It’s a Saturday afternoon and Jackie Brown has just finished a final check on cleaning up from the previous night’s show. He unlocks the door to let in tonight’s three bands to begin load in and sound check before the crowd hits Bridgeport’s dedicated entertainment venue, Music On Main. The bands are a mix of local and touring acts that will keep crowds transfixed for three and a half hours before spilling back out onto Main Street for the trip to a late night bite or on to their homes. The bands linger as they tear down and pack up, basking in the crowd’s response and reliving the moments of the evening that stood out to them. Meanwhile, Jackie moves about, overseeing the transition back to a quiet room awaiting the next show and the next crowd to be impressed by the beautiful venue nestled in the heart of downtown.
Jackie Brown is the dreamer behind Music On Main and the instrumental metal outfit, Heliosphere. He started in elementary school in his marching band playing drums before transitioning to a three piece rock outfit in middle school that played in a friends shed playing covers of bands like Beastie Boys. That started him down the path of wanting to do music full time. Combining his passion of playing and producing led to the creation of his venue that also contains his studio. We recently sat down with Jackie to discuss all of what makes him tick and why he wanted to do what he does in his home state of West Virginia from Music on Main, which opened in October of 2021.
Jackie, thanks for sitting down with us. Why is this venue so important to you and to have it in Bridgeport?
I’ve played in a lot of different bands and sometimes a lot of the places that allow original music are not really the cleanest of venues. And the people that go to those don’t really want to hear the music they just want to go and drink and do whatever. I thought the best way to get more people involved with it was to do your own thing, do it right, have a clean venue and have it where younger kids can come in and perform. Their friends can come in and see their show. That’s the way I see it, more opportunity for a wider audience.
You put on all kinds of shows ranging from country to metal to punk to pop rock to radio rock and rap. You seem to want something from every genre while a lot of venues seem to cater to only a few genres. Why is it important for you to bring everybody in?
There’s a certain type of music for everybody. And the more people that I can get in the door that can see the venue, what we do and how we do it, the better. If I can do a blues night one night to draw that crowd in and a metal show that draws another audience the next night, I’m just reaching more people and then that will hopefully lead to them coming for the venue itself and getting exposed to something else.
In the time you’ve been open, almost two years, you’ve seen shows with full crowds and shows with no crowds. What do you think the answer is to why some do well and others don’t?
The shows that have done really well here have been some of the harder rock and metal shows. Those shows just have a natural draw to them regardless of where they are. Outside of that it’s been bands like Last Year’s Model and Hello June that have drawn crowds here.
A lot of times the mindset is that it’s all on the venue to promote the shows. Is that backwards?
Yes, obviously we promote shows, but the reason those shows were successful is that the artists promote the shows heavily. We have multiple shows happening every month. We have to cycle through those and promote all of them fairly. Artists can and should promote their shows heavily. But the venue can’t be expected to do all of the promotion, only to have a few people show up and then pay out like it was a packed show. It’s both the artist and venue working together. The venue can’t take that hit every time. So it’s on the artist and the venue to work together to promote. We use every thing we have at our disposal such as socials, our web page, personal socials and distributing flyers to local music stores. But, ultimately, the shows that do the best are the ones where the artist is heavily involved in promotion.
Music On Main also functions as a recording studio, recording a wide array of styles. What is your approach to recording? And what are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on since you’ve been open?
I have a degree in recording from Full Sail in recording but before that I would be playing around in my basement learning what did and didn’t work for me. Once, I went to school for it, I learned a lot more about it and found my niche. I would say I’m known for recording a lot of harder rock and metal projects. I’ve worked with Devil Pill, my own projects Helioshpere, and Scaretape. I’m usually known for that but I’ve been recording a lot of other projects that are softer and incorporate things like cello, so that’s been a challenge but I’ve enjoyed getting it right.
Are you choosy about who and what you record? What makes you say yes to a project?
I’m not picky. But if it’s a genre I’m new to I always try to work with the artist in an experimental phase to see if we work well together and I can produce their desired result. We will do one song and see how that goes and build on that. I don’t want to get someone stuck in something they don’t like. And I’m the same way, I don’t want to get stuck recording a project that I don’t like. Or if we aren’t agreeing on the direction of the project, I won’t be pushy but would suggest other options to work with.
Heliosphere, how did that come to be?
We started right at the end of the pandemic. A couple of us were in another project that broke up and Matt Thompson and I wanted to continue on but realized that we were headed in a different direction with what we had been writing. So we decided it was time to rebrand and came up with Heliosphere. It started with us and backing tracks to fill up the space but is now a full fledged project that includes Jacob Shingler on drums, Ryan Smith on lead and myself on rhythm. We are an instrumental progressive hard rock project. I like to create music with odd time signatures, ambient guitar and synth work, that can make you feel like you can float off to somewhere else.