They don’t call Milwaukee the “Hollywood of Southeastern Wisconsin” for nothing . We’ve got our fair share of locally born, bred, or based celebrities, and The Squeaky Curd is sitting down with them at local watering holes to talk city architecture, douchebags, Latrell Sprewell, and Milwaukee.
Fresh off his tour supporting his musical idols, the Violent Femmes, Milwaukee’s own nerd-rock king Brett Newski sat down with us at the dark and sultry Burnhearts bar, a stone’s throw from his new (quasi-permanent) Bay View home. Born locally, Brett has spent most of his adult life touring the world playing his original folk songs from DIY squats in St Louis to art houses in Germany to big theaters around the USA. We wanted to know what keeps him coming back to playing tunes here in Milwaukee.
The Squeaky Curd: As a Milwaukeean, where do I probably know you from?
Brett Newski: Honorable mention, slightly above average New Berlin West basketball player, probably.
TSC: In your opinion, what would you like me to know you for?
BN: I would like to be able to exist outside of the (music) industry and not answer to labels, those gatekeepers. I want me and my music to be useful to others with anxiety, like in an anti-bullying, cathartic way. I’m a pretty anxious person myself.
TSC: What’s your connection to Milwaukee?
BN: Well, I was born in New Berlin. I’ve lived other places, but this city has always been so supportive. I just bought a house in Bay View, so I kind of semi put down roots. I’m going to keep traveling, but Milwaukee will always be home base.
TSC: How’d you get involved in music?
BN: I started going to Summerfest, probably when I was 13 (which he has now played at a number of times), and was in a few bands in high school and college. My first real victory was doing music full time, about 5 years ago. I just started playing anywhere, going from shitty bars to arts venues and on from there.
TSC: What makes Milwaukee a desirable place for you to live and work?
BN: Milwaukee’s done a great job of preserving old stuff, like architecture. It looks more like Germany here than Germany does.
Plus people here are pretty real. I just spent a week in LA, and it seems like every other person I met was trying to blow smoke up my ass.
TSC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Milwaukee?
BN: I love biking around. Also, it’s cool to be able to go to shows and just be a spectator. As a musician, it can be hard to find time to learn, study, digest; there’s lots of opportunity to do that here.
TSC: How are you holding your own in today’s internet, instant gratification music age?
BN: You gotta ask yourself, “How do we keep interesting but heartfelt, not a manufactured entity?” The market audience is so fragmented.
TSC: What are you drinking right now? Why did you choose to come to Burnhearts?
BN: This is a Ballast Point Oatmeal Stout. I don’t know, I kind of like those dark drinks. Milwaukee’s got so many places that haven’t changed. Burnhearts is always just solid. They do a great job of supporting local indie rock.
TSC: If you could have a drink with one other local celebrity, who would it be?
BN: Latrell Sprewell. I feel like that guy has lived many lives. He’s been a hard-nosed motherfucker. He’s had to deal with a lot of shit.
TSC: If you could say one thing to someone just moving to Milwaukee today, what would it be?
BN: It’s too cold in the winter for douchebags to move here. So its got a low douchebag ratio, is what I’m saying.
TSC: What’s next for Brett Newski and his Crusty Adventures?
BN: On purpose, I kind of have nothing on the books. I do have a Boys & Girls Club speaker thing coming up. I want to to be able to say to someone, “You can do music or art as a living.” Too many people don’t believe that, and tell kids that. Young people today, I guess I’m a Millennial, any Millennial has a DIY, work for yourself goal.
I feel like you could chop my life into 3 chapters: Milwaukee creative, tour transient, and in the future I want to be a woodsman in Saskatoon, fighting moose and eating snow or whatever they do there. I’ll get there.
Brett Newski is one of those rare people who figured out what he wanted to do in life and is doing it, whatever it may take. Luckily for us, he wants to share his life through music – with Milwaukee and beyond.