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Brooks Maguire: The MAUIWatch Interview

During my conversation with Brooks Maguire, in which he summarized his amazing career and recalled pivotal connections made, I was struck by his unforced humility. Maguire’s long, remarkable journey as a passionate musician, professional performer and recording artist is full of opportunities to name drop and aggrandize, but Maguire’s soft spoken way of recalling the past reveals a man who laughs easily, considers himself blessed, and knows the value of working hard to obtain your dreams. Maguire mentions the names of fellow musicians and artists who helped him along the way. In fact, he does this so often, and with the intent of giving credit where credit is due, he often appears to making a list of the people he’s extremely thankful for.

With the release of his third CD, “The Road I Never Chose,” Maguire is entering a new phase of his career, which points to a potentially rewarding new path ahead. The album is terrific, with songs that reminded me of Kenny Loggins and James Taylor at their most thoughtful and tender. While most peg the song “Maui” to have obvious commercial breakout probability, my money’s on “I Live Where the Rain Goes,” a rousing tune I crank up whenever I drive to Lahaina. Maguire’s first two albums weren’t commercial breakthroughs, though he admits to listening to them recently and liking what he heard, albeit with “if I only knew then what I know now” hindsight. “The Road I Never Chose” is of the highest caliber, a collection of clever, playful songwriting, melded with skilled, soulful work from Maguire and his collaborators. Maguire’s new album is of the highest caliber.

To celebrate the release of “The Road I Never Chose,” Maguire is giving back to his community and fans in a big way. This Saturday, December 6th, from 4-6pm at the Waipuna Chapel Amphitheater in Kula, Maguire and The All-Star Band are giving a free, outdoor concert for the premiere release of “The Road I Never Chose.” The venue couldn’t be more ideal, as concert goers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, though the location (and a beach towel) make any spot a prime vantage point.

In the build up to Brooks’ CD release party concert, he spoke with me about his growing up with music, his fulfilled dream of meeting Jackson Browne, how Willie K and Barry Flanagan introduced him to Maui music venues in the late 80’s, his current, long-standing gig as the musician at Cheeseburger in Paradise and the creation of his new album.

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Early Years and the Jackson Browne Experience

Barry Wurst: Who were some of your musical influences? Was there a specific album that inspired you to take up music as a career?

Brooks Maguire: Jackson Browne. When I heard the album Late for the Sky and For Every Man, which has “Take It Easy”. “Late for the Sky” from the standpoint of how he affected me with his music, I thought, wouldn’t it be an amazing? Bonnie Raitt, early on from the 70’s. Dan Fogelberg and J.D. Souther. Souther was with Eagles and Browne, so 70’s rock birthed the idea, that maybe I could do this.

BW: Did you ever see him on concert?

Brooks Maguire: I saw Browne a lot in concert. I flew transpacific for a night to see him. I was introduced to him at a show at the MACC, the I’m Alive tour. He spent 15 minutes with me. I expressed my gratitude, saying you’re the reason I’ve been doing what I do for 25 years. He listened intently, then thanked me profusely. I told him, “don’t be a stranger, next time you’re here, you and me, two guitars and a couple of chairs”. He squeezed my arms and said, “Brooks, you never know”. He’s everything people perceive him to be.

What he puts out in his music in terms of emotion, social and political issues, the integrity of his music… 35 years later, to have had a career and realize, I am touching people’s lives. When people say, “this is the CD we listen to when we go to the beach.” For me, that’s success.

BW: So Jackson Browne led the way. Who encouraged you as a young boy?

Brooks Maguire: At the ripe age of 7, my teacher in Texas gave me ukulele lessons. I got most of my singing ability in church. My mom was the choir director, my sister and I sang special numbers in church. I’m one of 100 people in the Brooks family. So, it’s part DNA, part conditioning. I took drum lessons at 13, took guitar in college. I was discovering Jackson Browne’s music, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles were coming in, so I took guitar and taught myself these songs. Within a year learning guitar, I had my first public performance. Graduated from college, didn’t wanna do accounting and finance, so I moved to Austin, since I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up.

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The Long Road to Maui

BW: So Austin Texas was the start of it?

Brooks Maguire: I didn’t know this would be a long time career. Austin had such a hot bed of live music and I fought my way into performing. By 1980, I was traveling around Texas and Louisiana playing clubs as a solo artist. Supported myself through restaurant and club gigs. Moved to Louisiana. Put together a vocal trio called Kokomo. From 1980 til now, I made my living solely on performing. Did everything from a solo act to a 7 piece show band with a cover band. Was in a serious auto accident in 1984, that brought everything to a halt, due to recovery and rehabilitation. In 85, started performing again solo and had a friend move to Kauai. I got totally enthralled with island life and hatched a plan to return to the islands with the intent of playing music.

I made the move to Hawaii in ’87. Right out of the gate, I was able to work. I was befriended by Willie K and Barry Flanagan. Those guys instrumentally were great mentors and influences, I know now their recommendations to clubs and venues put me in spots I wouldn’t otherwise have done. I was the house band at Pioneer Inn for five nights a week from ’88 to ’92. I was in a group called The Fabulous Breeze Brothers, which was me and John Barbier. I made the move to Kauai, performing at Duke’s and other venues, coming back to pioneer Inn, until Hurricane Iniki in ’92. I relocated to Maui and played at Leilani’s and Kimo’s, which led to my job at Cheeseburgers in Paradise, an afternoon that came to coming to 4 nights a week. Due to the population of people that flood through there, the exposure there has been priceless. They take good care of me and I think I do a good job for them. I’ve played for 22 years now, for millions of people there and counting. That venue alone has spawned a mailing list following all over the world and all fifty states.

BW: At some point, did you start to include your own songs into your sets?

Brooks Maguire: Because of the resort venue and environment. I knew I’d have to do cover tunes, but I never did tunes I don’t like. I play a lot of Eagles, Van Morrison, Jackson Browne, but having to keep material fresh for the tourist pop, I expended to Jack Johnson and more current things I interspersed my own material in there. I recorded my first album, Barry Flanagan played on that, Paul Marshetti. In 96, I went back to Texas and performed my 2nd album, “Pieces of a Dream”. I sang the songs that other musicians contributed. I’d play those on the gig, in addition to “Brown Eyed Girl” and things like that.

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Songwriting and The Creation of “The Road I Never Chose”

BW: Was songwriting something you always practiced?

Brooks Maguire: I haven’t been the most disciplined. I have great ideas I haven’t acted on. Prior to the new CD, I’ve only recorded 12 songs. Truth be told, I did a lot of thinking and talking about writing as opposed to doing it. I was introduced to Joe Beck, who is a phenomena,l has 80 top ten singles and over 800 songs cut by major artists. I was introduced to him in may of 2013. He’s in Nashville. Joe has written for Diamond Rio, their biggest hit, “The Reason,” that’s his and his work crosses genres of pop, country and Christian. Through a phone introduction, we’d talk for hours, every couple of weeks, through the course of last year. I sent him CD Joe and I talk every couple of weeks by phone. He was introduced to me to be a songwriting mentor. He proposed we write together, long distance. He encouraged me to quit talking about it and do something about it.

In October of last year, that’s’ when Byron Spradlin of ACT International, proposed that his non-profit would start a record label support for an artist they’d help fund. I was offered the record deal for “The Road I Never Chose”, with specific intent of Joe beck producing, he and I co-writing new material and as much new material as possible. For whatever wouldn’t get written, we’d draw from Joe’s massive catalog of music. That recording deal came a year ago, the day before Thanksgiving. We finalized that deal by phone. I went to Nashville, to be in the studio with Joe and Jim Frazier, the album’s co-producer. Joe lined up all the artists, all of whom are incredible musicians.

BW: What were some of your favorite moments during that time of collaboration and shaping your album?

Brooks Maguire: I got to write with Bill Shore, who wrote “Wild Horses” for Garth Brooks. Joe set up, through this record deal, an old style Nashville writing appointment at BMI HQ. We wrote the song, “Wide Open”, Joe, Bill and I. The trip to Nashville put me in the echelon with top musicians. To have a writing appointment with Bill Shore not only created one of my favorite songs on the album but put my work into Garth Brook’s hands for consideration.

Brooks Maguire and the All Star Band is performing their Free Concert at the Waipuna Chapel Amphitheater in Kula, this Saturday, December 6th, 4-6pm. For more info go to www.brooksmaguire.com or contact Waipuna Chapel at (808)878-6343 or visit their website – www.waipunachapel.com

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About Barry Wurst II

Barry Wurst II
Barry Wurst II is a senior editor & film critic at MAUIWatch. He wrote film reviews for a local Maui publication and taught film classes at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS). Wurst also co-hosted podcasts for Screengeeks.com and has been published in Bright Lights Film Journal and in other film-related websites. He is currently featured in the new MAUIWatch Podcast- The NERDWatch.

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