Eric Brace and Thomm Jutz made their separate ways to Nashville two decades ago, each with a musical career well underway. Now a formidable duo, their partnership is an extraordinary sum of its parts.
Eric moved to Nashville from Washington D.C. where he was leading his acclaimed roots-rock band Last Train Home. They had been named “Artist of the Year” in 2003 by the Washington Area Music Association, and relocated to Nashville a year later.
Thomm grew up in Germany, where as a ten-year-old boy he’d seen Outlaw legend Bobby Bare sing on a television show and right then knew that his future was in Nashville. (Can you blame him? The power of Bare singing “Pour me another tequila, Sheila, take off that red satin dress” was not lost on young Thomm.) While touring Europe playing guitar in rock bands, Thomm saved his money and kept dreaming of Nashville. On his second try, he won the immigration lottery (yes, there is such a thing) and headed for Music City. There he immediately became an indispensable sideman to the likes of Nanci Griffith, Mary Gauthier, David Olney, Kim Richey, and others, while also building a studio and a reputation as a producer.
Eric, meanwhile, had built Last Train Home into a formidable touring unit, but had also launched Red Beet Records, a label with an eye on all the talent in his East Nashville neighborhood. One neighbor was journalist and songwriter Peter Cooper, whose debut album Eric released on Red Beet. Eric and Peter’s friendship evolved into a duo, one that impressed critics and audiences over the course of four albums and hundreds of live shows across the U.S. and Europe. The two also earned a Grammy nomination for Best Children’s Record after making I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow.
While opening for Nanci Griffith one night, Brace and Cooper realized that the man playing guitar with her, Thomm, was someone they needed to share their musical journey with. When Thomm said the feeling was mutual, the Brace/Cooper/Jutz trio was born. Two stunning albums ensued: Profiles in Courage, Frailty & Discomfort, and Riverland (both on Brace’s Red Beet label).
On those albums, songs by Brace and Cooper are side by side with those of Thomm, who won Songwriter of the Year at the 2021 IBMA bluegrass awards. His songs have been recorded by dozens of artists, and he teaches songwriting at Belmont University. Thomm’s solo album To Live in Two Worlds was nominated for a bluegrass Grammy award in 2020, and he was featured in an “American Currents” exhibit in the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
The tragic death of Peter Cooper in December, 2022, has led Eric and Thomm to rethink so much in their lives, but one thing has emerged with clarity: They must continue to make music together. Their fluid acoustic guitar interplay and their deft vocal harmonies will continue to be heard, all in service to the songs, songs about mill workers, folk heroes, astronauts, Civil War soldiers, songs about everyday struggles, heartbreak, love, and triumph. In a time of division, Eric and Thomm seek and find connection.
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