Thursday, May 7, 2009

From One York to Another: Singer Findlay Brown

By Mary Lyn Maiscott

Recently, at the Mercury Lounge in NYC, I talked guitars with heartthrob Brit singer Findlay Brown—think Elvis by way of Chris Isaak by way of k.d. lang, and I mean that in a good way (the term “swoon-worthy” was drifting around the bar); he’d even closed his set that night with Elvis’s “Mystery Train,” jumping into the audience along with his bandmates, one of whom played the floor with his drumsticks. As we spoke, Findlay kindly stood next to the women’s room while he sipped a lager, allowing every exiter an easy view of his impossibly long thin legs, in formfitting black jeans that ended in what used to be called Beatle boots, and his impossibly thick and spiky hair (“It’s the rain,” he complained while touching his stovepipe-like ends, “the rain did this,” though honestly I couldn’t see what the problem was).

So, guitars (they were on my mind, as I’d recently been to nearly every store in town looking for the perfect one): he likes Collings and Guild (should I have bought the Guild? I wondered in a panic) and much prefers the feel (literally) of an acoustic to that of an electric. He demonstrated holding an electric guitar—indicating it’s just kind of there, flat—and then an acoustic, which he said was more like another being that you caress (did he use that word, or am I getting all dreamy?).

Findlay had been touring the UK as Duffy’s opening act. He said she offered him a piece of advice: Keep a little mystery, don’t give everything away. Still, he told me a bit about himself—how he grew up “in the wilderness” in Yorkshire and still loves to be in the midst of nature. “Whether it’s a flower or a tree or a butterfly,” he said, pointing outward and then to himself, “I see the life in it, and that’s the life in me” (maybe Elvis by way of Chris Isaak by way of Percy Bysshe Shelley?). As he talked, I remembered a couple of things from his press bio: something about gypsies teaching him bare-knuckle boxing, and also an injury—he was hit by the taxi he’d just left!—that allowed him the time to hone his retro sound. But now he was thinking more about the future, telling me he and his girlfriend may move to New York (they currently live in London). Ah, the Danish girlfriend, I thought, well known to Fin fans as the inspiration for his soulful, yearning songs (his first album was called Separated by the Sea). He said she writes wonderful poetry and asked about local “poetry events.” And speaking of poetry, my ears (and more) had perked up earlier when he sang these lyrics: “Do I want it?/ Please come home/ Do I need it?/ Please come home/ Do I want it?/ Please come home.” Because here’s the thing: A lesser songwriter would have said, “Hey I want it… Hey I need it...,” hitting us over the head with blunt longing.

Listen to Findlay’s aching questions in the video above (feel free to answer him out loud), and catch him live, on tour with Au Revoir Simone, in June (including Bowery Ballroom in NYC, June 27). Also check out his new album, Love Will Find You. Percy, are you listening?