one of which stars Mickey Rourke and Nick Turturro. Byrd is not only a musical contributor on the film, but also a producer.

Brad Byrd is a perfect example of the major talent we are privileged to have in the Morongo Basin. It’s a good thing he chased down the sun to the desert, and I hope he continues to make it his home for many moons to come!

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