“trying to glimpse the bigger picture” : A Conversation With Artist Bradford Trojan

Musician Bradford Trojan locks into classic vibes in his music. Lo fi pop, garage-y psych, and classic rock vibes emanate from his songs. Bits of Beatles, Beach Boys, Tom Petty, and early 90s college rock haunt his songs. Sepia-toned melodies make Trojan’s output feel more like some newly discovered artist from the early 70s that’s only now getting their due.

Recently Bradford Trojan released his newest record, Meanwhile. It was written and recorded with Trojan’s old college buddy Scott McMicken from Dr. Dog. The two both reside in Tuscon, AZ and took three years to casually write and record this lovely slice of analog pop gold. It’s a gorgeous, catchy album that while is reminiscent of McMicken’s main gig, Trojan has made something very much his own in collaboration with McMicken.

I recently sat down and discussed the album with Trojan, as well as his early years. We talked growing up in Haddonfield, New Jersey, piano lessons, Nirvana’s In Utero, and playing surf music at an elementary school fair. Check out our talk below.

J. Hubner: So where did you grow up?

Bradford Trojan: Haddonfield, New Jersey. It is right outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is where they discovered the Hadrosaurus, the first intact dinosaur in the whole world.

J. Hubner: I grew with uncles that played guitar, and while my mom and dad weren’t musical there was always music playing in the house. Was music always a part of your life? 

Bradford Trojan: My mom played acoustic guitar when I was younger. It’s actually the same acoustic guitar that I learned to play on. An old Takamine from the 60s. There was always music around that my parents liked, like the music from Woodstock. I remember their cool old record player stereo that I would play with. My first real memory of when music became a part of my life was carrying around my Fisher-Price cassette player listening to oldies music from the 50s and 60s that I had dubbed onto cassette from the oldies radio station in Philadelphia.

J. Hubner: Do you remember the first album you bought with your own money? Was it vinyl? Cassette? CD? 8-track? Mini-Disc?

Bradford Trojan: I’m not sure this was the first one I bought with my own money but my first memory was buying Nirvana‘s “in utero” on cassette. I listened to that on my Walkman so much. It was freaking awesome.

J. Hubner: When did you start to play an instrument? What did you start playing first? 

Bradford Trojan: I started playing music when I was in elementary school taking piano lessons from a friend’s mom. I was really into oldies music, and still am,  and had a piano book that I remember learning a lot of some of the early oldies hits like  “Runaround Sue” and some Elvis songs.

J. Hubner: Do you remember the name of your first band? What did you guys play? 

Bradford Trojan: My first band was called “the Kahunas“ it was a surf inspired  band that I did with my 2 friends.  We played live at an elementary school fair in our town and didn’t play any shows after that as that band.  I have a VHS recording of it and it sounded kind of cool.

J. Hubner: You seem to have had a thru-line with your music from your self-titled in 2014 to now of lo-fi, melody-driven pop. Bits of mid to late 60s pop, psychedelic rock, and college rock from the late 80s and early 90s. Who are some artists that have informed your writing style over the years? 

Bradford Trojan: I like that diversity of timelines! I think it actually sums it all up. I’ll start off with the Beatles.  I remember some friends and I having the big white song book of every Beatles songs in college and trying to go through and learn them all. They are deceptively complex songs. In my late 20s a big stand out was the Kinks; mainly Village Green, Something Else, and Arthur.  Weezer’s first three albums: At one point in time in college I would listen to Pinkerton everyday for months on cassette in my friend’s old hatchback. Some other notable ones thru the years are The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Elvis Costello, and Tom Petty.

J. Hubner: What is your writing process like? Does music come first, then lyrics? Lyrics then music? Do you write on guitar or piano? What inspires your writing? 

Bradford Trojan: I usually have a melody first. I’ll either start it off on acoustic guitar and sometimes piano. For me lyrics are usually a little more work to write. In the olden days I would write about  love lost, break ups, lust-filled romance, etc… that is what normally inspired my writing. And nowadays I find inspiration in just quieting down and reflecting on my and other’s life experiences and trying to glimpse the bigger picture.

J. Hubner: Let’s talk about your newest album ‘Meanwhile’. First, you wrote and recorded the album with Scott McMicken of Dr. Dog. How long have you known Scott?

Bradford Trojan: Me and Scott met in college in West Chester, Pennsylvania 1998. Long ago in a college town far away! We ended up playing in a group together at the time and spent years collaborating on and off.

J. Hubner: How did the album come together? You two both live in Tuscon now. Was it a pretty casual situation that eventually developed into a whole record? 

Bradford Trojan: It was indeed casual. It had been such a long time since we had both lived in the same city. We got together and started writing and recording. Hanging out as old friends do and having a really good time. One thing led to another and poof! A record was born.  After a couple songs I think we knew we were going to be creating an album together. All the while though it was very relaxed and a pressure free environment. Mainly because we didn’t really have to have it done in any time frame.  It took three years to do so.

J. Hubner: Tell me about Tuscon. What do you like about the southwest? 

Bradford Trojan: I like the vast open spaces of the Southwest. I think the landscape is very magical. I moved out here 17 years ago and like the slower pace of life. Plus it’s where they filmed Revenge of the Nerds!

J. Hubner: When it comes to writing and recording, do you prefer working alone in the studio or collaborating? I’m sure it’s great to work with someone like Scott. Are there advantages and disadvantages to both? 

Bradford Trojan: I really like collaboration. I think I am someone who feeds off of another person’s energy and by nature I’m very social. This album was interesting because we wrote lyrics on a bunch of the songs together. I normally don’t do that. It was a really awesome experience and because we have such a long history together, I think that’s what made it easier to do.   And as far as the production goes I am really blown away by Scott’s level of recording mastery.  The album was completely done using analog gear so there were no computers used at all during the process except the mastering. Scott captured so many amazing sounds during the course of recording the album.  He also really pushed me to give better performances of the songs that I don’t think I would have done without him there.

J. Hubner: How have you been handling these last few months of quarantine and isolating? Have you been writing and recording new music? What are you doing to keep sane? Reading books? Watching films? 

Bradford Trojan: I have been pretty busy watching my little 2 1/2-year-old and  enjoying the time I am getting with her albeit a lot of energy expenditure. Other than that I have been enjoying the slower pace of life and connecting with some old friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I have been writing a little bit, more acoustic songs. I have been taking some online Live improv classes with Upright Citizens Brigade as a part of my other life in my acting career. And watching a lot more movies than usual.  Also trying to be outside whenever I can in nature or just walking or riding a bike.

J. Hubner: Besides playing live, what do you miss most about the pre-COVID world? 

Bradford Trojan: I just miss going out casually to see friends for lunch or a movie. Social engagement is so important for us as humans and I hope I never take it for granted again. We have been fortunate enough to socially distance hang out with friends and that fills some of the void left from being more isolated.

J. Hubner: What’s next for Bradford Trojan? 

Bradford Trojan: Right before we went into quarantine I was starring in a local Indie feature film and we had to halt production on it. So whenever things are safe enough again, we will finish filming that. I only had like one or two scenes left to film! Musically, I am toying around with the idea of doing an acoustic album.  We’ll see what happens. Hopefully at some point when venues open back up we will do a proper record release show in Tucson and maybe some other spots.  And mainly I am just trying to be the best father I can be.

Bradford Trojan’s ‘Meanwhile’ is out now. Buy it here. 

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