Brian Lucas: Owner of True Voice Communication

Brian Lucas, veteran strategic communicator and storyteller joins Ivan Stegic to discuss his fascinating career and other topics. 
Listen Now
Brian Lucas

Owner, True Voice Communications

Listen Now


Brian's background

A passion for teaching

True Voice Communications

Clients with vision and mission


IVAN STEGIC: Hey Everyone ! You’re listening to the TEN7 Podcast, where we get together every fortnight, and sometimes more often, to talk about technology, business and the humans in it. I am your host Ivan Stegic. In this episode of the Podcast, Brian Lucas of True Voice Communications. Brian is a veteran strategic communicator, storyteller, author and coach. He is a graduate of Princeton and Northwestern, and I’m very lucky to be able to call him my good friend. I’m excited to be talking with him today. Brian, welcome to the Podcast.

BRIAN LUCAS: Thank you so much, I’m excited to be speaking with you as well.

IVAN: Yeah, it’s going to be a nice conversation, I think. (laughing) Now, I had asked you to prepare a joke, and I can’t remember what you decided. Yes or no?

BRIAN: I think I had told you I prefer not to, but when pressed, I have one joke that I can ever remember.

IVAN: Okay, what is it?

BRIAN: And it used to entertain my kids when they were very tiny, and it doesn’t anymore. It’s a two-parter. The first is, how do you catch a unique bird?

IVAN: How?

BRIAN: Unique up on it.

IVAN: Laughing.

BRIAN: That didn’t get the reaction I wanted. The second part is, how do you catch a tame bird?

IVAN: A tame bird? I don’t know.

BRIAN: The tame way.

IVAN: Brian, (laughing), I can tell why your kids are not laughing at that anymore (laughing).

BRIAN: (laughing) It really worked when they were young. I got to update my shtick a little bit.

IVAN: Just a little bit. (laughing) So, we’ve known each other since our kids were young, and were in Children’s House together, and I just started TEN7 and you were doing PR at Best Buy, before that whole Amazon thing became a threat.

BRIAN: Yep. And, they’ve now transformed themselves, and they’re actually doing well again. I wish I could say I had something to do with that.

IVAN: (laughing), but you didn’t? Yea, Best Buy went through some tough times, and now I prefer to buy my things at Best Buy than Amazon.

BRIAN: Yea, I think they’ve done a good job of making themselves relevant again.

IVAN: It’s nice to see a local company doing that. So, you grew up in Minneapolis, right?

BRIAN: Yes, I did.

IVAN: And, it wasn’t very long ago that you were born, right? And, went to Blake?

BRIAN: (laughing) Not very long that I was born, and yes, I went to Blake from 7th grade through high school.

IVAN: Oh, I thought you had been there for your whole education. Where did you go before?

BRIAN: Nope, I started at public schools. I went to Hale and Field, and then made the transition in seventh grade.

IVAN: And you played baseball at Blake? Right?

BRIAN: I played baseball and soccer and basketball.

IVAN: I hear  you had a killer knuckleball? (laughing)

BRIAN: (laughing) I threw it a lot in batting practice, but I never really had the guts to throw it in a game, actually.

IVAN: Were you worried it would hurt someone?

BRIAN: I was worried it was going to be deposited into the left field bleachers pretty easily.

IVAN: (laughing) So, what do you think a defining moment at going to the Blake School was for you?

BRIAN: I think a couple things. One was, an appreciation for how the idea of learning and just learning how to be a learner, is so important. I distinctly remember being in a class once, it was a history class, and one of students was complaining about “why are we ever going to need to know this later in life?” And the teacher dropped the schedule for the day and he said, “let’s talk about that.” And, we had a discussion about why do we need to study our history. I remember I had been in Germany the summer before with my family, and we had gone to Dachau and we had seen the concentration camp, and I raised my hand and I talked about how the message when you enter the concentration camp says, “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” So, I mentioned that to the teacher, and he came over and shook my hand, and he said, “that is exactly why we need to do this.” I remember just being struck because I had never really put it together myself. I had always considered classes to be, “I have to learn this because I need to know it for the test, because I need to get to the next grade, or whatever else", and that changed my perspective a little bit, whereas, “you know there is a reason why I’m learning to learn, and learning to ask good questions, and learning to question things.” And, that stuck with me a lot, I would say.

IVAN: Yea. You said there were two things.

BRIAN: A second one was about passion and I remember one of my favorite teachers, and he was also a baseball coach for me. Every student at Blake is supposed to give a senior speech, and my senior year, this teacher, Mr. Anderson, asked if he could give a speech, and he got up, and he gave a speech, and the entire speech was about why he loves teaching, why that’s his passion. And I was blown away by it, and I remember thinking that finding a calling and finding something that you could really put your heart and soul into is really inspiring, and so that speech stuck with me all these years.

IVAN: Isn’t that unusual for a teacher to give a speech at that event, or throughout the year, because their senior speeches are throughout the year, I think?

BRIAN: Yea. I don’t remember another teacher doing that. That was the only one I remember. I remember that he asked if he could do it, and they gave him time. It was pretty unique in my mind.

IVAN: Well, how fun that you would be around when that happened, and that that would be such a defining moment. That’s great.

BRIAN: Yea, and I’ve seen him since, and even today I think he gets tired of me mentioning it. (laughing) I bring it up to him again, I’m like, “do you remember that speech you gave?” It made an impression on me that stuck with me.

IVAN: It really changed my life!

BRIAN: Honestly, it made an impression on me that stuck with me.

IVAN: That’s awesome. That’s really awesome. You’ve often talked about being driven to find and tell great stories, and I’ve seen you do work with Best Buy and with Children’s, and I’ve seen you start your own business now. And, we’ll get to talking about this later, I’m sure, but you’re a journalist, and you’ve been a reporter before. Why do you think you’re driven by telling great stories?

BRIAN: I think it’s because, first of all it’s fun to tell a great story, and second of all, it sticks with you. When I was young, in high school, I wrote for the student newspaper, I was editor of the paper, and I got to write a column. And I remember having that voice was really important to me, and that made me start to think about being a journalist. And then one day I went and I shadowed a reporter named Dave Nimmer, who used to be a reporter at WCCO Television. I went and shadowed him for a day. And it was on some anniversary of Watergate, and we went and interviewed a guy who was one of the first connections to the President in Watergate, he lived in Minnesota. And I remember sitting with this reporter, Dave Nimmer beforehand, talking to him about what he wanted to accomplish with that interview, and why that was such an important story to tell. And then being able to watch him go in and talk to this guy who was very nervous about doing this interview. But it was fascinating, and again, it stuck with me. And, I think that’s what I love about storytelling. If you have a good story, it stays with you. And you might find yourself telling that story years later to another person, because there’s a reason that it resonates with you. I think for every job I’ve had, every place I have spent my time, I like finding those stories that will stick with you, and that you might remember days later, weeks later, years later, and tell somebody else. There’s something unifying about that.

IVAN: So, the idea that you wanted to tell stories, did you realize that right around high school and went into college knowing that? Because I know you went to Princeton, and you got a bachelor’s degree in Politics, right? That’s not journalism, that’s not storytelling.

BRIAN: Yea, the reason I did Politics is because I knew that I wanted to be a journalist. But from the people that I spoke to who were journalists, they said that going into something like History or Politics would give you a grounding for perspective on the stories that you were going to tell as a journalist. So, I knew I could write. I figured I could learn to write in a journalistic style and learn how to tell stories that way. But I wanted to have a grounding, so that I could have some perspective for the stories that I was telling, and that’s why I made it in Politics. And, then I did journalistic things on the side. I worked for a radio show in college that we did a half hour radio interview show that was syndicated around the country, so I got to go in and we traveled to DC or to New York, and I got to interview people like Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings, and do these half hour interview shows, and that’s sort of how I got my journalism fix in college. And I got the politics. The politics was more sort of to make sure that I had a grounding in the world, that I could take into that job.

IVAN: And when you had that show, it was a serious show, so you didn’t have a DJ name did you?

BRIAN: (laughing) No, I had no DJ name. It was not quite that kind of show. It was a public affairs show back when radio stations were required to air public affairs programming. So, when I started, we had a station list of about 450 stations around the country that would air our show, so my parents got to actually listen to the show. And then that was about the time that Reagan deregulated the broadcasting industry, and all of a sudden you did not have a public affairs requirement anymore, and our station list went from 450 to about 125 in a matter of months. All these stations that had to air public affairs programming, as soon as they didn’t have to anymore, they stopped doing it.

IVAN: They dropped it. Wow. So, the plan was always to go into journalism, but after you had done with your bachelor’s I know you worked at MPR, so you kind of postponed going on further and getting that master’s degree, and you were at MPR first?

BRIAN: Yea. First, I interned at CNN in DC during the Persian Gulf War, actually. And, my mentor there said if I really wanted to get good experience in journalism, I should go to a smaller market, and he said try radio, because that’s really where you will learn how to tell a story, and so that’s why I did that.

IVAN: And then you decided, okay, I’m going to get my master’s degree, and you became a reporter for a station in Wisconsin, after going to Northwestern?

BRIAN: Yea, I was in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, working for the CBS station there.

IVAN: Now, I’ve looked at your website, as I often do, and I saw a screen grab of your first live shot. And I couldn’t find the actual video anywhere, because I was interested to hear how you actually did that first live shot, and there’s a great story around that, right?

BRIAN: Yea, the reason I put that screen grab on there was to illustrate this idea of learning how to trust yourself and trust your instincts. When I started out as a reporter, I had this desire to be perfect. I wanted to tell stories in a creative way, in a compelling way. And when I had the chance to actually record and write, and do something that was put together, that’s when I could spend some time wordsmithing it, but a lot of reporting now is live shots. And the fact is, you can’t really write a live shot, you shouldn’t really write a live shot, and I ran into this issue early on where I would prewrite exactly what I wanted to say so that it could be clever, and I could walk and talk, and do something more than just kind of talking at the top of my head. And that’s a recipe for disaster when you’re doing a live shot, because as soon as you start talking and you try to memorize something, as soon as you make a mistake, your mind goes blank. So, that first live shot, you can see the fear in my eyes, that’s why I posted the screen grab. I looked like the deer in the headlights. And I would trip myself up all the time, because I was searching for the perfect way to say something, rather than just saying what I already knew. So, finally I got to the point where I would trust myself a little bit more to the point where I know what I’m talking about, I know what the story is, I can just have a conversation with the anchor and tell the story. And even if every word isn’t perfect, that’s okay. That’s something I use today when I’m coaching people about how to do media interviews, how to do a job interview, how to do a college interview, things like that. It’s prepare, but don’t feel like you need to memorize what you’re preparing, because at the end of the day you want to come across as yourself, and you want to be able to tell these stories in a way that is authentic to the way that you would just naturally tell the story.

IVAN: I absolutely love the title of the blog post where that screen grab is, it’s “don’t let perfection become the enemy of good.” And, it’s just trust yourself, trust that you know the basics and then have a conversation about it. I love that idea.

BRIAN: Yea, and it’s freeing in a way, because it’s a lot of pressure to try to remember something or to be worried about. I think there are a lot of analogies for that, even in sports, like when I played basketball, I wasn’t the greatest basketball player in the world, but I enjoyed it. But, in basketball if you make a mistake, it’s very obvious. You make a turnover, the person you’re defending gets a layup, that kind of thing, and sometimes you get so nervous about making a mistake that you don’t take any chances, you don’t take a shot when it’s an open shot, you don’t risk it, and then you’re not actually probably doing what you should be doing out there. So, I think there are a lot of analogies for that and a lot of places where that concept plays itself out.

IVAN: Do you think you have to be a good storyteller to be a good reporter?

BRIAN: I think you should be. I think that a journalist at his or her heart, should be a storyteller. I think that more and more these days there are journalists that don’t really practice storytelling as much as maybe they should have. So, in this day of live shots, a lot of it is not maybe a well-crafted story, like it used to be, but I think that the best journalists have to be good storytellers. That’s how you make something resonate. That’s how you get to the heart of what it is that you’re trying to convey. And there are a lot of good ones out there.

IVAN: Yea, it seems that the 24-hour news cycle is almost detrimental to storytelling because you don’t have that amount of preparation that you need to think about and be able to actually craft a story.

BRIAN: Absolutely. And, actually, I had a front row seat to the moment when journalism took a turn for the wrong direction.

IVAN: When was that?

BRIAN: It was interning at CNN right after college, and I started, I was supposed to be working in the White House Office helping coordinate White House coverage, and then the Persian Gulf War, the first one broke out.

IVAN: That was in the nineties, right?

BRIAN: That was in 1991. And, so, rather than doing what I was supposed to do, I got put into this room with the four supervising producers in four different desks around the room, and I was just answering phone calls and directing the reporters to the different supervising producers, and it was very hectic. A lot of the reporters yelled at me because I didn’t know who they were when they called, but I just started. It was kind of a miserable job. But I got to hear the debate going on in the room, and two of the supervising producers had the opinion that we have invested so much money around the world, so that we could go live immediately to any reporter, wherever they are in the world, and that’s what we’re going to do. So, if there’s a siren that goes off, we’re going to cut live to that reporter, so we could be the first to get on the air with whatever the news is. Then the other two supervising producers said, “it’s great that we can go live whenever we want to any of these reporters, but we can’t go live to them before they’ve had a chance to figure out what’s going on. If there’s a siren that goes off, we should let the reporter figure out what’s going on and what the news is, and then we’ll cut to the live.” And there was a really spirited debate about that. There was a lot of yelling in the room about that, and the two that wanted to go live immediately won. And if you remember, that’s the war where we had reporters frantically trying to put on their gas masks because the siren was going off, and I heard that gas may have been released, and this and that, and the reporters had no idea what was really going on, they just were in the moment. And in a way that’s good theater, but it’s not reporting. So, I watched as the two producers that I agreed with, got kind of overrun and the rest of that coverage was more, sort of, immediate and not what we think of when we think of journalistic reporting.

IVAN: Yea, I think we could devote an hour to talking about media and journalism and where we’re at with that today. I wanted to ask what the most memorable report you ever filed was?

BRIAN: The most memorable one in terms of amusing was, I got sent probably two hours away to a farm, where a couple had started their own business selling dried flowers that they were drawing smiley faces on, and they thought that they had a multi-million-dollar business. (laughing) I got to interview them about that. That was more amusing and my wife loves that story. The one that stuck with me probably was a series that I did, about a healthy families program, that was aimed at helping at-risk young parents learn how to be parents, and just to break the cycle of violence and child abuse. And I got to profile three different families who were going through this program and show how a relatively meager investment of time into a caseworker can prevent abuse, and a cycle of abuse, and all of these other issues that come along with that. And, I just found it to be real inspiring to talk to these young parents and hear them talk about the impact that this program made on their lives. That one stuck with me for a long time.

IVAN: Was that one of the last reports you filed while you were in Wisconsin?

BRIAN: That was actually the first series I ever did. It was in the first few months that I was there. Because I really wanted to do a series report, and now nobody does series reports anymore, because research shows that people don’t like them, because it feels incomplete, but back then I did a four-part series, so one part aired each night for four nights in a row.

IVAN: And then you left journalism, and broadcasting, and you moved to PR, and I believe your newsroom regarded PR as the dark side. Why was that?

BRIAN: It’s a really common phrase that people use, and I think it’s because when you work with some PR people, they engage in what is commonly called “spin”, and so they’re trying to sell you on a story that they probably know, and you definitely know, is not real news. So, in that way, they jokingly, when I said I was moving to a PR company, they all said I was moving to the dark side. I still don’t buy into that. I think that if you’re telling legitimate stories, and you’re telling authentic stories, it’s all storytelling. I don’t advise clients to spin. I don’t think that you should ever try to turn a story into something that it’s not, or try to be inauthentic, and I think if you’re engaging in something that’s authentic, it’s something you should be proud of.

IVAN: So, you ended up at a PR agency, and, you spent a large number of years in PR since then, and since moving home, right? So, you’ve been at Best Buy, you’ve been at Children’s Minnesota, and most recently you’ve been at the University of Minnesota. How has your work in PR with all of the experience you’ve had in the last 10-15 years, how’s that compared to being a reporter and a journalist?

BRIAN: I think the more I got into the PR and the strategic communications side, the more that I drew on what I think made me a good journalist, which is curiosity, which is asking good questions, and trying to find stories that actually impact peoples lives, and so, in that way it translates really well. I think that there are some things I had to get used to as a journalist, especially a television journalist, I had a deadline every day, and at the end of the day I could look at the story and I could say, “oh, job well done,” or “boy, that didn’t turn out the way that I liked,”. And then when I moved into communications work, the job is never really done. So, there are deadlines and things like that, but at the end of the day you don’t always have something you could look back on and say, “wow, I accomplished that today,” or “that turned out well and that didn’t turn out well.” So, it’s a different mentality that I had to get used to, but I think you slowly make that adjustment.

IVAN: Do you miss being a reporter?

BRIAN: Not most of the time. It’s a tough lifestyle. I feel like when I left, I got out of it for the right reasons. The hours were really long, and you could do it, work all day on a story, and, this happened to me, I worked all day on a story, filed it, felt pretty good about it, I was just leaving the station to go home for the night and the scanners went off, and there was an armed robbery at Kentucky Fried Chicken. And my news director stopped me and said, “take the live truck, we need you to go live at 10:00 with the story.” I was like, “oh, you gotta be kidding me.” So, you get the live truck and you go out there and you sit outside Kentucky Fried Chicken all night waiting for somebody to tell you something about this armed robbery. It was tough. You’re also living places that you don’t get to choose where you live because basically you live wherever you get the job. The job security is tight, it's tough. It’s kind of a difficult lifestyle. Some of my friends that I went to grad school with are still doing it and they do a great job, and I’m proud to see them still doing it, but it just wasn’t the right lifestyle for me in terms of wanting to put down roots, and have a family, and that kind of thing.

IVAN: I’m glad you decided to put down roots in Minnesota, and that our kids ended up going to the same school, because it’s been great knowing you thus far. (laughing)

BRIAN: (laughing) We’re going to continue knowing each other. That was almost dismissive. Like, “it’s been great knowing you.”

IVAN: No, we continue. We continue. So, with all your experience in PR this year, you started your own firm, True Voice Communications, and I just love the description you have on your website, "telling authentic stories to achieve your goals." Why a focus on authentic?

BRIAN: I think if something’s not authentic, it’s easy to tell. And, if you’re not comfortable as an organization telling an authentic story you need to step back and try to figure out what is your authentic story that you are comfortable and proud to tell. So, to me, it all starts with authenticity, and whether you’re a nonprofit trying to figure out how to attract donors, or how to reach out to more people to make a difference with whatever your mission is, or if you’re going for a job interview, and you’re trying to present yourself in a way that would get the job. Well, if you don’t present yourself authentically, you’re not giving yourself the right kind of chance to get the job that’s right for you. If you present yourself inauthentically, you get the job, maybe they’re hiring somebody that you’re not. And if you present yourself authentically and you don’t get the job, maybe that wasn’t the right place for you. So, I think that it’s really important to be comfortable with who you are, comfortable with what your story is, and that’s the best kind of story to tell, and the one that you could really feel good about.

IVAN: So, PR is really about communications, isn’t it?

BRIAN: Yes, absolutely. And, I think that more and more it’s about finding your own stories and telling your own stories and putting things together that maybe news media might like, but more and more, it’s about telling your own stories to your own channels, and hopefully telling them in an authentic and compelling way.

IVAN: Now, your firm is focused on a few core things. When I heard you were starting a firm, I was just elated to hear that you’d be in the world of small business and directing your own business. Can you tell me what you focus on at True Voice?

BRIAN: Sure. There are three buckets that we work on. One is traditionalist with a strategic communications consulting, hopefully working with nonprofits, or start-ups, that kind of thing. And what is the organization? What do you want to be, and what do you want to be known for. Who’s your audience and how are you reaching out to the audience?  Are you doing it in the best way? That’s the first bucket. The second bucket is storytelling, and that is more content creation, writing, video production. I helped somebody with a podcast that they were starting. That kind of thing, so actual content creation. Then the third part is coaching. That can be media training for somebody who wants to get comfortable doing interviews. Or, I did a job interview training, or I also am working with students who want to learn how to do college interviews, or learn how to do an interview for a job, that kind of thing. Those things don’t come naturally. And so, if I can work with people to help them learn how to be comfortable talking about themselves, I find that work really rewarding.

IVAN: You’ve told me before that you have considered being a teacher. So, you must love working with college students and kids to help them with their interviews?

BRIAN: I do. I love it. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, teaching is something that I’ve never done, but I think I would love. I actually went and shadowed a teacher for a little bit, and it was so much fun. This is my way of trying to incorporate a little bit of that into my life. I do a lot of alumni interviews for Princeton, people who have applied to Princeton. I interview students, and I love doing it. It’s inspiring, and sometimes the kids are great at talking about themselves, sometimes you have to kind of tease it out of them a little bit. But I always walk away inspired. So, being able to help kids learn how to tell their story in a way that they’re comfortable with, and give some perspective on who they are, is really rewarding. I’m also trying to work on a way to set up a nonprofit, so that for every student that I coach that can pay for it, I want to coach a kid that can’t pay for it. I think that would be really rewarding in that way too.

IVAN: That would be amazing.


IVAN: Do you have an idea about what the kind of client is that you’re looking for?

BRIAN: Really, I’m focused on people that, and this is going to sound sort of corny, but I really want to work with people who are trying to make a difference in the world. I want to support nonprofits, I want to support social entrepreneurs, that kind of thing. I could’ve easily gone and continued down a path of working for big organizations and that kind of thing. But if I’m going to go out on my own and do something, I want to make it meaningful. So, I want to find organizations and people who are good people, who have a vision that’s going to do something good in the community, and if I could help them elevate their game and take it to the next level and succeed in that way, that would feel really good.

IVAN: Well, if there are any listeners out there that are listening to the podcast and are nonprofits, please reach out to Brian, all his details will be in the transcript and we’ll provide that at the end. I wish you the best of luck with that. I think any nonprofit that is lucky enough to work with you would go very far. We’ve talked a whole lot about storytelling, your love for it, your career in journalism and PR, and now your new firm. But you’ve also written a book called “Here Comes the Sun,” and it’s about your family's journey through cancer. Spoiler alert, there’s a happy ending. (laughing)

BRIAN: (laughing) It’s a good spoiler though.

IVAN: It’s a good spoiler. Why did you write the book?

BRIAN: I wrote the book because I think when you go through something like that, and just for background, my wife was diagnosed with leukemia, and it was a late stage leukemia, and she had to have a bone marrow transplant. And it was hard. We had to learn a lot and learn it quickly. She was in the late stages of her cancer when she was diagnosed, and it was extremely stressful. Our daughters were 3 years old and 10 months old at the time of the diagnosis. And, so, I think when you go through something like that, and you get to the other side, there’s an experience there that can be helpful to some people, and I felt like if I could share our story in a way that was accurate and honest, but also hopeful and maybe helpful, that it seemed like something I would feel good about sharing. So, I went back and looked at all of the notes that I took, and the diary that I kept while Betsy was in the hospital, and the Caring Bridge updates that we did, and I just compiled it altogether, and tried to give it some sort of a narrative, an actual structure, and put it together. It was sort of a therapeutic experience for myself to get it out there. And then I would say, I’ve gotten really nice notes from people who have said it’s helped them as well. So, in that way, it’s been really gratifying to do that.

IVAN: How did you know you were going to write the book? Was it a hard decision to make, to write the book? It’s a long investment of time, isn’t it?

BRIAN: Well, a lot of it I wrote sort of in the moment, and that was honestly, therapy for myself. When I was in the hospital with Betsy, I stayed with her through the transplant and for a lot of the second – she had two long hospital stays. So, I kept a diary for that purpose. I think that I really didn’t think about turning it into a book until we had a chance to meet Betsy’s bone marrow donor, and he was a 19-year-old man from Germany, and he was flown here for event for  to be the match and we got to know him and meet his fiancée, and then when they left, they asked if we wanted to go to their wedding. And we said we’d be honored to go to your wedding. They left and they sent us an invitation,  and by total coincidence, their wedding date was Betsy and my 10th anniversary of our wedding. So, the serendipity of that and, there was something about that that just made me think this is a story that needs to be told. And it’s about generosity. It's about hope. It's about some difficult things and moments that we went through, but in the end, I would say, it’s just a love story. It’s a love story between my wife and me, and the community that we live in, and this donor in Germany and all these things that came together to preserve our family, and to preserve, sort of, the life that we get to live now.

IVAN: It’s a wonderful story, and I’m glad you guys came out on the other end, and I’m glad to know you, and to know Betsy, and I’m glad there was a happy ending.

BRIAN: Yea, well, and the feeling is mutual. We really value you and Suzie and that friendship as well. So, we feel very lucky.

IVAN: I appreciate that. Are you ever going to write another book?

BRIAN: I might. I really want to write screenplays, so I wrote my first screenplay a little while ago. Actually right as I was starting True Voice, I had some time, and I thought I’ve had a screenplay in my mind forever, and so, I finally wrote my first screenplay. And I really enjoyed doing it. So, I’m going to try writing some screenplays first, and then if another book happens to occur to me, I really enjoyed that process as well. So, you never know.

IVAN: Okay. Well, I haven’t seen your screenplay yet. You do keep promising to send it over to me, and it must’ve been going into spam, or something else was going on, because I haven’t seen it in my email yet.

BRIAN: I’m just going to call you and do a dramatic reading of it sometime, if that’s okay?

IVAN: (laughing) That would be fine.

BRIAN: I need to work on my acting chops first.

IVAN: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing it in print or on the big screen at some point.

BRIAN: Okay. We’ll do our best to make that happen.

IVAN: (laughing) Well, before we close, I would love to ask you if you have any book that you recommend, I read?

BRIAN: That’s a great question. There are two that pop into my mind. One that sticks with me, and I keep going back to is, the Thomas Friedman book, “Thank you for Being Late.” I don’t know if you’ve read that or not?

IVAN: No, I haven’t.

BRIAN: I thought it was really insightful, and there are some things in there that I think particularly you in your line of work, sort of, it’s all about the acceleration of our lives and the acceleration that technology is sort of bringing into our lives. The title is basically from when he meets someone for coffee and they’re late, and they come in and they apologize to him. They say, “I’m so sorry I’m late.” He’s like, “thank you for being late, because that’s the only time that I get unstructured time. I get to sit here and wait for you, and I get to relax and I get to just think.” And, their lives are going so fast now, that it’s hard to keep it under control. I think it’s fascinating. I think that you’ll like it. And, the second one, it’s not going to surprise you, it’s Dessa’s new book. (laughing)

IVAN: (laughing). You know, I haven’t asked you about that at all, and perhaps we should spend a few minutes talking about that. First, tell me about the book. What is Dessa’s new book?

BRIAN: Well, she has a book called, “My Own Devices,” and it’s a memoir of her time on the road with Doomtree and becoming the artist that she is today. And also, it’s got a side to it that is, sort of, science based, and trying to understand feelings and love, and heartbreak and things like that. If you know anything about Dessa and you’ve listened to her music, it’s very inspiring, and it’s a great story. I think it gives you some insight about what it’s like to be a musician, what it’s like to be on the road, but it raises a lot of interesting philosophical questions as well.

IVAN: I’m going to add that to my Kindle reading list. We haven’t talked about Dessa and Prince at all. (laughing)

BRIAN: (laughing) How could I go this long without mentioning Dessa and Prince?

IVAN: I don’t know, it’s been over 30 minutes and neither Dessa nor Prince came on. What is going on?

BRIAN: That’s a record.

IVAN: (laughing) Okay. Question. First song you ever heard of Prince’s?

BRIAN: Probably it would be off 1999, so it was probably 1999 or Delirious. One of those two are the ones that stick out. Or Little Red Corvette, maybe.

IVAN: So, what you’re saying is, you can’t remember the first song you’ve ever heard of Prince’s because it was unremarkable.

BRIAN: (laughing) No, it’s because they’re just classics, and how do you even distinguish. But the funny thing is, I was a moderate Prince fan in high school, that was during Purple Rain and everything, 1999, Purple Rain. And, then when I went to college, is when I became obsessed, and it was because I had a couple of roommates who also were Prince fans, interestingly not Minnesota guys, one lived in LA and one in Atlanta now, but he’s from Pittsburgh, and we just kind of fed on each other’s passion for Prince. And we just went back and explored music that we hadn’t heard yet, and we were eager to get the new album, and I remember sprinting to the record store on the day that Love Sexy came out, and waiting for them to open the box so that we could get the CD fresh off the presses, and laughing hilariously at the cover of Love Sexy, which is one of the most, very Prince-like, shocking covers of all of his albums. And then going back and just having this transformative experience listening to the album for the first time with my friends who were just as big a fan as I was, and reading the lyrics along with every song, as we listened to it. I’ll never forget that experience. And then, we went and saw him in concert a number of times and it just kind of fed on it there. So, my love of Prince actually was bred and grew away from Minneapolis and obviously continues to grow now that I’m back.

IVAN: You referred to yourself as obsessed in college about him. Would you say you were more obsessed or less obsessed now?

BRIAN: With Prince? I’d say less obsessed. Obviously, your life doesn’t revolve around going to the record store anymore. (laughing) Honestly, I would plan my day around new release Tuesdays (laughing) and go out there. So, I would say that the obsession has declined. I obviously was really upset when he died. And my phone just blew up from all my friends like, “can you believe it? Did you hear it?” And it’s still shocking to me that he’s not around and creating still. But I think we’ll get a lot of music still. And it’s not obsession, but my passion for him and his music has not waned.

IVAN: What is it about him that you love?

BRIAN: Well, I think that it’s the creativity and the uniqueness and the willingness to, sort of, cross boundaries and genres. And also the fact that he did it all. He played the instruments. He wrote it all. It’s sort of a virtuosity that we don’t see very often. To be able to play any one instrument as well as he did, is remarkable, but to play all of them as well as he did, is unbelievable. And then, to be able to create so many different sounds and reinvent himself so many different times, was great. Then the other thing I would say is that, after he died, I was gratified to learn about his humanitarian side, which he kept very silent while he was alive. But so many people came out of the woodwork and said that he support their cause, he wrote checks to their nonprofits, and he really believed in giving back to the community, and that’s gratifying to learn about somebody that you already held in high regard.

IVAN: He was an amazing talent wasn’t he, that was just so virtuoso, as you said.

BRIAN: Yeah. Absolutely.

IVAN: Well, I had a lot of fun talking to you Brian. (laughing)

BRIAN: (laughing) I feel like we could just do this all day.

IVAN: I feel like we could too. (laughing)

BRIAN: Just call me later and let’s just keep on talking.

IVAN: Okay, we’ll do that. (laughing) Thanks so much for spending your time with me.

BRIAN: It's been an honor. Thank you, so much.

IVAN: Brian is online at, and you could get his book “Here Comes the Sun” from his other website You’ve been listening to the TEN7 Podcast. Find us online at And if you have a second, do send us a message. We love hearing from you. Our email address is [email protected]. Until next time, this is Ivan Stegic. Thank you for listening.

Continue Reading

Subscribe and listen wherever you get your podcasts.