Oxford runs the gamut on artistic endeavors for the state. Writers, painters and musicians all have a place in the small northern Mississippi town. Hayden Brewer, the front man of the Blue Magnolia Band, is a classics major at the University of Mississippi who understands the implications of music and art native to this state.
Brewer, 20, says Mississippi music, especially the blues, is undergoing constant evolution, and he sees the Blue Magnolia Band as a vehicle to bring that musical heritage into the future.
“When we get together to write music, it comes from that same place… Mississippi,” said Brewer. “When we write and when we play, we do our best to pay tribute to those concepts and ideas that we so enjoy in music. So when the Blue Magnolia Band writes music, our influence doesn’t always come from the people that we know, but rather the music that we were given.”
The Blue Magnolia Band has been playing together for three years. It is comprised of Hayden Brewer as lead vocalist, Brandon Bourgeois as drummer, Jacob Moore as bass guitarist, and Jerry Cruse and Caleb Gruys on lead guitar. Band members attend several different colleges across the state, including Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.
The group has a wide variety of influences, stemming from blues, classical, country, and psychedelic rock music.
“We liken ourselves to the Black Keys, the North Mississippi All Stars, and Sturgill Simpson because we try to use our roots in an interesting way,” said Brewer. “Mostly, we play covers, a lot classic rock, blues, but we play country, and we like to get people dancing. However, we’re also collaborating on original music, which we don’t always play at our shows, but we incorporate stylistically and musically into the covers we do. Sometimes we’ll add verses or mash up songs.”
Blue Magnolia Band is booked until June in venues across the Mississippi Gulf Coast in towns like Biloxi, Gulfport, Bay St. Louis and Ocean Springs. The band is organizing shows in and around Oxford, Jackson, New Orleans and Memphis.
“As we book further into the year, that’s when we’ll be playing with more frequency in the areas like Memphis, Oxford and Jackson, because those are our travel periods,” said Brewer. “So if we have to travel to practice and play, we generally try to make use of the geography.”
Brewer is especially appreciative of the arts scene in Oxford, which he believes has introduced him to a greater variety of music.
“Oxford has an enormous artistic influence on basically anyone that lives here,” said Brewer. “Oxford has a strong tradition of writers, and also a strong tradition of music. A lot of that music has been underground.
“There’s a great blues tradition in Oxford, and a lot of the bands that come through Oxford, in the collegiate aspect, have that same feeling to them.”
Brewer’s favorite venues to frequent around Oxford include Rooster’s Blues House, Proud Larry’s and the Lyric. He also enjoys area house shows.
“There’s a lot of great music that goes on in house shows around the city of Oxford,” said Brewer. “If you know where to look, you can hear some really great sounds.”
- Brewer sits in his home “studio.” Photo by Jack Hall.
With Hayden Brewer, you don’t just find a musician. Brewer also acts as the band’s manager, publisher, and social media analyst. In today’s age, an entrepreneurial spirit is vital for success in any industry.
“I’ve always had a knack for managing bands,” Brewer said. “Some of my greatest talents are in the PR and social media marketing field. I have a passion and a great amount of knowledge about music, (and) I think those skills are useful and hopefully marketable.”
- Pace Ward looks out to the J.D. Williams Library during a break from class and music. Photo by Jack Hall.
Pace Ward, the guitarist for the local band Woolgathering, sees a band on the rise in Blue Magnolia.
“I’ve known Hayden for about three years now,” said Pace. “His band has been playing more and more shows on the coast, and we’ve been trying to get something together up here.”
Ward is a big proponent of the same house shows Brewer and his bandmates frequent.
“The people who come to (house shows) aren’t coming for any reason other than being there, fully invested in the music,” said Pace. “That’s really amazing. While it is cramped, it makes for a way more involved show experience.”
Ward understands the cultural significance of Oxford and its community.
“Everyone down here is an artist of some sorts,” he said. “Everyone’s a writer, a painter, or a musician. It’s always new stuff happening, people (who) are excited about it and all the possibilities.”
Ward said artists should work together to promote the arts.
“We should always help each other. There’s a necessity to it. If you’re not helping artists write music or organize shows, then you’re not being the most supportive musician. It’s counterintuitive to being a musician, because as a musician you also want that help and support.”
- Brewer performs live with his band. Photo submitted from the Hayden Brewer Collection.
Brewer’s bandmates have confidence in both Brewer and the band as an entity.
“I was really motivated by how Hayden brought out these ideas for us in the band,” said Jerry Cruse. “I didn’t really have a vision on what I wanted to do.”
Jerry Cruse, guitarist for the Blue Magnolia Band, recognizes the industry Brewer brings to the band in addition to the music they write and perform together.
“Every idea Hayden has brought to us, he’s passionate about, and we’ve gotten a lot of recognition so far with the performances we’ve done, and I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us,” said Cruse.
Hayden Brewer gives us all an idea of why his music and music, in general, is important for all.
“There’s a lot of great things about music,” said Brewer. “People listen to it alone, people listen to it with friends, people dance to it, people watch the videos, the interpretations that the artists have. Music gives people something to celebrate and enjoy.”
- The Blue Magnolia Band logo as it appears on the band’s official Facebook page.