Q&A: Rylan Brooks’ Chris Brooks and Nate Rylan
Meet the members of this Main Line-area country music band, which is our 2019 Critics' Choice Best New Band (Original Music) winner.
Local country music act, Rylan Brooks, is this year's Critics' Choice Best New Band (Original Music) winner. Photo by Emily Assirian.
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Collectively speaking, Rylan Brooks is a cheap date. “We’re Bud men,” says Chris Brooks, handing the beer list back to the server with a grin.
It’s a warm late-spring afternoon on the patio at Firepoint Grill, which doesn’t serve Budweiser. So Brooks and band mate Nate Rylan settle for Coors Light, and we get down to the business of discussing how they became the best original outlaw country act—heck, the only original outlaw country act—to hail from the Main Line area. Rylan grew up in Havertown, and Brooks graduated from Harriton High School. Both seem to revel in simple pleasures, honest truths and irreverent humor—much like their music does.
The timing couldn’t be better, with the music industry warming up to the hardscrabble likes of Chris Stapleton and Margo Price, who’s edgy traditionalism and emphasis on honest storytelling about real people with real struggles have earned them accolades and awards. Rylan Brooks is of the same mindset, and despite its oddball status here, kindred spirits with connections are taking notice. They’ve been championed by well-traveled old-school country rebel Dallas Moore, and they’re about to head to Nashville to record their second album with Dean Miller, son of country legend Roger Miller. Catch Rylan Brooks live at 118 North in Wayne on July 25.
MLT: Would it be wrong to call you a novelty act?
NR: Our last review talked about us doing really good satire, but it doesn’t feel that way when we’re doing it.
CR: We’re serious. We want to be the AC/DC of country music.
MLT: How did two guys from this area get turned on to country music?
CB: I grew up around a lot of it. My uncle was from South Carolina. I also went to New Mexico for a while. And I own a transportation business, so I picked up on a lot of it living on the road all the time.
NR: For me, country music was kind of rebellious because everyone around here likes rock music. There’s a lack of rebellion in this area, especially among the younger generation.
CB: Yeah, so this outlaw Waylon Jennings thing seemed like a cool counterculture thing to do.
MLT: How did Rylan Brooks get started?
NR: We were playing in rock bands together, and nothing went anywhere. Then, about two years ago, Chris came to me and said he wanted to do a full-on country record. We did a single, “Friend of the Road,” and our self-released debut, Half Wild.
CB: We had fun writing songs together, but we’d hit the wall trying to break through with all that indie-rock stuff. I’d always wanted to do country stuff, but I’d never had the balls to do it in Philadelphia.
NR: We came together around this idea that we were tired of bands. We wanted it to be a show. Rylan Brooks has scripted banter; we have six to eight guys in the band; we have a lot of humor and audience interaction. We want to entertain people.
MLT: So you’re headed to Nashville to record your second album. How did that come about?
CB: Dean Miller reached out to us after hearing our first album online.
NR: He said, “You’re doing something different, so I had to get in touch with you.”
MLT: How is the new album going to be different from the last?
CB: Half Wild was more of a trucker record. We were working for my transportation company hauling stuff all over the country, so that was the lifestyle we were living.
NR: The writing is more mature on this one. It’s just as much fun and just as humorous, but it may touch a few more hearts.