Good Brother Earl brings unconventional sound to Diesel

By Larissa Gula

Larissa Gula

Staff Writer

Good Brother Earl

Dec. 12

6:30 p.m.


$10 (includes new… Larissa Gula

Staff Writer

Good Brother Earl

Dec. 12

6:30 p.m.


$10 (includes new album Fiction)

(412) 431-8800

Good Brother Earl is a band with a weird name that doesn’t mean anything, yet it has a distinctive sound formed by a collection of rock, blues, country and pop influences.

It’s an unconventional sound for an unconventionally named band, but this gives Good Brother Earl an edge and more room to experiment. Apparently, the Steel City has the ability to produce an eclectic variety of musicians.

“We’re mostly all Pittsburghers,” Jeff Schmutz, the band’s acoustic guitar player and vocalist, said. He described the band’s journey to spread its name as a challenge that cannot be done alone.

“The local media has been extremely kind with both airplay and in support of not only us, but all local music in general,” Schmutz said. “Pittsburgh is no Los Angeles or Nashville, but it really has it’s own flavor.”

The flavor of Pittsburgh seems to include the media support — with positive coverage from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and City Paper — and fan support alike.

“The folks that see our shows regularly are fantastic,” he said. “They are all extremely supportive.”

Good Brother Earl set out in 1998 as a college band, keeping its shows within the Northeast. It has played at multiple venues in Ohio, New York, Maryland and Pittsburgh, and with the CD release party tomorrow night, the band has released three albums.

Good Brother Earl has the oddball sound and name going for it, but where did the name come from?

“The name Good Brother Earl came from one of our previous drummers,” he said. “We needed to advertise for a show and he said, ‘What about Good Brother Earl?’ The name just ended up sticking.”

With a name chosen, the band went on to develop its sound and try to record albums without being signed to a record label.

“Although with the advances in recording technology, it has gotten much easier [to record albums],” Schmutz said, “Skip Sanders, our keyboard player, has a studio in his house, which … is great because you don’t have to worry about time constraints. We get to be creative and stress free while we record.”

“Ultimately, I think we’d love to be on a label, because you get to reap the benefits of all the publicity and advertising they offer,” Schmutz said about record labels. “I will say, though, that being able to have the creative freedom of an independent label is very nice. As an independent, we are solely responsible for how the record sounds and what songs appear on it.”

After 11 years, Good Brother Earl has come to enjoy both the hardships of recording and the adrenaline of live performance.

“Recording allows you to put your song and performance under a microscope and shape it and really mold it into something you like,” he said. “It’s more creative. Playing live is great too, though. It’s all about the energy of the music, and the five of us all playing our parts cohesively to make the performance something people can get into.”

Behind the scenes, the band members’ musical tastes are very broad — part of the reason the band’s sound itself is very eclectic. Schmutz named Led Zeppelin, Dave Matthews, U2 and some classical and jazz music as some of the musicians’ favorite artists.

It created a sound so different that categorization isn’t possible.

“We’ve always had a difficult time in trying to classify ourselves,” said Schmutz, “I think that fact that we enjoy so many different styles definitely comes out in our music.”

Good Brother Earl believes it has found a substantial fanbase in Pittsburgh, and next, it wouldn’t mind winning over other cities.

“Ultimately, we’d like to be on a national level, getting radio airplay, touring around the country,” Schmutz said. “But for right now, our local fans and the support we’re received from the local media has been fantastic.”