To Brett Hendrix, anything worth having is worth the struggle. And he knows a lot about that. Picking up a guitar at the age of 9 and playing shows since he was 14, Hendrix’s drive and professionalism has helped him carve out a name for himself locally and beyond.
Just returning from a stint at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota and a year-long nationwide tour playing alongside Casey Donahew, we sat down with Hendrix recently and talked about his path, his drive and what the future looks like for him.
It’s his drive, he says, that has gotten him this far — and his refusal to have a backup plan.
“There’s a grind that goes with this,” Hendrix said. “Whether you’re playing a sport or working out or you’re being a writer or a businessman trying to get that next promotion or you’re musicians, you have to constantly have this drive, and if it goes away, you’ve lost. And if you have a backup plan, you’ve lost. Either you’re all in — or you’re not.”
Hendrix went to school for business and even worked a typical job for a while but decided that wasn’t the path he wanted to take and committed himself entirely to music.
“Now I found out how to make a living doing it, and it’s definitely a struggle,” he said. “But is it worth it? Yeah.”
Hendrix is so committed that about a year and a half ago he went on a national tour by himself. And by himself means just that — the entire thing from booking to road crew to driving and, of course, performing was him and only him.
It was 60 days, 52 shows, traveling 18,000 miles over about 32 states and playing in 28 of those. Hendrix said it had some unintended consequences, though.
“It was literally me and my jeep,” Hendrix said. “I drove, I managed it, I obviously played my shows. Problem was, it burned me out. So, I got back from that tour, and I hadn’t booked any full band shows, I had barely booked any shows for me because I thought that tour was just it.”
But in the midst of that something else occurred to him. Doing the job of a sideman offered him the opportunity to have a steady paycheck and continue doing what he loves.
That realization led to the year-long gig with Casey Donahew, doing everything from backup vocals to rhythm guitar to mandolin and the banjo. And now he is working with Chancey Williams, an up-and-coming country music singer-songwriter out of Wyoming (the land of Chris LeDoux).
“Doing the sideman thing is so much more relaxing to me because when I do my solo or trio thing, I have to worry about singing the part, engaging the crowd, playing guitar (lead and rhythm) and then I have to worry about the business side of it,” Hendrix said. “There is so much weight that goes on my shoulders versus when you’re a part of a band and you have one part you have to worry about. I love them both because its two completely different feelings.”
While he loves his sideman gig, Hendrix is also driven to continue making his own music and plans to release an album by the end of 2020.
What lies ahead?
New music on the horizon
“My future in general is kind of a mixture of things. I’m gonna keep playing with Chancey as long as I can, doing the sideman thing, because I enjoy doing it,” Hendrix said. “By the end of next year, I plan to have out hopefully 8-10 new songs of my stuff.”
Hendrix said it is not going to be what people are used to hearing from him. Hint: the cowboy hat might just be a thing of the past.
“It’s going to be a different sound. I grew up playing the blues, and everybody has known me as the country guy, I guess,” he said. “I’ve never known what to classify myself as.”