Jon Brion

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Jon Brion
Jon Brion.jpg
Brion at The Sunset Tavern in Seattle, September 2004
Background information
Born (1963-12-11) December 11, 1963 (age 57)
Glen Ridge, New Jersey, U.S.
GenresPop, rock, jazz, hip hop
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, trombone, cello, vibraphone, harmonica
Years active1982–present
Associated acts The Grays, 'Til Tuesday, Jellyfish, Mac Miller

Jon Brion (born December 11, 1963) is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and composer. He performed with The Excerpts, The Bats, and The Grays before becoming an established producer and film score composer. Brion has produced music for artists like Frank Ocean, Fiona Apple, Kanye West, Mac Miller, Aimee Mann, Brad Mehldau, of Montreal, Rufus Wainwright, Robyn Hitchcock, and Sky Ferreira. His film scores include Hard Eight (1996), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and I Heart Huckabees (both 2004), Synecdoche, New York (2008), ParaNorman (2012), Lady Bird (2017), and Christopher Robin (2018). He released his debut solo album, Meaningless , in 2001.


Early life

Brion was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He comes from a musical family; his mother, LaRue, was an administrative assistant and singer, and his father, Keith Brion, was a band director at Yale. [1] His brother and sister became a composer/arranger and a violinist, respectively. Brion grew up in Connecticut, where he dropped out of Hamden High School at the age of 17, opting instead to play music professionally. From 1980–85 Jon was part of the band The Excerpts, along with Stephen Harris, Dean Falcone, Jim Balga, Bobby Butcher & Spike Priggen. [2]


The Bats

In the early 1980s, Brion and musician/producer Bill Murphy began a writing collaboration in New Haven, Connecticut. They eventually enlisted bassist Don "Riff" Fertman and together formed The Bats (not to be confused with the New Zealand group or South African group of the same name). The Bats released a single, "Popgun", and one album, How Pop Can You Get? , on Gustav Records in 1982. The recordings had much critical acclaim, but little commercial success, and the trio eventually disbanded.

Session work

In 1987, Brion moved to Boston, where he played solo gigs, formed the short-lived band World's Fair and became a member of the last touring version of Aimee Mann's new wave band 'Til Tuesday. He contributed guitar work to Jellyfish's 1993 album Spilt Milk, and in 1994, joined Dan McCarroll, Buddy Judge and ex-Jellyfish guitarist Jason Falkner in the short-lived pop band The Grays. He also played guitar on The Wallflowers' hit song "One Headlight", using a screwdriver that was sitting atop a nearby amp as a slide. [3] Brion played numerous instruments on Sam Phillips' 1996 release Omnipop . Brion is featured as keyboardist and drummer on Marianne Faithfull's 2003 album, Kissin Time , and co-wrote a song, "City of Quartz", for her next work, 2005's Before the Poison .


After being recognized as an accomplished session player, Brion branched out into production on then-girlfriend Mann's 1993 solo debut, Whatever , and its follow-up, I'm With Stupid . He has also produced albums by Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright, Eleni Mandell, Rhett Miller, Robyn Hitchcock, Brad Mehldau and Evan Dando, and co-produced Kanye West's Late Registration in 2005.

In the fall of 2002, Brion began producing the album Extraordinary Machine with Fiona Apple, but she later brought in producers Mike Elizondo and Brian Kehew (a friend of Brion's) to complete the album. Brion's versions leaked onto the Internet, where the album gained a cult following long before its official release. [4]

Brion worked and performed on some of the tracks for Sean Lennon's 2006 album Friendly Fire . Lennon said that working with him was "how I would imagine it's like to work with Prince. It's like having a weird alien prodigy in your room." [5]

More recently, Brion has produced recordings by British pop performer Dido, Spoon, and Keane, as well as 2010's False Priest by Of Montreal. Brion also produced Best Coast's second album which was released in early 2012. [6] Brion worked on rapper Mac Miller's album Swimming (2018), and completed production on Miller's posthumous album Circles (2020). [7]


Brion was signed to the Lava/Atlantic label in 1997, but was released from his contract after turning in his solo debut album Meaningless ; the album was released independently in 2001.

He is rumored to be working on his second solo full-length album at Abbey Road Studios.

Film scores

Brion is an accomplished film composer, having started scoring by frequently working with director Paul Thomas Anderson, with whom he has a preferential working relationship. In addition to scoring many of his films, Brion contributed music to Boogie Nights and had a cameo in the film as a moustached guitar player.

Particularly in his film soundtracks, Brion is noted for his use of early analog sampling instruments, particularly the Chamberlin and Optigan, to create near-realistic emulations of certain instruments. [8]

He has earned Best Score Soundtrack Album Grammy nominations for his work on 1999's Magnolia and 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind .

Brion was hired at the last minute to write the incidental music for The Break-Up . He has also scored and provided original music for I Heart Huckabees , Punch-Drunk Love , Step Brothers (with Chris Thile), ParaNorman , The Future , Synecdoche, New York, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird and Disney's Christopher Robin (with Geoff Zanelli). He also did live composition for a musical commentary on the Step Brothers DVD.

He also composed the score to the Disney/Pixar short film, The Blue Umbrella, working alongside Sarah Jaffe.

Touring and live performances

Brion is renowned for his regular Friday-night gigs at the Los Angeles club Largo, which feature covers and original songs, a variety of instruments and occasional guest musicians and comedians. He works without a set list, instead using audience suggestions as a jumping-off point. His extraordinary use of layered loops and frequent adoption of a "jigsaw puzzle" approach to performing songs (starting often with drums, then adding piano, bass, guitar, and vocals in turn) have captivated the capacity crowds at Largo and earned Brion a strong following. Recent shows have featured spontaneous appearances with singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, Gillian Welch, vocalists Fiona Apple and Rickie Lee Jones, singing old jazz standards like "My Funny Valentine", with upright bassist Stephen Patt (ex-Chambers Brothers), percussionist Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos), bassist Sebastian Steinberg (ex-Soul Coughing), and fiddler Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek).

In April 2006, recurring tendonitis in Brion's right hand forced him to cancel all of his upcoming Largo shows. As a temporary 'farewell', he played one show only using his left hand, even looping his songs as he normally does and playing the drums with one stick. He is now back to playing at Largo on a regular basis.

Recalling his approach to the Largo shows with Chicago Tribune music editor Lou Carlozo, Brion said: "I taught my hands to follow whatever was coming into my head—and wherever my consciousness would go, I had to push my hands to follow. And at some level, you just had to abandon any concern about how you’d look. Performing without a set list: That was special."

In March 2016, Brion performed his score for Punch-Drunk Love with Wordless Music Orchestra in both Los Angeles and New York City, at the Ace Hotel and the Brooklyn Academy of Music, respectively. Norah Jones provided guest vocals in New York and Joanna Newsom in Los Angeles. [9]

In February 2018, Brion opened for John Mulaney as part of Mulaney's special, Kid Gorgeous. Brion performed during Mulaney's New York City leg of his tour, playing classic rock songs on Radio City's Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ. [10]



The Bats

The Grays

Film scores

Production and guest appearances

1989 Rei Momo David Byrne Harmonium on "I Know Sometimes a Man Is Wrong" [12]
1993 Broken Toy Shop E Background vocals on "Shine It All On"
Whatever Aimee Mann Co-producer, co-writer (three tracks), bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, synthesizers, piano, background vocals, and others [13]
Tuesdays Are ForeverD.D. WoodHarmonium [13]
Spilt Milk Jellyfish Guitar on eight tracks [13]
In Thrall Murray Attaway Bass, guitar, mellotron, piano, vibraphone [13]
Here's to the Losers Love Jones Keyboards, synthesizers, electric organ, vibraphone [13]
1994 Love Spit Love Love Spit Love Keyboards, piano, string arrangements [13]
1995Powerful Pain ReliefLove JonesKeyboards, synthesizers, piano, organ [13]
I Don't Know Why I Act This Way Jude Cole Guitar, keyboards, harmonium, calliope [13]
For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson Various artistsProducing, instrumentation for "One" by Aimee Mann [13]
I'm with Stupid Aimee MannProducer, co-writer (five tracks), bass, guitars, drums and percussion, keyboards, cello, harmonica, background vocals [13]
1996 Come and Get It: A Tribute to Badfinger Cherry Twister Producer, instrumentation, background vocals [13]
Tidal Fiona Apple Guitar, keyboards, vibraphone, tack piano, marimba [13]
Braver Newer World Jimmie Dale Gilmore Guitar, bass, optigan [13]
This Can't Be Life Wild Colonials Guitar, Chamberlin, organ [13]
Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation Various artistsOptigan, vibraphone on "Guilty by Association" by Joe Henry & Madonna [13]
Susanna Hoffs Susanna Hoffs Guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, drums [13]
Prettier Than YouBrian StevensGuitar, clavinet [13]
Phantom Blues Taj Mahal Guitar, Chamberlin [13]
Omnipop (It's Only a Flesh Wound Lambchop) Sam Phillips Guitar, bass, Chamberlin, drums, piano [13]
Beautiful Freak Eels Co-producer, guitar, keyboards, trombone, engineering, co-writer of "Not Ready Yet" [13]
Just Say Noël Various artistsCo-producer on "Christmastime" by Aimee Man with Michael Penn [13]
1997 Shaken and Stirred: The David Arnold James Bond Project David Arnold and various artistsGuitar, sitar, harmonium on "Nobody Does It Better" by Aimee Mann [13]
The Mommyheads Mommyheads Keyboards [13]
Megiddo Lauren Hoffman Keyboards, organs, vibraphone [13]
Little Head John Hiatt Keyboards, vibraphone [13]
Lincoln Lincoln Guitar, keyboards [13]
FarewellUmaGuitar, keyboards [13]
Eighteen Over Me Garrison Starr Organ, vibraphone [13]
10 Cent Wing Jonatha Brooke Guitar [13]
1998 XO Elliott Smith Vibraphone and keyboards on two tracks [13]
Two Kinds of Laughter Sara Hickman Co-composer of "Coolness by Mistake" [13]
Songs From The PipeThe SurfersGuitar, keyboards, background vocals [13]
Sliding Doors soundtrackVarious artistsProducer, co-writer of "Amateur" by Aimee Man [13]
Pleasantville: Music from the Motion Picture Various artistsProducing, instrumentation, mixing on "Across the Universe" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love by Fiona Apple [13]
Kool Trash The Plimsouls Piano, organ [13]
Jubilee Grant Lee Buffalo Piano, Chamberlin, vibraphone, harmonium, optigan, tack piano [13]
Got No Shadow Mary Lou Lord Harmonium, Chamberlin [13]
Electro-Shock Blues EelsChamberlin and organ on "Climbing to the Moon" [13]
Burning the Daze Marc Cohn Harmonium, harmonica [13]
Wishbone Eleni Mandell Co-producer, guitar, keyboards, Mellotron, bass, backing vocals, organ, banjo, drums, slide guitar, vibraphone, celesta, talk box [14]
1999 Rufus Wainwright Rufus Wainwright Producer, additional engineering, vibraphone, marimba, keyboards, accordion, bass, guitar, organ, backing vocals, percussion, celesta, mandolin [15]
Word of Mouth Parade Gus Guitar, mandolin, keyboards [13]
When the Pawn... Fiona Apple Producer, guitars, bass, keyboards, vibraphone, drums, percussion, mixing [13]
On How Life Is Macy Gray Guitar, electric keyboards and synthesizers, piano, vibraphone [13]
Jewels for Sophia Robyn Hitchcock Co-producer, bass, drums and percussion, keyboards, organ, background vocals, engineer [13]
Imaginate Taxiride Chamberlin [13]
Fight Songs Old 97's Organ on "Murder (Or a Heart Attack)" [13]
Magnolia: Music from the Motion Picture Aimee Mann Co-producer, co-writer of "Build That Wall", composer of "Magnolia", guitar, keyboards, organ, percussion, glockenspiel, background vocals [13]
Magnolia scoreHimselfComposer [13]
Breakdown Melissa Etheridge Guitar [13]
After the Party The Menzingers Guitar [13]
2000Two Lips: The Lost Album Dan Castellaneta Guitars, saxophone [13]
Tonight and the Rest of My Life Nina Gordon Bass, guitars, keyboards, organ [13]
Teddy Thompson Teddy Thompson Guitar on two tracks [13]
From There to Here John Oszajca Guitar [13]
Figure 8 Elliott SmithBackground vocals on "Happiness"/"The Gondola Man" [13]
Breach The Wallflowers Additional musician [13]
Bachelor No. 2 or, the Last Remains of the Dodo Aimee MannCo-producer, guitar, drums and percussion, keyboards, background vocals [13]
A Star for Bram Robyn HitchcockProducer, bass, guitars, drums, keyboards, piano, background vocals [13]
2001 Trust No One Dave Navarro Intro voice and slide bass, "Mourning Son", guitars on "Very Little Daylight" [13]
Tweekend The Crystal Method Bass, guitars, drums, keyboards, engineering, mixing on "Over the Line" [13]
The Herethereafter Miranda Lee Richards Producer, bass, guitar, Chamberlin, bells, optigan, Marxophone, engineering [13]
Meaningless HimselfProducer, lead vocals, bass, guitars, drums, keyboards [13]
2002 Up Peter Gabriel Mandolin and Chamberlin on "More Than This" [13]
The Last DJ Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Orchestral arrangements, conductor [13]
The Instigator Rhett Miller Producer, bass, guitars, drums, piano, organ, vibraphone, background vocals, co-composer of "Things That Disappear" [13]
Robyn Sings Robyn HitchcockGuitar [13]
Restless Night Julianna Raye Piano [13]
No Fear Abra Moore Bass, guitar, drums, keyboards [13]
Largo Brad Mehldau Producer, guitar, guitar synthesizer, prepared piano, Chamberlin, percussion, co-composer of "Dropjes" [13]
Kissin Time Marianne Faithfull Drums, keyboards, Chamberlin, celeste, harmonium [13]
Have You Fed the Fish? Badly Drawn Boy Bass, guitars, keyboards Chamberlin, orchestral arrangements, conductor [13]
Alice Peacock Alice Peacock Guitar, organ [13]
Punch-Drunk Love soundtrackHimselfProducer, vocals, composer, instrumentation, mixing [13]
About a Boy soundtrack Badly Drawn BoyBass, guitar, vibraphone, background vocals [13]
2003 To Whom It May Concern Lisa Marie Presley Guitar on "Lights Out" [13]
Thirteenth Step A Perfect Circle Instrumentation on "The Nurse Who Loved Me" [13]
Return to Planet Earth Kim Fox Guitars, ukulele, celeste [13]
Luxor Robyn HitchcockGuest musician on "You Remind Me of You" [13]
Blondes Prefer the Gentlemen The Gentlemen Chamberlin, mellotron [13]
Baby I'm Bored Evan Dando Co-producer, co-writer (five tracks), instrumentation [13]
Amorama Érica García Guitar, keyboards, sampling [13]
2004 Virginia Creeper Grant-Lee Phillips Ukulele [13]
The Giant Pin The Nels Cline Singers Chamberlin, harmonium, celeste, sampling [13]
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrackHimselfProducer, vocals, composer, instrumentation, mixing [13]
Mutual Admiration Society Mutual Admiration Society Co-writer (two tracks) [13]
I Heart Huckabees soundtrackHimselfProducer, vocals, composer, instrumentation, mixing [13]
Legion of Boom The Crystal Method Guitar on "Realizer" [13]
From a Basement on the Hill Elliott SmithAdditional recording [13]
Everyone Is Here Finn Brothers Co-producer, guitars, drums, Harmonium, organ, percussion, programming [13]
A Strange Mess of Flowers Davíd Garza Keyboards [13]
2005 Winter Pays for Summer Glen Phillips Guitar, toy piano [13]
Self Help Serenade Marjorie Fair Bass, drums, piano [13]
Late Registration Kanye West Co-executive producer, instrumentation, string and brass arrangement [13]
Fires Nerina Pallot Guitar, keyboards [13]
Fate Is the Hunter Kate Earl Organ [13]
Extraordinary Machine Fiona AppleCo-producer (two tracks), bass, marimba, orchestral arrangement [13]
Can'tneverdidnothin' Nikka Costa Organ on "I Gotta Know", synthesizer on "Happy in the Morning" [13]
Before the Poison Marianne FaithfullCo-writer of "City of Quartz" [13]
2006 Wait The Polyphonic Spree Producer [13]
The Believer Rhett MillerCo-writer of "I Believe She's Lying", bass, guitar, Chamberlain, piano, [13]
Late Orchestration Kanye WestProducer [13]
Friendly Fire Sean Lennon Bass, guitars, drums, organ [13]
Blinders On Sean Watkins Piano [13]
2007 Graduation Kanye WestCo-producer on "Drunk and Hot Girls", keyboards on "I Wonder", percussion on "Homecoming" [13]
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga Spoon Production, bass, Chamberlin on "The Underdog" [13]
Fuzzbox The Section Quartet Producer of "Phenomena" [13]
2008 Tooth of Crime T Bone Burnett Chamberlin, baritone guitar [13]
Synecdoche, New York soundtrackHimselfProducer, vocals, composer, instrumentation, mixing [13]
Safe Trip Home Dido Co-producer, co-writer (five tracks), bass, guitars, drums, keyboards, piano, celeste, cello, additional percussion, orchestral arrangements, conductor, mixing [13]
Perfect Symmetry Keane Co-producer on "You Haven't Told Me Anything" [13]
Let It Come to You Taylor Eigsti Co-writer of "Not Ready Yet" [13]
Big Bad World Plain White T's Chamberlin on "1, 2, 3, 4" [13]
2009 Sara Watkins Sara Watkins Writer of "Same Mistakes", guitars [13]
Rhett Miller Rhett MillerBass, guitar [13]
Divided by Night The Crystal MethodSynthesizer on "Divided by Night", marxophone on "Sine Language" [13]
Christina Courtin Christina Courtin Bass, guitars, Chamberlin, marxophone [13]
Balm in Gilead Rickie Lee Jones Bass, guitars [13]
An Eluardian Instance (Jon Brion Remix EP) of Montreal & HimselfProducer, composer, instrumentation, mixing [13]
2010 Mean Old Man Jerry Lee Lewis Bass, guitars [13]
Intriguer Crowded House Guitar and vocal samples on "Twice if You're Lucky" [13]
Highway Rider Brad MehldauProducer, mixing [13]
False Priest of MontrealCo-producer, drums, keyboards, synthesizers, mixing, engineering [13]
Dirty Baby Nels Cline Electric piano, background vocals [13]
Cho Dependent Margaret Cho Co-producer, co-writer, guitar, drums, piano, background vocals on "Enemies" [13]
Chickens in Love Various artistsPerformer on "So Sleepy" (The Gummy Bears)" by Fiona Apple featuring Brion and the Punch Brothers [13]
Antifogmatic Punch Brothers Producer, mixing, engineering [13]
2011 The Interpreter: Live at Largo Rhett MillerGuitar, drums, piano, background vocals [13]
Rave On Buddy Holly Various artistsProduction, vocals, guitars, percussion on "Everyday" with Fiona Apple [13]
Belle Bic Runga Guitar, synthesizer, floor tom [13]
Arthur: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Various artistsProducer of "Where Our Destination Lies" & "When the Sun Goes Down" by Benjamin Gibbard [13]
Christmas Michael Bublé Orchestral arrangements on "All I Want for Christmas Is You" [13]
2012 This Is 40 Soundtrack Various artistsProducer, composer, instrumentation on "Theme 1 (Debbie and Oliver)" [13]
Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection Katy Perry Producer, instrumentation, "The One That Got Away" (Acoustic) [13]
The Only Place Best Coast Producer, bass, guitars, keyboards, percussion [13]
Rize of the Fenix Tenacious D Bass, synthesizers, and mellotron on "The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage" [13]
Pines A Fine Frenzy Bass, guitar, keyboards, pump organ [13]
ParaNorman soundtrackHimselfProducer, composer, instrumentation, conductor [13]
Ghost Sky Ferreira Co-producer and co-writer of "Ghost" [13]
Floratone II FloratoneKeyboards [13]
2013 Tim McGraw & Friends Tim McGraw Featured musician on "Middle Age Crazy" [13]
The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film Various artistsProducer of "Crazy in Love" performed by Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra [13]
Girl Who Got Away DidoCo-producer, co-writer of "Lost", keyboards, orchestral arrangements, conductor, mixing [13]
Dreamchaser Sarah Brightman Guitar, piano, celeste, vibraphone [13]
Division Street Harper Simon Guitar, synthesizer [13]
Night Time, My Time B-Sides: Part I Sky FerreiraProducer and co-writer of "I'm on Top" and "Werewolf (I Like You)" [13]
2014 Rock & Roll Time Jerry Lee LewisGuitar [13]
Heigh Ho Blake Mills Piano, tiple [13]
2016 Young in All the Wrong Ways Sara WatkinsBass, guitar, piano, celeste, mellotron [13]
Lemonade Beyonce Orchestral arrangements [13]
Rainbow Ends Emitt Rhodes Guitar on "Dog on a Chain" [13]
Blonde [16] Frank Ocean Co-producer, keyboards, orchestral arrangements, drum programming [13]
2017The Dream Tashaki Miyaki Musician [13]
Lady Bird soundtrackHimselfProducer, composer, instrumentation [13]
2018 Dirty Computer Janelle Monáe Co-producer, writer of "Jane's Dream", synthesizer, mallets [13]
Swimming Mac Miller Co-producer, co-writer of "Come Back to Earth", "Hurt Feelings", "Perfecto", "Ladders", "Small Worlds", "2009", and "So It Goes."
Christopher Robin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Himself & Geoff Zanelli Co-composer
2019 Western Stars Bruce Springsteen guitars, timpani, sitar, celesta, drums, synthesizer
2020 Circles Mac Miller Completed production after Miller's death [7]

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