By Rick Coates
It was just two years ago this weekend that musicians from all over Northern Michigan were gathering at Union Street Station to jam. The reason was a benefit for fellow musician Jason Kott.
In late July of 2009, Kott, who was 34 at the time and a popular bass player and musician on the Northern Michigan scene, was headed home to Traverse City from Petoskey the day after a gig when another car turned head on into him. The accident was serious, breaking his ankle, eight ribs and two vertebrae.
Lucky just to survive, Kott, a full time professional musician, was forced to cancel a full slate of paying gigs for the rest of the year. In addition to his solo work Kott was a member of Brent James and The Contraband and they were scheduled to go into the studio.
We had been working so hard to get our big break and then I break myself up and there was no way I was going to let this opportunity pass by, said Kott. I toughed it out and was far from being healed and went to Nashville to record the record.
The fruits of that labor have paid off as their debut album Moments of Silence was released to stores and itunes two weeks ago and their first single, the title track of the CD, hit radio stations this week.
Now Kott will retrace his travels from two years ago as Brent James and The Contraband will perform Thursday and Friday night at Union Street Station in Traverse City. On Saturday they will headline the Festival by the Bay in Petoskey.
I am not sure they will let me drive the van, said Kott. We are excited about coming home as we have been out touring with Alice Cooper and we did all the west coast dates with Ted Nugent earlier this summer.
Kott grew up in Traverse City where he was active in music at TC Senior High School. After graduating in 1993 he headed off to Albion where he majored in classical voice. He returned to Traverse City where he has spent the past 14 years performing solo and as part of several bands from Dawn Campbell to Ron Getz and even a stint with The Bihlman Bros., among others.
I am still doing the occasional solo gig around here but I have now put all my eggs in this basket, said Kott. And for good reason, Brent is an exceptional singer and guitar player plus we have Mike P on guitars and Matt Hayes who is also from Traverse City on drums and both of those guys are awesome.
Brent James and The Contraband are made in Michigan and proud of it.
Well I am basically living out of the back of my van right now, said James. We are all from Michigan and right now I live in Cincinnati because my wife has a real good job there and it is close to Nashville, but we consider ourselves a Michigan band and we plan to represent this state well out there in rock and roll land.
There has been early praise from critics for Moments of Silence and the band contributes that to the team they have in place.
It is all about having a good team working with you. The best bands in the world have fallen apart because of poor management or other aspects of their team not being top notch. We have prided ourselves in putting together a quality team, said James. What this also does is enable us as the artist to focus on our jobs of creating and performing the music and not worrying about management, PR or business issues. Kott agrees.
It also helps that as a band we all get along with each other, said Kott. I think by having professionals in place at every aspect of our operation that has eliminated most of the stress for us, and makes it easier to get along and focus our creativity on the music.
One of those key team members is Skidd Mills, their producer. Mills is a fixture on the Nashville scene and has won several Grammys most recently for producing and co-writing the Saving Abel smash hit Addicted.
There is no question having Skidd in our camp is major. So many people have listened to our stuff that might not have otherwise, said James. People assume if Skidd is involved that it is going to be good, bottom line is Skidd gives our band legitimacy in the eyes of the music industry. We had so many label offers and we turned them down because they didnt feel right but when we sat down with Skidd we knew being with his label was home for us.
Looks like some more good ol boys from Northern Michigan (okay James and Mike P are from the Saginaw area but they are adopted Northern Michiganders) are going to make the big time.
Catch Brent James and The Contraband August 18 & 19 at Union Street Station in Traverse City and Saturday August 20 at the Festival by the Bay in Petoskey. Listen to samples of their new album on iTunes; info: www.brentjamesmusic.com