We had the chance to interview Brooklyn songwriter, Dru Cuter . Check out our interview with Dru about his music, new single “Familiar,” and Unit J.
upfrontNY: When did you develop a passion for music?
Dru Cutler: I remember very clearly. On one side of the cheaply lit community room was a pack of guys that were my age. In my baggy jeans and itchy flannel shirt, I listened to the group discuss how cool life would be once we finally graduated 8th grade.
On the other side of the room, an ocean between us, stood a group of girls. Many of them were taller than us, more confident and terrifying to talk to. This was life when I was 11yrs old. Guys and girls didn’t dare speak to one another.
Then something sparked. The birthday party had hired a couple of long haired college dudes to play acoustic guitar while grandma cut the cake. The group announced themselves as “Big Sandy” and kicked into a set of popular rock tunes (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Weezer).
I watched the giant group of girls run towards the small stage and sing along with the live music. It was like magic.I wanted to be a songwriter. I bought an electric guitar from a pawn shop the very next day.
upfrontNY: Who were your musical inspirations growing up?
Dru Cutler: My parents divorced when I was in my early teens, so I had a great deal of angst to let out. I was drawn to punk rock for it’s visceral nature. Loved it.
Bands like Rancid, Ramones, NOFX, and Bigwig really inspired me because it was more about the “feeling” than the “playing”. It wasn’t show-off-guitar-solo music. I hated that.
Also, I was drawn to the do it yourself (DIY) enthusiasm of the punk rock community. You don’t have a guitar? Fuck it. Borrow one. You don’t have a label? Fuck it. Start one. Learn by doing. Most impartially, just start doing it. I loved that then. Still do.
Why else would I call myself a songwriter and move to an abandoned warehouse in the middle of Bushwick?
upfrontNY: Has the style of music you listen to or play changed over time?
Dru Cutler: Artists should always listen to their inner callings. What’s driving them to create? What’s stopping them? What’s inspiring them? Taste evolves.
I’ve been into simpler songs lately. Meaning, it’s just as difficult to write a tune with three chords as it is to write a tune with thirty chords. More complex doesn’t equal more better.
I’ve found a few tunes by Beck and Bjork that have basically one chord, yet they still resonate. That’s cool right? They’re fantastic songwriters.
upfrontNY: How would you describe your music?
Dru Cutler: I’m fascinated by nostalgia. I write songs and tell stories that serve as placeholders for folks to embrace their own memories. You’ll hear classic rock influences (Pink Floyd, The Beatles), but what I really hope you hear is the sound of a place you once knew or a memory that you once had. It’s my job as a songwriter to connect.
upfrontNY: Can you tell us about your song Familiar?
Dru Cutler: I was sitting on my white wooden porch in Ybor City, Florida waiting for the sun to melt into the bay. The two lonely ice cubes in my coffee were on opposite sides of the plastic cup, much like my life. I was at a crossroads. My relationship was fading because my gal took a gig on a cruise ship and vanished for eight months. Ugh. I threw out the rest of my watered down coffee and headed into the air conditioning. That moment, I decided to move to New York and I wrote the song “Familiar” in about 30min.
“While I’m with the wind
I see your face again and again
The corder store, the pub, the nursery
Nostalgia shits like dust on everything”
Have you ever walked by a brick building that was once your favorite restaurant? Passed a cafe where you once went on a first date? Is there a smell that reminds you of your mother’s cooking? Nostalgia is everywhere. The song “Familiar” is about embracing it, even when it’s difficult to do.
upfrontNY: How did Unit J get started?
Dru Cutler: I wont lie. It was a painful journey.
We had a long sting of roomies (including a crazy european bike messenger who refused to eat anything but eggs, cheese or frozen beef) but I ultimately found a stable mix of film makers, musicians and actors to work and live in the space. We’re a collective of artists that got a little exhausted with trying to break into the established Brooklyn scene, so we said, “Fuck it, let’s start our own scene.”
Unit J is a live music venue, a recording space, a shoot space and a record label. We also have a cute dog named Maya.
upfrontNY: If you could see any of your favorite musicians play at Unit J who would it be ?
Dru Cutler: Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) @JeffTweedy – Intimate solo acoustic show
Nels Cline (Guitarist) @nelscline – Psychedelic jazz-fusion show
Steven Drozd (of the Flaming Lips) @stevendrozd – Anything he wants to do
Ryan Adams @TheRyanAdams – Some Taylor Swift tunes from 1989
Quest Love (of The Roots) @questlove – A private dance party
-New York City-
Number 1 favorite thing about New York City – NYC has moods. Sometimes it hugs you, sometimes it spits at you. The energy is real. I’ve never lived in a city with so much personality.
Favorite Music Venue- The Living Room (NYC/Brooklyn) @livingroomny – Now deceased.
Rockwood Music Hall @RockwoodNYC – (I’m playing there on 5/19)
House of YES (Bushwick) – Houseofyes.org
Favorite season in NYC- Fall. October. When you can wear a blazer, but not an overcoat.
Favorite restaurant in NYC- LUKSUS is my favorite spot in Brooklyn. You sit so close to the chefs hat you can see the care they put into each dish. Amazing. http://www.luksusnyc.com/
* Familiar Music Video Credit:
Song and lyrics by: Dru Cutler
Directed by: Jaclyn Gramigna
Shot by: Pete O’Hare and Vlad Weinstein
Edited by: Danush Parvaneh
Color Correction by: Ranju Maju