What genre is the song?
Singer Songwriter, Acoustic, Folk, Americana, Indie Folk
Describe the Track
Two Dollar Coat is a new stripped down, vulnerable song from Brick Blair that evokes classic acoustic singer songwriters like Yusuf/Cat Stevens and John Prine, albums like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and songs like Townes Van Zandt’s, Waiting Around to Die.
It is a song about a man who is imagining what his life would be like if he ended up alone and homeless. It’s a powerful song with a message that we can all relate to.
The chorus of the song asks the listener to look away so they can’t see the man in despair. It’s a heartbreaking plea for someone to care enough to notice him. But then the twist of the second line is that it asks the listener to look away so they can’t see you pretending to care. It’s a reminder that sometimes it’s easier to ignore someone in need than it is to actually help them.
What is the track about?
Brick. Two Dollar Coat is a musical projection into a reality where I am homeless, alone, and nullifying myself through drug addiction. I wrote it during a stark period where each day I faced decisions that would move me nearer or farther from that fate. For the three minutes and forty seconds it takes to sing this song, I’m in that future. I feel its truth in my throat, in my fingers, and in my blood.
There is a fragile filament separating my life from those of the people sleeping on the cold concrete that I walk each morning. That knowledge is useful. It keeps me connected to our shared humanity and the truth of our time together on earth.
What’s the funniest thing that happened with this song?
Brick. Shortly after I met someone who I would later fall in love with, she sent me a video after she’d been out drinking all night with her friends sitting on cinderblock wall in front of a Brooklyn brownstone, singing the song at the top of her lungs except she was singing it as $3 coat and inflation wasn’t even that bad then. It became a running joke between us.
Have you ever been homeless?
Brick. No, fortunately. I’ve been close. I could see it happening, for a couple of reasons. One is that although whether through my body as a carpenter or laborer or through my mind as a writer I’ve always been able to make a living. But I’m also really fucking bad at managing that money so I’ve been in very dire straits before but the ability to earn some money has often saved me.
The second reason is that I have battled addiction of various kinds in the past, and I could see those addictions leading me to a place that would include losing everything materially and probably losing and alienating the people who would otherwise be there for me luckily, I got that under control, since my late 30s.
Have you ever worn a $2 coat?
Brick. I’ve worn free coats. At one point in my life I was really into what is now cool vintage clothing but then it was just smelly dead person’s clothes that were sold by a charity. I was desperate to create an identity for myself. Sometimes I wore an old man’s three quarter length overcoat, then it was Army surplus stuff, then it was an oilskin duster while I lived in a fancy ski town—I think I chose it because it was opposite of the $2500 European ski suits everyone else was wearing.
Where was the release recorded and who was involved in its production?
Two Dollar Coat was recorded by and produced by Brick Blair and Robert Farren at RFL Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Brick and Rob have been working together since 2016.
The pair were in the middle of tracking songs for what was then imagined as a full-length album when Rob moved his studio in a large industrial Brooklyn loft. The space required acoustic treatment in the form of large sound absorbing and reflecting panels. Brick has a background in carpentry so he offered to build these pieces in his brownstone workshop for Rob. In exchange, Rob offered to record and produce a separate batch of songs for an EP. The EP would focus on newly-written songs produced in a more stripped-down style, and that gave birth to Two Dollar Coat.
Two Dollar Coat was recorded live with close miking on the vocal and multiple mics on the acoustic guitar. They recorded nearly thirty takes until they were satisfied that they had captured the intention and emotion of the song.
“When we started working together, I felt self conscious recording intricate parts under pressure in the studio. I use a lot of different instruments to compose but only perform with guitar. But, in my studio, with unlimited time and takes, anything is possible.
“Rob helped me build out my project studio so that the sonic quality of what I tracked and produced there could slip right into his workflow. I already had a decent studio but I got rid of some crap and added some analog pieces. I learned so much from him through the process, and went deep into the recording rabbit hole.
“I ended up building a self-contained, standing songwriting workstation that incorporates several vintage and modular synthesizers, half a dozen vintage amps, and several vintage and analog outboard color and effects pieces, which are all wired into a central patch bay that lets me connect anything to anything in seconds. This means I can truly use the studio as a songwriting and production tool.
Is the song a single or part of a larger work?
Brick. I have an album and an EP finished, mastered, and ready to release. The album is called Unreleased and is focused on songs that I wrote over the past 15 years and just could not get out of my head. The album is a full production that some have called, “Radiohead meets Sturgill Simpson.” The EP is called Widow & Orphan control is more stripped down.
Two Dollar Coat is from the EP and I was released as a single. Because of the way music is marketed and heard these days, I am not sure if I am ultimately going to release the songs as an album or EP. I may continue to release them as singles and when the final song is released, package them together.
Describe anything notable or amusing about the recording and production of the release.
“Almost all my gear is from charity shops and estate sales,” said Brick. “I rebuild it then write and record with it. Some pieces I keep and others I sell through a side business I have with my kids. The acoustic guitar is an early 70s Japanese Epiphone dreadnought I bought several years ago at a charity shop (Goodwill) and kept.”
About the cover image
Brick. The cover image is a video still of a video I shot in Brooklyn during our last big snowstorm. I walked through the blizzard singing along to the song playing from an old iPhone in my pocket. It was so cold that the iPhone playing the track died about halfway through so I just sung the rest of the song acapella from memory.
When I later went to line up the video with the track, I was surprised at how close I was. It reminded me that Two Dollar Coat is a rare song of mine that I can always sing and play from memory, and as a result, have played it hundreds of times for myself, for friends and lovers, and for audiences.
- Acoustic guitar and vocals – Brick Blair
- Lyrics and music – Brick Blair
- Produced by Brick Blair and Robert Farren
- Engineered by Robert Farren
- Mastered by Michele Mancini at Demifuge Mastering in Los Angeles, CA.