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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Good Brother Earl

Tad Makowiecki

Good Brother Earl formed over two decades ago in Pittsburgh and quickly became one of the city’s best-loved bands. They even played the first show at WYEP’s Community Broadcast Center when it opened in 2006. This year, they’re back with Dog Years – their first new album in over a decade.

Good Brother Earl recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar.

Good Brother Earl are:

David Throckmorton (drums)
Skip Sanders (Keyboards)
Paul Fitzsimmons (electric guitar)
Jeff Schmutz (rhymes with klutz, vocals, acoustic guitar)
Dan Paolucci (Bass)

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

Jeff: Good Brother Earl was formed in 2000. We have four albums on Spotify and Apple Music and we have opened for the likes of Guster, Maroon 5, Kansas, The Violent Femmes and Cake.

How do you describe your sound? 

Dan: Collectively we sound as if Jakob Dylan would sing with the Heartbreakers . We have a Tom Petty vibe. However, when you see us live, you will recognize influences anywhere from Led Zeppelin to U2 and Grant Green to Jimmy Smith. Jeff, our singer/songwriter, contributes a heavy importance of the lyrics, so you also hear influences from Johnny Cash and Dylan canons.

Tell us more about the song “Canary.” What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?  

Jeff: To me it’s about relationships, sustaining them and how bad I am at communication.

What was the first album that really changed your life?    

Dan: "The Joshua Tree." A great album all around. Poetry and wonderful sonic landscapes. There was nothing like it at the time. Through this album I also discovered Daniel Lanois and the beautiful things you can do with a guitar besides chords and licks.

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?  

Jeff: We’re good friends with the Clarks, great people, great musicians, Paul Luc, and Chet Vincent. Buffalo Rose are great musicians and one of the most entertaining live bands you’ll see. Skip, our keyboard player is in Norside Organ Trio (instrumental). Our drummer Dave is in Cello Fury as well as several amazing jazz bands in town. Dan, our bass player, is in the Adrian Niles Band.

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

We record our albums in Skip’s basement. When Lollapalooza was on tour we got to play the Pittsburgh show in 2003. We had an 8 year weekly residency at Rock Bottom in the Waterfront. We were also honored to be the first full band to play on the soundstage when WYEP moved to Bedford Square in 2006.

Learn more about Good Brother Earl:


Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.