by Chandler Christopher

September 19th, 2022

Large Brush Collection is the soft-folk project of Austin-based singer-songwriter, Nora Predey. We got to chat with Nora and talk all things life and music, and it was an honor to hear and learn more about Nora’s story! Nora grew up in Lemont, Illinois, and attended undergraduate school at Loyola University Chicago where she graduated with a degree in physics and computer science. 

Nora began playing music in high school after her group of friends was in need of a bass player to complete the band. Nora called this every bass player’s origin story.  “I remember I borrowed a friend’s bass… Winter break, 11 years ago. I didn’t do anything else– I just dug into learning the instrument and was totally committed to it,” Nora explained. You can still catch Nora plucking her custom, carved-wood bass at a Large Brush Collection show!

After moving to Austin in 2016, it was in 2018 that Nora began to song write, eventually feeling prepared and eager to play her catalog of songs. Nora found community in a beloved, now-closed, Austin music venue– Dozen Street. She had this to say about the experience– “The community that coalesced around the open mic was supportive and low-key, so it was a great environment to take risks and try new songs. I went every Wednesday for several months in a row, and sticking to it was very important and grounding as a new songwriter.”  

You can find a couple of LBC’s songs released on streaming services as Large Brush Collection, and their debut record titled Off Center is set to release sometime within the next year. Check out our Q&A with Nora Predey to learn more about her story and the upcoming record! Sidenote:  Nora and Large Brush Collection (accompanied by band members, Dan Magorrian, Gabriela Torres, and Rishi Bajekal) played our third ever Happen Twice Showcase over at Long Play East on April 8th and absolutely smashed it!


Q:  Tell me about when you started going to open mics at Dozen Street…

Nora Predey:  During that time, I was struggling with my mental health in response to a lot of turbulence and upheaval in my life. This was something consistent I could do week in, week out. I pushed myself to have at least one new original song every week, and if I couldn’t do that, come in with a new arrangement of someone else’s song. Those were usually something by Nick Drake or Adrianne Lenker, which I had on heavy rotation then. Building community and having these small, singer-songwriter communities has ended up being such a source of over-arching stability and support. 

Q:  Why did you make the move to Austin from Chicago? 

Nora Predey: I wanted to get out of the cold weather and out of my home-town. I visited Austin a few times when I spent a summer working in Houston, and I was immediately struck by the density of venues and the visibility of the music community. In Chicago, I was mostly going to shows in basements that were always getting shut down. Even from those short visits, it seemed like everything was right out in front of me and it was like, “Woah, it can be this way.” 

Q:  Tell me about that awesome, custom bass guitar you have, it was so incredible to see you play it at our show!

Nora Predey: So I really liked my old Rickenbacker, but it got to a point where I felt the instrument was limiting my songwriting potential. My journey to that Birdsong bass began with a weird, serendipitous experience. I loaded a bag into the trunk of an Uber to the airport, and noticed the driver had an electric bass in there, which it turned out he had made. We talked about it and at some point I mentioned that I was looking for a more specialized, potentially custom instrument. I asked if he took any commissions, and he told me, “No, I don’t, but the guy who’s been teaching me does.” So he gave me Scott Beckwith’s number, I called him when I got back from that trip, and he told me to come out to his workshop. So I went out to Driftwood, Texas, into the middle of nowhere where he’s lived and worked for the last 20 years. I was expecting to be out there for maybe an hour or two, but I ended up spending the entire day with him. For someone who spends so much time off the grid, he was a great conversationalist, full of little zen nuggets of hippie wisdom. We sketched out the design for the instrument and I had dinner with him and his wife, who were both just so welcoming to me. About a year later, I went and picked up the instrument. It’s the perfect tool for me musically, and holds for me a special memory of the connection that it facilitated.

Q:  So I know you go back and forth in your band between playing as a trio and full-band– How has that impacted live shows for Large Brush Collection?

Nora Predey:  The shows are always different. How we approach the songs really depends on who is playing that night, what the energy of the room is like, and how we’re feeling. Gaby and Dan are usually improvising a lot, and when Rishi plays drums with us we have access to very different dynamics, so the sound is constantly evolving. Performing feels like a conversation, like a reflection on our relationships to each other when we connect onstage. It can be very emotional! 

Q: So, let’s talk about the upcoming record, Off Center. It was such a pleasure to be able to listen to it, I’m a huge fan! Can you tell me a little about how this project has come together?

Nora Predey: We had plans to record in 2020 that we called off when the pandemic hit, and I’m sort of glad we did. I kept writing and when we formed this incarnation of Large Brush Collection in 2021, the time was just right to record the songs. We went out to Dan Duszynski’s studio in Dripping Springs and recorded over two 4-day-long sessions. Recording there was like a retreat, we cooked every meal together and stayed in the camper trailers he has parked on the property. It was special getting to spend so much time together, and the environment was really inspiring. We even wrote and recorded our song “Tell Me Again” during the second weekend.

Q:  Tell me what fans can expect to hear on y’all’s upcoming debut record, Off Center?

Nora Predey: These songs are from over the last four years of my life. When I wrote some of the older ones, I was definitely going through it. I connect with those songs now in different ways. It’s like a time capsule of a turbulent period of time in my life. As we get into the more recent songs, there are some feelings of yearning for simplicity and for the times that were easier, but also acknowledging the reality of the journey that I’m on and figuring out how to be okay with that. I think you’re getting a glimpse at the process of self-actualization during times of dealing with some pretty tough stuff.

Q:  If you don’t mind me asking, what kinds of things were you struggling with or working through? 

Nora Predey: So, in 2018, I had a major falling out with my family over coming out as queer. It was something that… Well, they’re very politically conservative and extreme in their views. I knew coming out wasn’t going to be easy, but wasn’t sure how bad it was going to be. At the end of the day, their ideology was more important to them than our relationship. That’s a hard thing to come to grips with. It’s something I struggled with a lot in the immediate aftermath, and it continues to be pretty heavy and complicated. Over time, I kind of came to terms with that rejection, and realized that it isn’t a reflection of who I am. I think that’s the core of it. This is something that’s painful and hard, but that pain doesn’t make me wrong or a bad person – and I don’t think that’s something that I could’ve said during the writing of a lot of these songs. But writing them was an important part of working through the pain. Every time I perform these songs, there’s a little piece of me that moves forward. I tapped into a lot of those feelings when we recorded, and having them captured on this record has allowed me to close the book on that part of my life, in a way.

Interviewer:  Thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing that with me, this is such a special record and I’m honored to help share some of the background to it!

Q:  So, what can you tell me what the goal is for this record and for Large Brush Collection going forward?

Nora Predey: As this record has materialized and as it’s come closer to being complete, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what the point is – what is driving me to write and perform?  I’ve realized that these songs have already been such a vehicle for connection, and that’s really motivating. I think my goals are pretty humble, I’d like for people to listen to the record and resonate with it, and I’d like to connect with audiences in different cities. Hitting the road and touring is work that I want to do more of and that I feel is very important to me. Pragmatically, the music industry is hard. There’s so much that I don’t know, and there’s so much that I’m learning all the time. As a band, we’re trying to be patient, and ultimately I hope the record can get out there and get to some ears.

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