For years, Brandon Foote had been known as a collaborator, a singer, songwriter and an accomplished mandolin player, having spent time playing with the nowdefunct bluegrass group Hot-Toe-Mitty, and being one-half of earthy folk duo Bates and Foote. Though constantly growing as a performer and songwriter, he rarely had the opportunity to achieve a truly unique vision.
All that changed last year when Foote began to collaborate on both a new project and a new life, by marrying his girlfriend, Bethany, an English-born pianist.
“Other projects I’ve done have been more of a collaborative (thing)," Foote said. "This is still collaborative, but the songwriting and kind of the visions of things are coming from my heart.”
Foote has dubbed this vision Gifts or Creatures, and after a full year of songwriting, rehearsals and an artist’s retreat, he and Bethany are ready to unveil their fruits of labor: an album called “Pilot House.”
“This is the first project that Bethany and I did together,” Foote said. “Some people think ‘pilot’ means the first episode, but more of it is actually our vision together. We are kind of the creators that are driving the boat or the vessel, if you will.”
Foote gives a lot of credit to his wife for picking up the songs and the recording process so quickly, despite having never played in a real band before the formation of Gifts or Creatures.
A piano and guitar-based lineup drives Gifts or Creatures, which is a stark departure from the mandolin-centric music Foote had been creating in the past. It’s a change that was born from necessity more than anything else.
“So much of it was that Bethany played piano, and piano and guitar sound a lot better to my ear than mandolin and piano,” said Foote, who explained that he has only been focusing on playing and writing for guitar for about a year and half. “Songwriting is definitely a process, the more you do it the better you get at it.”
Foote credits an “emerging musical residency” the duo received through Bellaire’s Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design as an integral source of inspiration and creativity.
Foote said ISLAND represents “the idea that people in our world and in our society don’t get time to just focus on their art. And that’s what their all about: giving time to people who deserve it to work on their art.”
The duo came away from the residency refreshed, relaxed and ready to showcase their creation. This includes putting together a six-piece band, which they will unveil at their CD release party Saturday at (SCENE) Metrospace. The show “will definitely be fun, they’re all super-talented people,” Foote said of the group, which includes a Ph.D student, a classical guitar teacher and a musical composition major.
Even so, the songs being performed are still very much Foote’s. “It’s a Brandon record more than anything,” he said.