/Mississippian Brett Orrison takes his love of music to Austin and beyond

Mississippian Brett Orrison takes his love of music to Austin and beyond

It was an incredible moment to mix sound at Widespread Panic’s 50th sold-out concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, Colorado in June 2016. It was also a great honor to be the sound engineer at the “Dear Jerry” tribute concert, held in Columbia, Maryland in 2015. This event drew 20,000 people to Merriweather Post Pavilion. He was also the sound engineer for “Imagine”: The John Lennon75th Birthday Concert. This event brought together artists such as Chris Stapleton and Eric Church, along with Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, Willie Nelson, Chris Stapleton and Chris Stapleton. He said, “That was] one the most incredible shows I ever got to remix.” “I think I cried when Willie Nelson sang ‘Imagine’ in Madison Square Garden.” Orrison’s many years of experience in tour production brought him into the discussion for the Lennon tribute gig. However, it is likely that Orrison’s background in recording has secured it. Widespread Panic’s first major touring role was also due to his ability to distinguish between live and recorded music. He was approached by a friend and colleague from Austin who happened to be the sound engineer for the long-running jam band. He knew that I did studio and live sound so he called me and said, “Hey, I’m quitting the Widespread panic gig. Orrison’s life was forever changed by the move. He was an experienced live sound engineer from The Black Angels tours, and he ran a small studio in his converted toolshed. But the gig launched Orrison’s career with one of the most popular touring bands of all time. Many lives were changed by Hurricane Katrina’s arrival on August 29, 2005. Orrison, who was a sound engineer at House of Blues in New Orleans, had just returned home to take over the role of production manager at Hard Rock Biloxi Hotel & Casino in Biloxi. He was excited to be a part of the establishment. He recalls that he was able to supervise the purchase of all the equipment needed for live concerts, including sound and video equipment. However, he never had the opportunity to use it. Katrina created a wall of water on the lower floors of Hard Rock, leaving much of the Gulf of Mexico’s northern coast in ruin two days before its official opening. Instead, he worked at The Shed in Ocean Springs, where his sister Brooke and brother Brad Orrison own the barbecue restaurant. He says that he stayed on and worked at The Shed, where he cooked and served barbecue until Brooke and Brad were back in business. “I had to find another city with a lot going on in order to get a job. I was considering New York, L.A. Austin, Seattle and Seattle.” Some of his friends had moved to Austin after losing their homes during the storm. In February 2006, he made the leap and was offered the job of front-of-house producer at La Zona Rosa. This 1,200-capacity Austin club is his first. After a few tours with bands such as Galactic and Better Than Ezra he decided to go on the road with psych-rockers The Black Angels. He also established Austin Recording Service in order to keep him busy during breaks. He was able to use both his skills and the band reduced its tour schedule in 2014. This allowed him to take the Widespread Panic gig. The phone rang and he was offered the most important gig of his career. He says, “I was on the move and received a call from a producer manager who had done a lot of Widespread Panic shows alongside me.” He works at different festivals and venues, so he offered me the Jack White gig. So I went from Widespread and Jack White, and that was it for the whole of 2018. Orrison joined White’s fourth tour in four years. He played major venues and festivals in America, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. He says, “I was away from my home for nearly 10 months straight.” “At the end of it, i came back to the studio and purchased a console and all the stuff I wanted. I decided to stay home for the entire year and just do studio work and spend time with my children. “For the first time in 16 year, I was not going to leave the home.” Orrison had already demolished his first studio and built a new one when he recorded an Austin-based soul band called Kalu at Austin Recording Service. The group, led by Nigerian Kalu Jam, received wide praise for their blend of West African rhythms with American funk and soul, which was recorded by Orrison. Spaceflight Records was established by James to distribute the album. What started as a single project quickly became a fully-functioning concern. He says, “Once I got back home and had a chance to think about it, I saw how many bands weren’t getting proper distribution and marketing for the records they own.” “We created a plan to try and become a nonprofit that would enable you to receive major donations and grants that would cover the whole marketing, distribution, and release of an artist’s record.” Spaceflight Records has been recognized in Texas as a non-profit. Orrison is currently working to obtain federal 501(c)(3) status. The label’s purpose is to teach artists how to manage and release a new music campaign. Bands can start their careers by operating as a non-profit organization. Sergio Flores. “One of the biggest issues around Austin is the rising rent. Half of our venues are closing and people aren’t getting paid fair,” he said. It’s very difficult for artists in Austin to create true art, and not just commercially-soldable work. We just did a massive one-up for this artist to relieve the pressure and provide them with a proper release. That’s our goal.