Inspired as a child by the albums of Waylon Jennings, the hymns of the church and by his mother’s piano and folk-style guitar, Bracken Hale began at an early age playing, writing and developing a style and a sound that is now undoubtedly his own. A working Texas musician since ’94, Bracken has covered a whole lot of highway and probably played every dancehall and honky-tonk in the State. The passion to create for art’s sake has been the main fuel behind his efforts, from a productive career as a professional sideman to his lifelong study of craft and philosophy. Contributions as a songwriter have yielded numerous cuts by independent artists, spanning across the country, rock, blues and R&B genres.
The June 2011 self-titled debut solo album, Bracken Hale, presents him as an emerging artist on his own terms, raw and organic, and delves further into an impressive and promising catalogue of original American music.
Born in Oklahoma, the son of a Texas and Native American historian, Hale grew breathing in the folklore of the plains and drawing inspiration from the landscape and the people who belong to it. His earliest memories are of the Navajo reservation in Tsaile, Arizona where his father took his first collegiate teaching job. “We lived in a brick house, but for religious reasons it was eight-sided like the Navajo hogans, with a living room in the middle and pie-shaped bedrooms. The whole neighborhood was like that.” The Hales moved from Arizona to Minnesota, before settling in Norman, Oklahoma, where Bracken spent the majority of his childhood. He credits author J. Frank Dobie as an early motivator: “Coronado’s Children had a big impact on me as a kid. There are some universal truths about human nature that those stories seem to tap into. That little adventurous what if causes you to wonder what part is truth and what part is tale. Then there’s the classic situation: I had it once and lost it. That’s the part that really makes the story. There’s a formula to it and it works every time.”
Bracken’s first chords came on his mother’s classical guitar and were reinforced when an older cousin with a steel string came to visit and stayed on as a permanent guest. Texas-based blues artist, Shawn Pittman was also influential. “I knew Shawn since I was thirteen. We played together and talked a lot. He knew an older guy named Bernard Bigby who was a great blues guitarist and singer. He had played professionally for a lot of years and was real supportive and open to talking to us and giving advice.” Several years later, as a teenager in the early 1990s, Bracken was writing, singing and playing for an original folk-rock/country band around central Oklahoma. “There wasn’t a whole lot of support for original music there at that time. Most of the pickers I knew either left or got into the cover band circuit.”
From Oklahoma to Tennessee and back, and on down to Texas, Bracken honed his craft. He worked as an acoustic act from 94-99, making Austin his permanent home in 1997. A long stint as a professional bass player has kept him on the road since 2002, playing with acts like Gary P. Nunn, Danni Leigh, Mike Graham, longtime friend Shawn Pittman, Eric Hisaw, Chrissy Flatt, the Dixons and others. Now back in the front man position with a telecaster in hand, an arsenal of original songs and an all-star band behind him, Bracken Hale is staying true to his longtime goal: “All I want is to create a body of work that I hope will influence people and ultimately make some positive contribution to humanity. Is that shooting too low?”
As a songwriter, musician and bandleader, Hale has been working out of Austin professionally for over a decade. In addition to his time behind the mic, he’s put in time as a sideman, playing bass for Texas and national acts like Gary P. Nunn, Chris Wall, Chapparal, Danni Leigh, Mike Graham, Shawn Pittman and many more. Now on the Shiftone Records roster with an arsenal of original songs and all star band behind him, Bracken Hale is quickly earning respect as a powerful new wave of alt country.
A long time friendship with Shiftone Founder, Chris Schelske, landed him support from the emerging independent Shiftone Records in 2011. The self-titled “Bracken Hale” 2011 album presents him well as a seasoned musician and craftsman of original honkytonk music.