“The Great Commoner proves that Americana vocals don’t have to be husky or twangy, accordions don’t have to be annoying, the Apostle’s Creed doesn’t need to be hard to sing, and Christians can make music with obviously Christian lyrics and not lose their potency and relevance.”
Brock’s Folly’s autobiography:
I entered the world, as bands usually do, with neither name nor direction. On a balmy autumn night, Justus Stout spotted Luke Lillard and Jesse Murray jamming on the stoop of Bryan College’s Long Dormitory. Only a momentary listen was needed before Justus proposed that the fellows join in a musical collaboration. Skepticism gave way to curiosity, which led to several very awful practice sessions, the birthing sounds… in D minor.
There was a freshman talent show coming up, which gave some direction to a hopelessly disctractible jam-band. One thing led to another and BANG! Gunshots in a Crowded Mall was born. That’s me. The story of my evolution is not for the overly ponderous.
I started out eight strong. Eight was whittled down to seven – seven to six, to five, to four- back to five. You get the picture. The name didn’t stick, thank goodness. They gave me a few more, like The Harbingers – they liked it for a while until they received a phone call from a North Carolina gospel quartet who shared the name but broke up in 1977. ‘It was the name,’ they said. ‘No one can live up to it. Trust us. We tried.’
They brainstormed for an eternity, which seemed to drag on for days. One night they spent an entire week thinking on it. The subject even made it into their midnight Taco-Bell-run conversations. Who was I? They finally put it to a vote, and Clay decided. I’ve been Brock’s Folly ever since, and from where I’m standing, I reckon I always will be. The name means something, you know. I’ll explain it briefly and with simple words: Left to my own purposes, I am a mere decoration, an ornament of the earth, useful for nothing.
Shows at ice-cream socials turned into shows at Harmony House, the local coffee shop, homework hangout and second home for many a student. Shows at Harmony House turned into shows ranging the Southeast. Of Tennessee. Eventually shows did expand to Atlanta and eventually Boston, if busking is included. With the help of the Nehemiah Foundation and Michael Minkoff, they were able to record and produce their first album—named after me: “Brock’s Folly.”
Current members include: Justus Stout, Jesse Murray, Michael Minkoff, Demetris Madden, Phil Hodges & Luke Lillard, who is currently on sabbatical. Former members include: Joel Peckman, Clayton Schmidt, Trevor Haught, Farrah Schmidt, James Holland & Matt Kear.
The Great Commoner is an album written by common men for the common people, exploring our human experience: love, death, lies, and truth. Here is the story behind the making of the album:
By the winter of 2011, we had been playing most of these songs for about a year, and we were absolutely DYING to finally lay down some tracks. People had been asking “When are you going to record Dear Penelope?” or “When can we get a copy of Marriage Song?”
Well, there were several obstacles in the way of recording:
1. Luke Lillard, Jesse Murray, Clayton Schmidt, and Trevor Haught (the whole band but Justus!) were all in the rigors of their senior year at Bryan College.
2. We didn’t have any money.
3. We didn’t have a space in which to record.
4. We didn’t have the equipment needed to achieve the kind of sound quality the new songs deserved.
So, what happened? The Lord opened several huge doors: First of all, Michael Minkoff (sound engineer and founder of the Nehemiah Foundation for Cultural Renewal) offered to make Brock’s Folly a sponsored band with the Nehemiah Foundation. That meant he would record and mix our album FOR FREE!
But we still needed a space. We approached Bryan College about our need for a place to record, and the Department of Operations was incredibly generous! They offered to let us use Brock Hall (our namesake) for recording during Christmas break.This killed two birds with one stone: we got a recording space PLUS the guys in school would have time to record because school was out. Eureka!
And so it was, on December 30th, we gathered. First came Jesse, Justus, and Luke. We turned Brock Hall into a labyrinth of dorm mattress baffles, cables, tables, swaths of uncut fabric from the local La-Z-Boy factory, umbrellas, old theatre walls, and a golden dog head (leftover from a school production) we christened the Recording Hound.
Clayton came soon afterward, driving from his Christmas in Wisconsin, and started setting up drums, and was followed by Michael and Phil Hodges. Coffee was made, french presses broken, instruments were tuned, baffles were arranged, computers were turned on, cables were plugged in, and we all held our breath as recording commenced.
Tracking proved to be extremely challenging, but equally rewarding. We all took turns at our instruments. Clayton killed the drums in the first two days, and a rigorous schedule was established. Hours upon hours were spent at a time, getting the right tone and takes. Very quickly, a nap area was established using leftover mattresses, and coffee was in constant production.
After several days recording in Brock Hall, we carried all of the gear up a flight of stairs to the Rudd Atrium, where we tracked certain instruments and vocals that needed the spacious, majestic reverb that is naturally produced in that room. It turned out wonderfully. The reverb was so perfect in the Atrium that a tradition was quickly established to end a day of recording by singing the doxology there.
Brock Hall was the room we started in, the room we were named after, and now, the room we were recording in. And it was perfect. It sounded great: big and spacious, but clear and defined.
We recorded all day every day, oftentimes late into the night, and by January 10th, we were done. There were some later touch-ups and re-recordings, but 90% of the tracks on the album were recorded in the whirlwind of those eleven days in Dayton.
After much mixing (and remixing![and remixing!!]), we finally hosted a kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000. We were very blessed. Our fans came from every direction, generously giving toward the project. After about a month, we had raised a whopping $4,500! With the needed money to finish the album, we sent it to Chicago, to be mastered, and finally received 1,000 copies in July, 2014, which are currently being distributed to fans and sold to listeners around the globe.