At the time, Michael Bacon had never been on a date before. The future co-founder, along with his movie star brother, Kevin, of the Americana duo, the Bacon Brothers, says he was a “weird kid” growing up. In high school in Philadelphia, Michael, who is nine years older than Kevin, found himself gravitating towards the British Invasion bands whereas his compatriots would flock regularly to Motown and R&B. Michael played cello growing up and loved fretted instruments. This drew him to the pop sounds from across the Atlantic. One day, venturing to a British Invasion-style concert, Michael saw a beautiful young woman sitting alone at the show. He’d never asked anyone out before, but Michael got up the gumption to do just that and she said yes.
It was a major moment in the young man’s life and when he eventually told this to his brother, Kevin wrote up a song about it (complete with chants) and named it “British Invasion.” And American Songwriter is happy to premiere the accompanying music video for it here today:
“We dated for a while,” Michael remembers. “I was telling Kevin that story and he wrote about my experience of going to the British Invasion concert in the mid-‘60s. Once he wrote the song, I loved it.”
This wasn’t the first song Kevin penned a tune after Michael related to him some crucial part of his personal life. “Picker,” which, like “British Invasion,” is on the Bacon Brothers’ latest LP, The Way We Love (2020), about Michael roaming the streets of Philadelphia, where the brothers grew up, admiring fretted instruments, often hanging in pawnshop windows.
For the entirety of the 2020 album, the brothers wrote it piecemeal, song by song, not even thinking they were making an album. All of a sudden, though, there it was. “We used to write more together,” Kevin says. “I think on The Way We Love, we have one song that we co-wrote, ‘Momma Pop Culture.’ For that one, Michael wrote a lyric and he spoke the lyric in a kind of groove vibe and I built the song around that.”
“A little later after that,” Michael says, prodding his younger brother.
“Yes, it took me a while,” Kevin says, with a laugh. “This is what always happens: I don’t have any kind of predictability or schedule or process that makes songs come. It’s really elusive to me. Every time I finish I song, I always kind of think to myself, ‘This is the last song I’m going to write.’ Not that I want to write, but the last song that’s going to come.”
At some point after writing single song after single song, the brothers realized they had a new complete album. “It’s like, ‘How the fuck did that happen?’” Kevin says. “And that’s what happened with The Way We Love. We’d [also] been playing some of these songs live. Once you write them and you play them live, you want to record them and that’s what we did.”
The duo’s newest offering was put together during the pandemic. It came together more like a patchwork quilt than a blanket. But that process doesn’t take away from the experience at all. It’s a joy to listen to the Bacon Brothers (and to see them smiling together in their new music video). It could be easy to take jabs at the band that garners at least some notoriety on the back of Kevin’s celebrity. But the duo doesn’t need that extra wind in its sails. The brothers’ songs are tightly written, from a distinct perspective and offer details and insights on par with some of Nashville’s best writers. Which makes sense because Michael worked in the Music City for over a decade as a professional writer. He also scores films and teachers.
Since 1984, the American Songwriter Lyric Contest has helped aspiring songwriters gain exposure and have fun.
“In 1960,” Michael says, “when I first started writing songs, it was always my hope and desire that lightning would strike and I’d write a song that fits in a box so specifically it couldn’t be ignored. All these years later, that hasn’t changed at all.”
For their new video, the brothers shot their parts in a Hoboken studio and later enlisted Michael’s niece to play the role of the pretty British Invasion love interest. They found another fellow to play Michael’s role as a young man and shot some scenes in Philadelphia for the sake of the story’s integrity. The City of Brotherly Love, where the brothers were raised by art-loving parents with their four sisters, has had a big effect on Michael and Kevin, from its rough-and-tumble nature in the mid-20th century to its underdog spirit today.
“I started off as a cellist,” Michael says. “My heroes were all the first-chair members of the Philadelphia Orchestra that I can still name today.”
“Philadelphia was such a music town,” Kevin says. “A friend of mine who I met at six years old, his dad was a rock ‘n’ roll promoter and had clubs. So, I started going to shows when I was a tiny boy because that’s what he’d do with his mom and dad and I would tag along.”
Officially, for the past 26 years, the Bacon Brothers have been making music together. The duo has put out 10 records and there’s likely more to come as they continue to accumulate songs along the way. Michael came to music younger while Kevin dove in “because my older brother was doing it.” While Kevin first wanted to explore the arts to get famous and meet young women, he’s since learned to love the craft and expression it allows. Together, their DNA fuels their bond and band effortlessly while their dedication guides. All for the sake of the next composition.
“I love songs,” Kevin says. “I’m less into genre and more into songs. It’s all the same corny stuff—because they’re the soundtracks for our lives. But there’s absolute magic to the fact that someone can take the same language and combine chord shapes and melody and create something that’s 3-4 minutes long that can just live.”
Photo by Charles Chessler