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- Posted on Mar 14th 2010 12:06AM by Donna Rodgers
Creed Bratton, born William Charles Schneider, was a founding member of the iconic 1960s folk rock group the Grass Roots. Charming, funny and smart, Bratton has just released the new album 'Bounce Back.' Spinner caught up with the musician-actor before SXSW 2010 to talk about the album, his role on the American adaptation of TV series 'The Office' and what's next on his horizon.
How did you get started?
I grew up in a little town near Yosemite (National Park) -- only about 300 people -- called Coarsegold, Calif. This is all from the California gold rush days. Close by is Fine Gold, Calif. It all makes sense in that context.
Playing with my grandfather, grandmother and my parents, I came to music pretty naturally. I remember playing with an arch top crystal set (radio) and listening to as much music as I could hear. Started playing in my early teens on a Sears guitar. At 17, I started playing professionally. I spent two years in Europe. In my early days, I was about 145 pounds. I was really a starving artist; the poster child for starving artists. I changed my name to Creed Bratton.
When I played with [my group] the Young Californians, we toured through the Middle East, to a folk festival in Israel. Warren Entner, another guitarist, liked how I played guitar, and asked me to call him up when I got home. We later became partners and started a projected called the Thirteenth Floor. With some twists and turns, we became the Grass Roots and (our song) 'Live for Today' was an almost instant hit. I still love (iconic '60s Grass Roots hit) 'Midnight Confessions.' We actually played it the other night. I was talking to someone who heard us and happened to mention that I was part of the original group. The woman wouldn't believe me! I kept saying, "Really, I did. That was me."
Where do you like to play?
With Willie Nile at McCabe's in Santa Monica, Calif., with [actor] Ed Helms at Cafe Largo in Los Angeles. I'm playing at SXSW on March 20 with John Doe and Tara Holloway.
How do you describe your sound?
It's a paradigm shift! You've got to hear it. 'Bounceback' is great -- "Let's get lost in each other's arms," and 'Rubber Tree' -- "Wind 'em up, spring back the second time around, do the Rubber Tree." Lot of fun. It's really a mix of sounds; you'll hear some breezy, Western, dreamy.
What's the story behind your name?
I was born William Charles Schneider and there are a couple of plays on my names in 'The Office.' One night I was out drinking Ouzo, and I woke up the next morning in a pretty bad way. Next to my roughsack is a tablecloth that I must've taken from the place we were drinking. There was a list of names and all of them were crossed off except Creed Bratton. What did it mean? I thought it must be intended for me; an omen!
Tell us about playing with the Grass Roots?
Those were great times because we were part of the '60s and the Grass Roots had great songwriters sending us stuff in those days. And we also wrote our own songs. I co-wrote 'Beatin' Round the Bush,' 'No Exit,' 'Hot Bright Lights,' and I wrote 'House of Stone' and 'Dinner for Eight.' I was part of the first four albums: 'Let's Live for Today,' 'Feelings,' 'Golden Grass' and 'Lovin' Things.' And I was part of the first ten singles we released, most of which were top hits. Life was fast in those days.
What are your musical influences?
Chet Baker, Duane Eddy, Miles Davis, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers. I love to [listen] to a lot of jazz. You'll hear Baker's 'Let's Get Lost' on my new album. Tara Holloway sings with me; we get lost in each other.
What's in your festival survival kit?
Let's see, an AK-47, SAM missile, lots of water, a good shotgun, 'Rubber Soul' by the Beatles, some survivalist things. I'm a survivalist and a survivor. I also love to read Cormac McCarthy books, so maybe I will bring 'Blood Meridian' along. I may not have time to read.
What are your musical guilty pleasures?
If I happen to hear [Katy Perry's] 'I Kissed a Girl,' I always listen! Only in my case it's more like, "I kissed a 50-year-old divorcee" and I liked it! Tell everyone that!
Beatles or Stones?
I love them both, but if I have to vote, The Band.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Oh, that would be Senta Berger, an Austrian actress I first saw in 'Cast a Giant Shadow.' Such a beautiful woman and what an actress.
What is the scariest/craziest/creepiest experience you've ever had on the road?
This was from the Grass Roots days. We were playing the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was the first time for me, and I dropped acid. My hands started melting, and I heard someone, a disembodied bass voice, saying "Play, play." And I saw notes, like cartoon notes, drifting from staff paper through the air until they fell to the floor and broke into pieces. In that moment, I knew the meaning of life. I could see the one connection of everyone to love. But, I've gotta say, anyone taking acid having a trip like that should probably be shot. It seemed like it was OK in the moment, but it wasn't.
Another time, I was in a plane and we were flying across the Everglades to a venue, when we landed -- in the Everglades. A Humvee appeared, along with dogs, machine guns and military types carrying them. We'd landed by mistake far too close to a restricted military base. We could see the alligators' eyes peering at us from the water. Really scary.
A crazy experience, too: recently, I was traveling on a plane and the airline was showing an episode of 'The Office.' I was actually standing in the aisle at one point, standing right next to myself on the screen, and nobody said anything. Nobody noticed. Or if they did notice, they didn't say anything. That was kind of crazy. I do love to walk around in New York because people will notice me, smile, but they never bother anyone. New Yorkers are very cool. I love New York.
So, with that in mind, do you get into any mischief on the road? Do you have any vices?
It will probably destroy my cred -- destroy Creed's cred -- to tell you that I live a really clean life these days. But I do get asked to perform secret ops from time to time!
What's next for you?
Playing at SXSW on March 20, then 'The Office' resumes filming in April. Then I hope to write more songs (and) have time to review some movie roles. I love music. I love acting. There is absolutely no work attached to what I do. I have been blessed.
Donna Rodgers is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.