By Emily Williams
Since relocating to Nashville, the Birmingham-born band The Brook & The Bluff has entered a new era of performance and sound.
The four-man group – composed of frontman Joseph Settine of Bluff Park; and guitarist Alec Bolton, drummer John Canada and bassist Fred Lankford, all of Mountain Brook – spent the better part of January through May regularly performing.
When they hit the road this month, things will be a bit different.
“We’ve done a cross-country tour before, but this will be the first time that we are headlining,” said Lankford.
The group recently put the finishing touches on its first full-length album, which will be released in October and showcase a newly polished version of its sound, blending instrumental talent with vocal harmonies.
The tour will kick off in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the guys will play the Moon River Festival. Second on the list will be a return to their hometown.
The Brook & The Bluff will be headlining the Alys Stephens Center’s first Emerge Festival, on Sept. 14.
With Emerge Fest, the center has created a template that can be used each year to kick off the center’s season of performances. Attendees will listen to and view work created by new, up-and-coming or emerging artists – most of whom will be local to Birmingham.
“We want to show our support for artists that are also in the developing stages of their careers, as well,” said ASC Director of Programming Eric Essix. “These are all things that we hope will go a long way towards serving our community in ways that line up with our mission.”
When searching for a headlining performer, Brook & The Bluff piqued his interest, both through its sound and its success since relocating to Nashville.
“I was particularly impressed, initially, by the music and the bands vibe,” Essix said. “They had great well written and performed songs that were presented in a very polished and professional way that resonated with me.”
Essix and his team took a look at the band’s schedule, noticed the scope of its tour, and that resonated with him, too.
“If a band is working that hard and touring that broadly, I just felt like it’s a matter of when and not if they will develop a strong national presence,” he said. “We wanted to be a small part of their journey by having them perform here at the ASC at this stage in their career.”
Starting Out as Hometown Boys
In its first iteration, The Brook & The Bluff was Bolton and Settine. The two performed as a duo, mostly playing covers, their band name paying homage to their hometowns: Bolton of Mountain Brook and Settine of Bluff Park in Hoover.
After graduating from college, Bolton and Settine returned to Birmingham and began playing at venues around town. Canada joined shortly afterward.
These years were important for the group.
“We were figuring out who we were as a band in Birmingham without the pressure of being a very small band in Nashville,” Canada said.
“There are so many artists here, and it’s saturated,” he said.
In 2017, the band played its first gig that solely featured original songs at Otey’s Tavern, recorded its first EP and invited Lankford to join the group.
The EP charted on Spotify’s United States and Canada “Viral 50” playlists, and with the success came the confidence to relocate to Nashville.
According to band members, they played a gig at a small hotel venue shortly after making the move. The booking agent for the space sent their music to a friend who worked for Paradigm Agency. The band got a call the next day and were soon paired with its current booking agents, Jeffrey Hasson and Joe Atamian.
“Now we are at the point where we have a little bit of confidence in the fact that there are people out there buying tickets and waiting to hear our live show,” Bolton said.
Generating content for and releasing a full album allowed the band the chance to put the finishing touches on songs that had been dancing around in Settine and Bolton’s minds since college.
“I love playing live, but (recording) was the most fulfilling thing that I have done as a musician or in a band,” Settine said. “You’re trying to make everything that has been in your head, for years sometimes, come to life. We did and it’s better than I ever could have thought.”
The new album is a translation of the band’s now fully realized identity and is infused with the energy and musicality that the band presents while performing live.
“Now we have to find a way to recreate that in a live setting,” Lankford said. “It’s tough but at the same time, really exciting.”
For more information on The Brook & The Bluff, visit brookandbluff.com. For more information on Emerge Fest, visit alysstephens.org.