Get Familiar: Braille

Get Familiar: BrailleFresh off the recent release of his newest effort, Native Lungs, Portland’s Braille has been making noise in the North West for over a decade. Although it’s only recently begun to establish itself a burgeoning rap mecca, the northern Pacific coast has housed artists like Braille for a long time and although considerable attention is focused on Seattle, it’s sister city to the south generally gets overlooked. Nevertheless, Braille and his Humble Beast affiliates have been holding it down for P-Town since the good ol’ days. Get familiar, homie.

Name: Bryan “Braille” Winchester

Age: 30

Hometown: Portland, OR

Label/Group affiliations: Humble Beast, Hiphop IS Music, Lightheaded

Discography: 7 solo records. Working backwards:

2011: Native Lungs (www.nativelungs.com)
2010: Weapon Aid
2009: CloudNineteen (produced entirely by S1
2008: The IV Edition
2006: Box of Rhymes
2004: Shades of Grey
1999: Lifefirst: Half the Battle

Plus many collaborations, two group albums with Lightheaded.

How did you get started making music?

I started writing rhymes when I was 14. I think I was always a writer at heart, so I just kept writing rhymes even when I didn’t have any producers or studios to work at. Once I got access to a few smaller studios — recording on 4 tracks, digital 8 tracks – then I just couldn’t stop.

I figured as long as there were opportunities to continue making music, I would follow through with those opportunities. The door has remained open to continue growing, building and so forth… so I’ve just continued. Been doing music full time for about 11 years now.

If you could do something over again in your life, would you? What would it be and why?

Well, I’m far from perfect and I’ve sinned (first and foremost) against God – so there are a lot of things I’d do differently if I was able. But the good news is, God has been gracious to me. He’s restored and redeemed my life through the saving work of Jesus Christ. So really I don’t look back and think about the “coulda, woulda, shouldas”… I’m just amazed that God has brought me this far. I’ve learned, I’ve grown and ultimately saw my need for Jesus because of all my sins, mistakes, challenges and so forth. All of it… the good, the bad and the ugly has brought me to this moment – so I’m just thankful to be living under God’s grace and pushing forward.

Pardon my ignorance, but do you consider yourself a Christian or religious rapper?

I’m definitely a Christian, it defines me more then anything else. I’m not sure if it’s necessary to label artists by their religious affiliations or beliefs but I never shy away from being called a “Christian rapper”. Ultimately every artist has some sort of belief, philosophy or world view they are pushing through their music. We don’t always identify it as such, but what artists talk about in their songs, how they talk about it – it’s all infused with what they do (or what they don’t) believe. It’s up to the audience if they want to make the distinction. As an artist, I write from my heart, gut and soul. So what’s inside of me is what comes out, and as an artist I strive to let it come out skillfully and creatively according to my abilities.

Resurrect Me from Humble Beast Records on Vimeo.

Tell us about a great music memory that you’ve had.

I have so many memories. I’ve been blessed to travel the world. Do shows in Japan, Australia, Brazil, Europe, all over the U.S. and Canada. It’s hard to single out memories but some of the most memorable times were unexpected. Like, small shows where the turn out wasn’t what I expected but the show ended up being amazing. The friends I’ve made through the years in music, just clowning with my friends, fellowshipping after shows – it’s hard to single out one moment but it’s all really significant.

What’s in the future for you, short and long term?

Right now I’m the co-owner of a label called Humble Beast. You can check us out at www.humblebeast.com. Aside from putting out music, we are also doing some books, short videos and all kinds of stuff. So that will be keeping me busy for awhile. I plan to promote Native Lungs as hard as I can for the next 6 months or a year but I’m already anxious to continue making new music. It’s just in my blood… I like to create. I have a daughter, she’s 4. So I’ve got a lot to look forward to, just watching her grow and fathering her to the best of my ability. I hope to have some more kids as well – so I’m looking forward to that.

How do you think having a daughter has influenced your work as an artist?

I have less time. {Laughs} That’s for sure. Fatherhood is extremely important to me. So I travel less, stay up late less, go out to shows less. But, on the same token – I’ve grown so much as a man. So even though I spent less time working on music, I’m more intentional with my time. My daughter has traveled all over with me. She’s been to 40 different states. While she was 3 she would perform on stage with me. She’s in school now so I’m just adjusting as each stage comes.

What should people know about Humble Beast?

We are a record label out of Portland, OR. We also publish books and do a lot of video content. All of our music releases are available for free download at www.humblebeast.com, but people can also purchase physical copies or support via digital outlets like iTunes. Our current roster includes myself, Odd Thomas, Propaganda, Theory Hazit, Xperiment, Alert and Foreknown. We update the website regularly so it’s easy to poke around there and get a feel for who we are and what we do.

Any plans to tour in the near future?

Over the last 3 years I’ve been doing more spot dates then tours. So I’ll fly out to another city (sometimes another country) and rock a few shows, then come back home. My daughter’s in school so I’m determined not to be away for months at a time. I love performing though, I still travel frequently and probably rock 6 to 8 times per month. Right now I have a pretty bad hernia, so I’m just trying to finish up all the shows I already have booked and then I need to get a surgery. Hopefully, in November. Once I heal up from that I want to hit the road heavy again at some point.

Download Braille’s new album, Native Lungs for free from www.NativeLungs.com. Also, be sure to follow him on Twitter.

Braille: Feel It (Music Video) from Humble Beast Records on Vimeo.

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