WOODSTOCK — Singer-songwriter Brent Funkhouser is known throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley for his catchy ballads and acoustic guitar melodies that depict personal struggles while incorporating American history that tell stories of vast human emotion. This year, Funkhouser released his fourth self-titled EP, “Shooting A Horse” which he said presents fresh material that is observant, romantic and at times downright political, delivered in a unique style, unlike any of his other albums.
“As a kid, music became a very important part of my life,” Funkhouser said. “Everyone, well at least most people, listen to music that their parents listen to as they age. But for me, it was always very prevalent in my household because my parents and their friends were always interested in the stories behind the artists and lyrics. It always fascinated me.”
Born and raised in Woodstock, the 20-year-old Funkhouser attributes his appreciation for music to his family, adding it was the way they bonded throughout his childhood. He recalled listening to the sounds of Ryan Adams, Tyler Childers and Tom Petty with his father, also a singer, who he said would later become some of his major musical influencers during the early stages of his career. It wasn’t until high school that Funkhouser began to realize he really had an interest in not only singing but in songwriting.
“My dad taught me a little bit of guitar when I was a child,” Funkhouser said. “I kept the momentum going all throughout middle school and high school with music lessons.”
Funkhouser, an Americana artist — a style of contemporary music that incorporates elements of rock, folk, bluegrass and country, dropped his self-released debut album “Appalachia” in 2015. His still recalls his first performance at the Garden Cafe at Fort Valley Nursery.
“Music, being as prevalent as it was, just built itself into my consciences and my character,” he said. “When I first starting writing, I tried to emulate that, and it kind of helped me grow into the artist I am today.”
To find his medium, Funkhouser said it took some time but after consistently listening to artists like Ryan Adams and doing a little soul-searching, he found his genre. Through a lot of trial and error, Funkhouser said he discovered his strength of songwriting. Since starting his career, he said he’s written and performed over 25 songs that play into human emotion and what he’s feeling — something that he said defines him as an original artist.
“Writing about personal experiences and tossing in some history has really helped me find my writing style,” he said. “Along with travel, because I’ve traveled quite a bit on tour, along with a little bit of day-to-day life, but mainly things I’m feeling at the time of writing.”
Released in early 2018, “Shooting a Horse” was inspired by two factors. George Orwell’s famous “Shooting an Elephant” laid the foundation, but Funkhouser said what really got him was a performance last Christmas with a friend’s uncle at a holiday party.
“He was performing a song about a cowboy, who was going through the ethical decision of putting his horse down,” he explained. “That was striking to me because I had never heard something like that before. And I took that concept and wrote a song, “Shooting a Horse” that incorporated that same concept along with industrialization during the 20th century.”
Funkhouser has a fondness for American history. He said his interest has always been there. He’s capitalizing on it the only way he knows how — through songwriting.
“Songwriting is a self-reflecting journey,” Funkhouser said. “Songs take time to not only write but they take time to fester and grow.”
He added that sometimes songs will sit in his notebooks for months on end before he finds the right inspiration to finish the lyrics.
“Shooting a Horse” is a six EP track that Funkhouser said he’s very proud of. He wrote, performed, recorded and produced the entire EP himself, with some help from some musically inclined friends.
One song, in particular, “Looking Back (For Tim),” is a tribute to a close friend Tim Hoffman, who passed away in early 2018. Funkhouser said the song is made up of some funny stories and good memories of time Hoffman spent with him and his family.
While Funkhouser enjoys the summer off before returning to James Madison University in the fall where he’s studying English and music, he will be performing locally as he takes a break from touring. He plays two to three times a week, typically in Shenandoah and Rockingham counties.
“I’ve been able to consistently perform this year and put money back into the creative process, which has been a very rewarding experience and helped me grow as an artist.”
One thing, in particular, Funkhouser said is he’s really looking forward to is the recording of his music video, “Red Moon” in the upcoming weeks. He said he has some talented friends who are helping him record and produce it.
“It’s not my first video but I think this one is going to turn out pretty cool.”
To learn more about Funkhouser, visit his website at brentfunkhousermusic.com.