After six months of jumping between living in a Ford Focus, a Virginia hippie farm, and on one occassion, even at a communist cocktail waitress' gun-filled abode in Bloomington, Indiana, he's back – for now, anyway. Darrin Bradbury and the rest of Big Wilson River are co-headlining Maxwell's in Hoboken on Saturday night.
They'll be joined by five other acts on local record label Trunk Rock Records and it's sure to get rowdy. At 8 p.m., Big Wilson River, Nude Dudes, People In Charge, Gypsy Wig, and singer-songwriters Andrew Nieporent and Don Ryan kick off the Trunk Rock showcase. Tickets are $10 at the door.
For Bradbury, a former Ridgewood resident who considers himself a "post-modern Paul Bunyan" of sorts (sans the axe), the return to the area comes at a strange crossroads. He's equally grounded in his passion for music, but still broke and unsure where his travels will lead.
"Maybe when I was 16 the goal was to be Bright Eyes," he says with a slight laugh. "Ten years later, I would be happy being just to be able to afford a hotel room. You start out by emulating people when you're young. Then you wake up and realize you've embodied what you wanted to emulate and find yourself sitting at cafes trying to figure out what the hell you're doing and what you're going to do next."
Big Wilson River and Bradbury have received some local acclaim and have proven more than capable in filling venues with 200 bodies. But the freak-folk troupe lags behind in name recognition when stacked next to other local notables like Real Estate, Vivian Girls, Titus Andronicus.
Bradbury, as you might expect, has some mixed feelings on the matter. Now loosely rooted in Charlottesville, VA, he's a bit frustrated others have made it when the BWR collective hasn't. But he's also secure in the nomadic lifestyle of roughing it with a guitar.
"It's cyclical in that you're going to have a good year and sometimes you'll have 200 people [at the show]; and then you'll have a six month stretch where nobody cares what you do," he says. "But if you start doing music because it's about you, you're doing the wrong thing."
As for what's on the horizon, he has a half-finished record in a barn in Virginia he hopes to finish this winter. It's straight Americana in a John Pine vein, he says.
There's also a good chance he just hits the road with a bit of spare change in his pockets. It's in his blood.
"My old man once said where you are is the place to be. I may not have as much in the way of money or popular notoriety but I have a story that's completely my own and true to myself. It's a pretty unique one."
That it is.
"I come from the circus. My mother was a clown in the circus and my father was in trouble with the law in Florida," he says. "They met on a train; now I exist."
While in familiar stomping grounds – and not having to live in his car for a few days – Bradbury has high expectations for the Maxwell's show.
"Everyone should stop by," he says. "If you like to support local food and industry, you should also support local music. They're all super talented. It'll be a great show, absolutely"