Braille Interview

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008 | Interviews
Braille Interview

A couple of weeks back we took a look at a couple of albums by Portland-based MC Braille and his group Lightheaded. Well, Braille was kind enough to lend us some of his time to discuss his new album, possible tours down-under, and life in general.

Whats up Braille? Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To kick things off, can you give our readers a quick rundown of who you are and what you’re about; how have you got to where you are now?

My name is Bryan “Braille” Winchester. I was born and raised in Portland, OR, and I’ve been rhyming for over 13 years. My first notable record dropped in 1999 titled “Lifefirst: Half the Battle”. I was only 17 at the time. I followed it up with an album called “Shades of Grey” in 2004 that featured contributions from 9th Wonder, Rob Swift, Illmind, Supastition, Pigeon John and more. I’m also part of the group Lightheaded with Ohmega Watts and Othello. My most recent release is my forth solo record titled “The IV Edition”.

The IV Edition, was released back in April, how’s the response been so far? Care to inform our readers of the complex nature of the title?

The response has been great. It’s been a lot of work though. I spent 3 and a half months touring the U.S. with my wife and daughter. We just packed up in a mini van and rocked shows non stop. I was in The Source Magazine for the first time, and my song “The IV” is featured on a video game, NBA Live 2009. It’s all been progress, so it’s an exciting time for me as an artist.  The album title basically has 4 meanings with different acronyms, metaphors and word play. The “IV” represents the roman numeral four, because it’s my forth record. “IV” is also used to describe medicine going into the veins. The acronym is International Vision – and really it’s talking about different social ills, social commentary and talking about solutions; water for the thirsty, food for the hungry and mercy for the sinner. Taking care of physical and spiritual needs world-wide.

What can listeners expect from the album?

I worked with a different producer for each track on the album. The production is crazy with artists like Marco Polo, OhNo, J-Zone, 88 Keys, Kno from Cunninlynguists, S1 from Strange Fruit Project, Ohmega Watts, M-Phazes and many others involved. I was really picky with my beat selection and tried to find tracks that would challenge me as a lyricist.

Was this always the plan when writing the album? To work with a vast range of talented producers? What producers have you found you gel with the best?

Yeah, I actually decided to take that approach early on with the record. There were a lot of producers I never got a chance to work with, so I just wanted to use this opportunity to try new things, build new relationships and find more producers that I had good chemistry with. I did find that my chemistry with S1, Kno and Marco Polo was really good. Those are all guys I want to consistently work with in the future. I’m a huge fan of everyone who is involved with the record and of course I have a really strong relationship with Ohmega Watts. So yeah, the album helped me dig deeper into my sound and expand my resources a bit.

You grew up in Portland,Oregon, somewhere that isn’t really known for its hip hop; how did this environment influence your music? What types of music were you raised on?

Portland has a really strong hip-hop scene right now. Growing up, I was a tape collector. In the early 90’s the mainstream was leaning more towards gangsta rap, and the people around me were mainly into gangsta rap as well. I didn’t really connect with it and I was more drawn to A Tribe Called Quest and the Native Tongues movement. I started discovering more underground stuff during the independent boom in the mid-90’s, and it gave me more confidence that I could be myself and I didn’t have to follow all the industry trends and politics. During high school, I moved to New Jersey and lived there for a couple years. I would visit New York and Philly all the time – I started getting a more aggressive style to my flow and started finding my “voice” during that time.

As a happily married man and father; how does your family feel about your career? Do they come on tour with you?

I was an artist when I met my wife, so she knew what I was about from the start. We’ve been married since 2002 and she has been on tons of tours with me. Even before we were making any money… we would just live in our van, sleep on floors with an air mattress and travel around.  She took some trips with me to Europe as well. My daughter is only 22 months old and she’s already been on two tours as well! My family and I toured with Ohmega Watts, Theory Hazit, Galactic and Charli 2NA of Jurassic 5 in Feburary. That was like 3 weeks. Then this summer we did our 3 and a half month tour as well. She loves coming to my shows. I don’t bring her to shows in the bars, but when I’m doing all ages gigs, stuff in parks and stuff, she always checks it out haha! During most of the bar shows my wife and daughter will just chill in the hotel cause my daughter doesn’t stay up that late and I don’t want her breathing in a bunch of smoke.

What have been some of the highlights from your recent touring then? Anything else that stands out over your career?

It’s all a blur in my mind. Just being with my family is one of the main highlights. One of the touring highlights of my career was during 2005 and 2006; I used to be the opening act for James Brown and I did 20 shows with him. I don’t think anything will ever top that.

You have also pretty successful with your releases with the Lightheaded crew, you guys have a truly amazing chemistry; how did you meet Ohmega Watts and Othello?

Me and Ohmega have been working together since 1999. I met him while I was living in Jersey.  He was in Florida at the time and during my senior year of high school we would get together twice a month and work on tracks. We had a group called Return to Sender. In 2000 I moved back to Portland and Ohmega came to visit shortly after. He decided to stay in Portland and we were going to start working on the official Return to Sender album. We met Othello at a show, turned into a trio, changed our name and now we got two Lightheaded records out. Our chemistry is really natural because we are literally best friends. We all grew up on the same artists and music, yet we also have our own unique qualities as well. We spent two years touring together non stop and that really builds up the chemistry as well.

Despite solo projects from all involved, I hear you guys are working on a new album; whats the status here? Have you confirmed a release date?

We are working on our third album. It’s called “Lo-Fi Heights”, and so far we have a single finished with production from Waajeed, Stro of the Procussions and Ohmega. We don’t have a release date set but hopefully we’ll have the album done by the end of this year so it can drop in 2009.

Do you have plans for youself or Lightheaded to tour down our way anytime soon?

Man, I’ve been wanting to tour Australia for the last 3 years! I’ve done Europe and Japan – so Australia is the next on my list. I’ve actually been building with some of the guys at VERYGOOD and hopefully I will be out there next year!!!!

After working with M-Phazes (Australian producer doing it large in the States), are there any other artists from Australia or New Zealand that you are now a fan of, or are keen to work with?

M-Phazes is incredible. He’s really fresh behind the boards. I also worked with Weapon X on my “Shades of Grey” album. Both of those guys were a pleasure to work with so I’m interested to build with some more artists in the area. I did some features as well with Figg Kidd and The Flow Dynamics. I love international collabs, traveling around the world has taught me so much as a person and artist.

What other artists would you like to collaborate with?

My dream is to collab with DJ Premier, but I guess every MC shares that same dream haha! My dream collaboration list would be Primo, Al Green, Andreas Vollenwieder and hopefully one day collaborating with an Orchestra. Besides that, it’s an honor to just be working with the guys I’m already connected with.

As well as releasing music yourself and with Lightheaded, you also somehow find time to run your own record label! Is this something you always wanted to do?

I’ve always been a hands on type of artist. I never had a mentor or label take me under their wing during my career. I had to build most of this from scratch. During the process I learned a lot about the industry, trying to pave my own path. I met a lot of artists during my travels who weren’t getting love from any labels, so I figured I would step in. It’s been such a blessing. I’m only a one man operation, and with the industry going through hard times, it makes it that much harder to keep pushing forward but I’m constantly learning new ways to be wise as a label owner and set up our future the right way.

As you mention, its a difficult time to be in the industry; do you see any strategies on the horizon that might lessen the effect of illegal downloads? Do you approach new releases and signing new artists with a different kind of caution these days?

I do really flexible contracts with my artists. I’m not trying to lock anyone in or own them. My goal is just to put out 2 or 3 records a year on the label and do it the old fashioned way. Let the music speak for itself, build an audience and stay consistent. We can’t change the download situation….. we are at the point of no return. The really big challenge now is getting people to download the music haha! If a million people download it illegally, then hopefully the people who really connect with it will support. At the very least, concert attendance would increase. So yeah… it’s all about using the current situation with the industry to build a fanbase and surpass their expectations with every release.

Who are some of the artists you have on the label? What should we be listening out for at the moment?

The roster includes Surreal, Theory Hazit, Poems, Sivion, Othello, Sojourn and Big Rec.  Our back catalog is great.  I would suggest everyone grab a copy of Surreal “Future Classic”, Theory Hazit “Extra Credit”, Sivion “Spring of the Songbird”, Poems “Blooming Sounds” and Othello “Alive At The Assembly Line”.  Next up is a solo record from Sojourn.  He has a single produced by OhNo that we intend on leaking very soon.

So whats next for Braille? Any other projects on the go?

I’m actually half way done with a new collaboration record. It’s me on the microphone and S1 on the beats. The record is called “Cloud Nineteen”. We hope to drop it early next year and I’ll definitely keep ya’ll updated.

Thanks so much for your time Braille, any final thoughts?

I hope to visit Australia soon, in the meantime, keep in touch at – peace and GOD bless.

There you have it y’all, check out his music and keep an eye out here for updates regarding new tunes and tour info in the new year.

Until next time,


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1 Comment to Braille Interview

October 2, 2008

thanks for the love ya’ll. really appreciate it.

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