Creed Bratton talks 'The Office,' music and upcoming Houston concert

Photo by Andrew Hreha

Most know Creed Bratton for starring as a fictional version of himself on nine seasons of NBC’s award-winning television series The Office, which won five Primetime Emmy Awards as well as a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and Peabody Award. Fans worldwide grew to love Creed as Dunder Mifflin’s quality assurance director who unapologetically forgets the names of his own co-workers, and says bizarre confusing statements on a regular basis.

The California native started acting in the late ’60s with roles on television shows such as Kolchak, Quincy, Eight is Enough, and as the mean-spirited carnival ticket taker in the 1985 movie Mask. Bratton also did a film called Terri that received high praise in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival. He will star alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly in the film The Sisters Brothers scheduled to be released later this year.

It wasn’t just acting that Creed thrived in. Music was in his blood as his grandparents, mother, and father were all musicians. He went on to become a member of legendary American rock group The Grass Roots, playing lead guitar with the band on their first four albums — three of which charted and sold millions of records.

His love of music was evident as he sang “All the Faces” in the series finale of The Office.

Creed has recorded seven solo albums, including his latest in April — While the Young Punks Dance — produced by Dave Way (Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple) and Dillon O’Brian. Fans can enjoy an evening with Creed Bratton on Monday, June 4 at Scout Bar in Clear Lake with doors opening at 7 p.m. Creed will perform music and tell stories from The Office. Tickets are $25-$30 and can be purchased online at scoutbar.com or at the venue (18307 Egret Bay Blvd).

The Examiner got a chance to speak with Creed about the new record and the career that preceded it.

Why was this a good time to put out a new record?

It’s more of when it’s time for the songs. The little voice says “hello” and the music knocks on my door. I pick up the guitar, and boom. I write the songs fast and furious because that’s how they come. This album came a few tours ago, so I got to go up on stage and “own them,” as we say. I could play them in front of an audience and knew if I needed to tweak them.

How did you hook up with producer David Way?

Years ago before The Office, I played with The Grass Roots at the 35th anniversary of the Whiskey-A-Go-Go with Johnny Rivers, Nancy Sinatra and Paul Revere & The Raiders. Dan Schwartz was the bass player at the time and he had a Gibson 1957 Country Western guitar, and I picked it up and started playing some songs. Dan liked the songs and one thing lead to another; he played me this album he worked on with drummer Brian MacLeod, who was the drummer for Roseanna Cash on the Black Cadillac record. The music had a lot of headroom and space, and that’s how I wanted my stuff recorded. Dan took me to meet Dave Way, and I started a band called The Rubbermen, and we have done three albums together. Here in a few weeks, I am going back into the studio and working with Dave with a band that is a little more aggressive rock ‘n’ roll stuff for a change.

Has your writing style changed?

Sure it has, but I don’t think about it much. It’s like my acting. I used the Sanford Meisner method — I learn my lines and go in there and wing it because I find that’s the best way to get it. I don’t try to preconceive what I want to do, just wait for it to happen. I always get the best stuff out of that way. This album is definitely my most personal and most introspective album.

How did the album title While the Young Punks Dance come about?

Again, that’s Dave Way. It’s lyrics in the song “Boxer in a Club.” As a joke, Dave sent back to me “while the young punks dance” and I immediately called him and said, “That’s it, that’s the album title.” It’s in everything. All these kids running around and here’s this old guy with the torch burning for rock ‘n’ roll. I still believe in the healing power of music. I am a living example of that. Years had gone by between The Grass Roots and The Office, I was in rough times and without my music as a creative outlet, I don’t think I could have made it through, for sure. I was playing five sets a day at different clubs and living in cheap motels. People don’t even know these stories. I worked as a caterer. I was a boom man. I worked in an art department. I just knew I needed the right part. When I got a chance to write the character and do him in The Office that was it. Boom.

Did you have an experience with Janis Joplin?

Yes, I did at Mount Tamalpais in California in 1967 at the Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival. She came up on stage on the back of a Hell’s Angel’s bike. All I can say is that everybody there was on acid. Back in those days we didn’t have stage monitors and you couldn’t hear your vocals. All you could hear were the guitars blasting. You hoped you were singing your parts right. The place was just stoned. Back in those days, that’s what everybody did. ... I did drop acid upstate in Fillmore, California. It’s already been documented how that fell apart. Hey, I’m a rock ‘n’ roll guy. If I don’t lean over the edge and try something, then I’m not worth my salt. Bill Graham (promoter) was not happy with me after that moment.

Listening to your music gives me a sense you focus on melodies and lyrics.

If I am not singing that song in my house, office or studio, and the hair doesn’t go up on the back of my neck and I don’t get that tingling feeling, then I am not going to bother. When I sang the song “Yes Indeed” for the first time, I was crying. I was moved. I said, “Where did this come from?” It’s out of your hands. I feel so lucky some nights to get to do what I do. I’m a folk artist. Even though I play pop music, I can sing jazz or a cabaret song. When I was a little kid, my grand parents were in a country and western band called The Happy Timers. If you look up the album Coarse Gold, the album cover – my grandparents are on it. Hang on a second, let me run down to my office and get the album cover. Yeah, here we go. My grandfather is the top guy, second from the right. You can see that Creed rapscallion winkle in his eye. And there is my grandmother on the drums.

On The Office, did you ever pursue the writers about doing music on the show?

They knew, because I kept a Gibson guitar behind my desk on the show. When I would come onto the set, I would wander into the greenroom and play. One song, “Matters Like This,” was written in the greenroom on The Office. It was written over a month’s period of time. Waiting for the cast to appear, I began playing. I would hear the melody, then the lyrics would come out. That turned out to be a really interesting and cool song. I’m going to be playing a little lead guitar when I get to Houston.

What’s left for Creed Bratton?

Go to Mars on a space shuttle, Chad, go to Mars. I would love to do some more dramatic pieces as an actor. I haven’t been able to show people that aspect of me. Maybe I did my job too well as the Creed character on The Office.

 

 

Chad Cooper is the editor of the Southeast Texas Entertainment Guide. Email: cooper [at] theexaminer [dot] com

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