Brick Briscoe’s PBS series “Any Road” travels near and far to meet songmakers at home
By Todd Lancaster
So it’s not every day a 58-year-old man from Petersburg, Indiana, becomes a TV star, but Brick Briscoe is that exception and he has shown that against the odds, anything is possible.
Briscoe, a musician, producer, writer and documentarian, has found continued success with his six-part “Any Road” PBS television series. The show essentially imbeds Briscoe into local music scenes across the country as he takes a grassroots approach about what makes each city’s musical heritage unique.
In Briscoe’s first episode, he explored the music scene locally featuring Vincennes, Pike County and Bloomington, while other episodes, he and his crew traveled to New York, Boston and the Twin Cities, as well as many points in between. Briscoe was born in Vincennes, as was his mother, and was graduated from Pike Central in 1979. He then went to Vincennes University and eventually Indiana University and then Southern Illinois to study film.
Since then, he has lived all over pursuing music and film. About four years ago, he started the “The Song Show” radio show on NPR; however, a bout with cancer moved things into another direction.
A new idea
“I was laying on my butt recovering and I said that what I should really be doing is a TV show. I had access to the people. I had always been good at raising money so I went to WNIN and said, ‘I’m going to make a TV show and you are going to put it on the air.’ I think they agreed, because it wasn’t going to cost them any money,” said Briscoe.
The show has made six episodes this year and a second season is already in production. He said the new season will start in September, but there may be a few episodes online before them.
“We knew that everything is changing in broadcast TV, but to have access to PBS.org meant we would have access to everyone on the planet,” he said.
Briscoe said essentially he is looking for common ground amongst musicians and artists.
“We have all been through so much of the same things, busting our butts, so regardless of the genre, there are a lot of similar experiences,” he said. “It does seem like environment plays a big factor; there is certainly a different sound in places like Boston and New York. I think there is a little Petersburg in everything I write.”
Briscoe said that one of the things that makes the show interesting is that it shows no right or wrong way for songwriters to do what they do. He said it is almost “folklore.”
“Music is one of those ways people are brought together; it can be cerebral, visceral and can’t be explained, or it can be very concrete.”
Today’s climate in music-making
He said life in music is very different from his days in high school, and you would stand in line for the new David Bowie, Mott the Hoople or Jam album.
Everything about making music available to people is different today.
“We all know that you are still going to have to drive 400 miles to get your music heard; however, what you used to get $1,000 or $800 for, you know are lucky to get $400 for.
“It really is a new world and you have to find a way to adapt,” said Briscoe.
“The business now is selling you, because you aren’t going to get a lot of help. It is really important to that artist get out to the merchandise table and sell those T-shirts. They have to make themselves available to people.”
Briscoe knows this process pretty well, as he also has a new album coming out in July digitally, and possibly on vinyl, around the new year. The album is called From Lucky Point to Père Lachaise and it was recorded in his home studio in Petersburg.
His unique style blends roots rock with a ‘70s and ‘80s feel, that moves through the sonic landscape occupied between Bowie, Wilco and Echo and the Bunnymen.
“I think there were a lot of influences you can hear. I loved the Jam, really anything by Paul Weller, the Clash, Depeche Mode, and REM touched on so many styles too,” he added.
Briscoe said the album is a journey about coming back to life after his battle with cancer. He added that a trip to France was the inspiration.
“It hard to believe you find life in a French graveyard (Père Lachaise),” said Briscoe.
He said that whether he is doing a record, TV show, radio or film, he is just the expression of a journey.
“Creativity is something everyone has in them one way or another. I use the tools that I have available to me, which is music or one of the other mediums I use to tell stories.”
Briscoe is married to his high-school girlfriend Marta, whom he has known for 40 years and been married to for 32.
“I followed her, she followed me. It has been a real rock-and-roll relationship,” he joked.
They also have a daughter, Emma, and a granddaughter Georgia.