Tale of a troubadour

by Jackie Renzetti

A stop at a flea market during a road trip home from a vacation in Myrtle Beach, S.C., sparked Brian Wheat’s musical career as a preteen.
“I think my parents were fed up with my sister and I, so they gave us ten bucks to go buy whatever and run around. I came back with a guitar,” Wheat said.
Since moving to Minneapolis from the Buffalo, N.Y., area four years ago, Wheat has played venues including the Cedar Cultural Center, 7th Street Entry and the
Aster Cafe.
On June 30, Wheat will host an album preview show at the Turf Club for “Way Down Below.” The event doubles as his going away party, as he will move to South Carolina the following day. After acquiring his first guitar, Wheat’s first step was to learn every Creedence Clearwater Revival song possible, he said.
Though he mostly taught himself guitar, he also took lessons for short periods of time to help master his skills. 
“My sister was a real big push for me to play out alone; she would kind of come and steal me from home. She was going to school in Buffalo and would take me to coffeehouses out there,” Wheat said. “We would go sneak in beers beforehand and get the courage to go up in front of people.” 
After playing coffeehouses throughout his teen years, Wheat played in various bands during college.
Over the years, Wheat has formed his own record label, Half Little Hold Records, and released three albums. He also has toured across the country and lived in Spain for a short period of time. Out of all his shows and travels, he cites a show at WorkAbilities, an organization that helps adults with disabilities, as his favorite.
The gig was part of the Cedar Cultural Center program, which schedules musicians to play at the center.
“I did that solo, and I was terrified because it was such different venue,” Wheat said. “I was nervous about how I was going to go off, and it turned out to be the best, most heartwarming experience. … That’s my favorite venue I’ve ever played for sure; it was so cool.”
While on tour, he played with a band of rotating members. When he moved to Minneapolis, Wheat began playing with Joe Kopel and Ryan Holweger. He also plays
guitar for Holweger’s band and sometimes collaborates with Kopel on songwriting. 
“He’s always excited to be making the music with you, which makes you excited as well,” Kopel said. “He’s just a sweet guy and human being.”
When playing for the Ryan Holweger band, Wheat invents his own guitar parts, Holweger said.
“He knows my music well enough, and he plays pretty much exactly what I’m hoping for,” Holweger said. “[In Wheat’s band], he is very technical, so he pretty much has parts figured out for everybody. I know what I’m supposed to play because he records the parts.”
Wheat claims Creedence Clearwater Revival, CAKE and Iron and Wine as key influences. Reflecting the eclectic mix, horn players from Calexico contributed to his upcoming album. 
“You and I” brings forth a solid folk rock vibe with melancholy vocals and guitar reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival. In one of the lines in the chorus, Wheat sings, “You and I are different, but we kill the same.”
“Everybody has their own things that they kill. It’s a weird notion to me. People have that commonality whether they recognize it or not,” Wheat said. “It can be an idea, a thing, a living thing.”
At his upcoming show at the Turf Club, Wheat will release two versions of the single, “You and I,” along with the title track, “Way Down Below,” as a B-side.
Wheat said that his upcoming album exemplifies the progress he aimed to make as musician.
“It’s what my vision has been. … I got what I was going for with the record,” Wheat said.