As you probably know by now I really enjoy reconnecting with artists that I’ve worked with over all the years I’ve been doing this music journalism thing, and this week I’m happy to be doing it once more. I recently had a conversation with Gerald Brann, founder and frontman for the Elton John tribute band Yellow Brick Road.

I’ve chatted with him since his band’s very first performance and more recently in February of 2016, so it was fun calling him at his Bath home to find out about an upcoming show at Somerset Abbey coming Oct. 24. I began by asking him if he and his band had ever played there before.
Brann: We have, actually. It’s nice, and it’s centrally located. It’s a beautiful old building, and the acoustics in there are nice. However this particular performance is (pause) outside. I think that’s what they’re doing.

Q: So, when you were there before? You were inside?
Brann: Yeah, we’ve never played outside before at the Abbey, but with the COVID restrictions it’s not practical because you can’t have that large a gathering inside. At least outside you can have up to 50 people, I believe.

Q: I think you’re right, and they’ve been having shows there fairly regularly for the past few months.
Brann: And they’ve had some pretty decent groups looking at the names coming in.

Q: Like Lez Zeppelin, for example.
Brann: Yeah, those guys are great, they’ve been around for a while too.

Q: Yup, they have, but you guys are coming up there, as well. What’s the line-up of Yellow Brick Road like nowadays?
Brann: OK, well there are two guitarists — we have Mike Tobias from Chelsea, and we have Rich D’Aigle from Greenville. And we have bass player Mark Kavanaugh from Skowhegan, and our drummer, Kevin Ostrowski is from Palermo.

Q: So, all local lads.
Brann: Yeah, and we’ve been playing together for quite some time, as you know. Our newest addition in the band is Rich D’Aigle. This is his second year, and he’s a great player. I’ve known him just about my whole life.

Q: Just out of curiosity, did you see “Rocketman”?
Brann: Oh yeah, I’ve seen it several times. I had to see it early, I went and saw it when it first came out, because the first thing anyone does is ask me about it, so I had to be on top of it.

Q: What did you think of it?
Brann: When I first saw it, I don’t know what I was expecting. Because I had just seen — a little bit prior to that — the Queen movie, which I thought was fantastic, I was wondering if the Elton John one was going to be a little bit more like that. But it was a little more fantastical and more like a musical. It was really great, but when I first saw it, I just didn’t know. There were all kinds of liberties that were taken with the timeline and inaccuracies and things like that. But then I saw it a second time, and I appreciated it much more. The music was great; the acting was great. It was cool; all of it was fantastic, and I loved it.

Q: Now, the show you put on, do you do an overview of his entire career? What’s happening with a Yellow Brick Road performance?
Brann: The way our band started was a tribute based mostly around Elton John’s 1984 “Breaking Hearts Tour” concerts where he had two guitar players and it was a little more rock ‘n’ roll, high energy, and a lot of stuff was pretty fast tempos. The versions they were playing live were really up-beat. He was playing all the classic hits, of course he had “Rocketman” and all that stuff. But then he was bringing in “I’m Still Standing” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues,” those hits, too. So, for my personal singing range I could emulate the ’80s plus physical appearance. I most closely resemble his appearance in the ’80s. So we geared toward that, and tried to have a focus on what we were putting together for an image and a show. But as the band has been together, we’re in decade number two,  it’s slowly evolved. In the ’80s, his costuming was not quite as crazy as it had been in the ’70s but people really liked the show. If you’re going to do a tribute the visual is just as important as the musical side of it, so you’ve got to give them something to look at and to remember. So I started putting together a bunch of the ’70s costumes in addition to the ’80s stuff I already had. We’re doing ’70s and ’80s. Really that is what we’re focusing on now, and I don’t go beyond that. It suits me better.

Q: Now, when did you start doing this tribute?
Brann: I think if we’re not on it, we’re darn close to almost exactly 20 years, which is kind of crazy for any band. I feel like we’re really just getting our feet under ourselves right now. I mean, every year it’s gotten a little bit bigger, and we’re traveling a little further and there’s more shows. It seems like it’s grown every single year. And this year, actually, was scheduled to be our busiest and biggest year ever before the COVID-19 stuff started happening.

Q: Did the pandemic have a huge impact on you?
Brann: We still managed to do better than a lot of bands. We had a lot of performances, but what we did was we stuck a little closer to home and just did outdoor stuff. It gave us an opportunity to do a lot more stuff in-state which was nice. We’ve got a few shows left on the calendar this year but nothing like we had originally planned. And on another topic, I do want to give a shout-out to Floyd (White) and his studio. He did a great job, and we really appreciate him helping us to revamp our promo with some new recordings over the summer. Despite all the challenges that we had, he was still willing to spend some time with us and help us put something out that was really high quality, and we appreciate it!

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Brann: I guess what I would like to say is that right now there are a lot of things in the world that can get you down. Between politics, the pandemic, fires, natural disasters, it just seems like everything is hitting the fan in 2020, but we need to unify and look out for each other. Music has a way of bringing people together and helping you to remember the good times and to forget about the day-to-day problems that are hanging out there. Try to live and enjoy and love life, and come and do it with us. Listen to some music, have a good time, and we’ll take you on a trip back into the ’70s and ’80s!

Lucky Clark has spent over 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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