Musicians occasionally say they are “coming home” for a gig. Sometimes they mean the state where they grew up, or the town where they went to school.
When singer-songwriter John Brannen comes to Bluffton April 21 to perform at the Roasting Room, he will be half a mile from the first home he ever knew: the historic Colcock-Teel House.
It was where his mother came home to her parents after John’s father died unexpectedly, just months before Brannen was born.
It was where his got his first understanding of the power of words.
Brannen and his mother lived there with his beloved grandfather, Charles Jones Colcock. “I had such an idyllic life,” Brannen said, “just being with my grandfather.”
In 1950s Bluffton, he said, “People would come sit on the porch and have philosophical conversations” with his grandfather. “He would recite poetry, all the classics. That’s what motivated me to become a songwriter.”
By the late 1970s, Brannen had picked up a guitar and was performing his songs in clubs around the Lowcountry. “I have always done, relatively speaking, my own thing, my own music, born in rock,” he said. “I am a Southern artist, and rock is my idiom, but there have been lots of influences.”
Brannen played gigs with fellow Southerner and Hilton Head resident Jack Williams, as the John Brennan Jack Williams Band, “in the very early 80s,” he said.
Brannen left home and headed to New York City, where he had some success, eventually signing with Capitol Records. His first album was “Mystery Street,” which made it to the Top 20.
A music video of “Desolation Angel,” a single from that record, was selected by MTV as a “hip clip.”
While in New York, Brannen met Joe Walsh, of Eagles fame, and moved to Los Angeles to work with him.
With his friend and collaborator Jack Tempchin, Brannen co-wrote “Somebody,” which Glenn Frey sang on the Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden.” “It’s always a thrill when a great artist records your song,” Brannen said.
In 1993, Brannen released “John Brannen” on the Mercury Nashville label. Another single, “Moonlight and Magnolias,” became a hit and went to the Top 10 on VH1.
Shortly after that success, the label sent Brannen out on its Triple Play Tour, with Shania Twain and Toby Keith.
Brannen then went on a seven-year hiatus in Charleston, where he now lives, to spend time with family. He began recording and performing again in 2000. He said he has been gearing up for a new album, and “I’ve been writing the last few pieces of that.”
With this work, he said his goal is “capturing the current atmosphere and socio-political struggle to remain happy, healthy and move forward. The world is a rapidly changing and confusing place.”
When he comes home to Bluffton, Brannen said he will likely play his newer songs. “There’s a lot of Bluffton in this music,” he said, “to Bluffton and through Bluffton, as honestly as it can be done.”
Tickets start at $20 for general admission. Doors open at 7 p.m. with music at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit RoastingRoom Lounge.com.