Washington, D.C. is a city internationally known as being the hub of American politics as opposed to it being the home of Country music but the home-grown Morrison Brothers Band has made D.C. their Nashville. Seven years ago, the current lineup of D.C.’s own Southern Rock band was set and now they’re headlining the 9:30 Club for the second time on Friday, July 11.
As their moniker points out, The Morrison Brothers Band does actually consist of two sets of brothers from D.C. including lead vocalist Willie Morrison and his older brother/guitar player Truman as well as drummer Matt Nolan and his younger brother/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Nolan. Then, to round out the group, there’s multi-instrumentalist Dave Benson and vocals from Alyson Gilbert.
Willie and Truman were college students away from home in Los Angeles at the same time when they originally started the band. They even ended up playing the group’s first show at the infamous Roxy. Upon graduation, Truman moved back to D.C. and started the migration of the band from California to its current D.C. home. During that summer, Willie and his big brother were introduced to drummer Matt Nolan (who was attending school in New Orleans) out of necessity and he seemingly passed the audition to fill a much needed void before casually mentioning that he knew a bass player and would bring him next time. That bass player ended up being Matt’s 12-year-old brother Kevin.
When asked what drew him to the initial meet-up and eventual collaboration as a band member, Matt said, “I knew the attraction immediately to playing with Willie and Truman was like, ‘Wow, this is my first opportunity to play with people that are actually writing songs, [and] good ones at that.’”
The Morrison Brothers Band spent a majority of their formative D.C. years rehearsing more than they played live. Their big breakout gig was in the summer of 2009 when they headlined and sold out The Birchmere in Alexandria, Va. “I guess the tone of everything sort of changed at that point,” Matt said. “At first it was a Summer thing [but] then, after [The Birchmere show] it kind of became a 365 thing, another year after that it became a touring thing, and now we [want to] go all those different directions as thoroughly as we can.”
The good news is, the guys are well on their way to that.
Within the past year alone, the band has opened for Country legend Merle Haggard as well as Country stars Frankie Ballard and Maggie Rose and have found success among those diverse crowds of fans. At the Merle show and even Frankie’s, the band observed that it was a mostly over 50 crowd. But when it comes to shows like the ones they play at the 9:30 Club and subsequent equivalents, it’s an under 50 crowd turning up to rock live. They’ve got a diverse appeal and are grateful for the support.
For example – when they opened for Frankie Ballard, a mother of two young girls approached the band after the show and said, “You know, I brought my two daughters out to see Frankie and I loved the way you guys played, you reminded me so much of Little Feat.” That comment in and of itself pretty much made Matt and the band’s life that much better. Why? While the band’s a huge fan of Little Feat, Matt admitted that Little Feat has been his “favorite band with no exceptions basically forever.” The fact that somebody could hear that influence in their music just knocked him over.
In just seven years together, the band has worked to co-write all of their material as a group with each member spearheading their own song projects. As a result of that hard work, the tunes have a commercial appeal that leaves listeners feeling reminiscent of groups like the Zac Brown Band (who just happens to be a band The Morrison Brothers crew would love to play a show with one day). Their tracks have found airplay on D.C.’s Country station WMZQ and has are even in rotation at smaller stations in the South and Midwest.
“I think we’re really coming into ourselves and people are starting to recognize that,” Willie Morrison said.
What’s next for The Morrison Brothers Band after their celebratory 9:30 Club show on Friday? Two shows in Dewey Beach, Delaware and then it’s off to the recording studio in Beltsville, Maryland to lay down 2-3 tracks for their next EP.
“We just want to get to a place where we can be touring more,” Willie said. “We don’t get to tour as much as I think we’d all like to.” That’s a definite goal for the band moving forward and releasing more material is part of how they’d like to go about it. Travel from city to city and town to town and make new fans as much as they can, that’s the plan.