Tom Brosseau

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Tom Brosseau
Tom Brosseau.jpg
Brosseau at Templar's Hall at Old Poway Park (2019)
Background information
Birth nameThomas Anderson Brosseau
Origin Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States
Genres Folk
Occupation(s)Writer, performer
Instrument(s)Guitar, vocals, harmonica
Years active2001-present
LabelsTom Brosseau

Thomas Anderson Brosseau is an American musical storyteller and guitarist, born and raised in Grand Forks, North Dakota, United States. He was awarded Key to the City of Grand Forks by mayor Michael R. Brown in 2007, in part due to his original album of music, Grand Forks , which was dedicated to the people along the Red River of the North who lived through the 1997 Red River flood. NPR said Brosseau “possesses one of the most arresting voices in folk music today.”


Early life

Brosseau learned to play acoustic guitar from his grandmother. As Brosseau explains:

“I grew up with music in the church, in the school, music at home. I learned a lot of hymnal and folk songs, both traditional and contemporary, and since I was influenced by what my grandparents listened to, in a sense I studied the singers and songwriters of the Great American Songbook. [1]

He graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1999 with a BA in Communications, and a MFA in Non Fiction Writing in 2011 from Otis College of Art and Design.

One of his greatest influences is author Louise Erdrich, whom he met when he was 12 years old at the University of North Dakota Writers Conference. “She told me that I could be a writer one day, but to be a good writer I’d have to work at it.”


Brosseau moved to Los Angeles in 2003, and began performing at the renowned club Largo, where he met Sara and Sean Watkins. Sean Watkins recorded both Brosseau's albums North Dakota Impressions (2016) and Grass Punks (2014), which included the song "We Were Meant To Be Together" and was later featured in the original Netflix series Love. John Parish produced Perfect Abandon (2015) with Brosseau and a 3-piece band at The Cube theater in Bristol UK, using only a single mic.

Brosseau has toured in Japan, Canada, Portugal, Iceland, and Australia. He also sings and plays guitar with Becky Stark, Sebastian Steinberg, and John C. Reilly in John Reilly & Friends. In 2011, they released the Jack White-produced Blue Series 7" singles John & Tom (TMR-112) and Becky & John (TMR-113) on Third Man Records. [2]

Brosseau's compositions have been covered by many artists. Notably, his song "How to Grow a Woman from the Ground" was covered by Chris Thile, who released a 2006 album of the same name. Experimental folk pop duo Christy & Emily covered "Here Comes The Water Now" in 2010, a song originally featured on Grand Forks, and also in 2010 the band Mice Parade covered his song "Mary Anne" on their album What It Means To Be Left Handed.


Brosseau's musical collaborations include a folk duo with singer-songwriter Gregory Page called The American Folksingers, which began in San Diego, California in 2002. [3] The American Folksingers released two volumes of American folk music on Page's Bed Pan Records for which Lou Curtiss was musical advisor. [4]

Les Shelleys, Brosseau's folk duo with Yuba City, California native singer-songwriter Angela Correa, also began in San Diego, California in the early 2000s. They released one album on FatCat Records in 2010, Les Shelleys, and toured extensively in the U.S., U.K., and Europe. [5]

Brosseau is often part of the Watkins Family Hour, headed by sister and brother, Sean and Sara Watkins, in Los Angeles, California.

In 2023, filmmaker Chel White scored the music to Brosseau’s “A Bird Is Following Me”, an 8-minute narrative about an incident that happened to him while living in Los Angeles. It was released as a single in April, 2023 with The Prairie outtake “I Know How Much I Love You Now” as the B-side.

The North Dakota Trilogy

Brosseau's three Crossbill Records releases North Dakota Impressions (2016), Perfect Abandon (2015), and Grass Punks (2014) are a trilogy, informally known as the North Dakota Trilogy. As Brosseau explains: "The trilogy visits life from a local perspective, taking the listener on a journey that doesn't clip along uniformly on some common interstate, but treads at its own pace on a rural route. More glances, more investigations and introspections, more light, more dark. Memories, imaginings, longings for a place, a home. My sense of home is probably the dearest thing I hold. I work to preserve it. I go back into my memories and dreams of where I grew up and I explore, not as a detective but a cartographer. Noting each item and each room I am able to keep everything alive, and when everything is alive it is glorious. So daily I roam through any place or structure I've ever been. I visit with people that have long since been dead. I sit in a park with my favorite weather."

The Great American Folk Show

Before the pandemic, Brosseau had been developing a weekly radio program with Prairie Public Broadcasting in Fargo as both lead writer and host that focused on the arts called The Great American Folk Show. The pilot was pitched in December of 2019, and the show premiered on-air on May 3, 2020 with actor John C. Reilly, viral North Dakota food columnist Marilyn Hagerty, artist Penni Emrich Burkum, and musicians Tom Lennon and Heidi Gluck. Since then, The Great American Folk Show has featured over 300 artists, storytellers, musicians, authors, chefs, diner owners, curlers, and poets. “Good people with great voices.”

A Lifetime Ago, Vol. 1, 2, 3 & 4

In 2020, Brosseau began an album series focused on unreleased material spanning 22 years of recording. A Lifetime Ago features radio, live, outtakes, B-sides, as well as new recordings, a total of 44 tracks. Musical guests include Sean Watkins, Gianna Ferilli, Cindy Wasserman, Andru Bemis, Shelley Short, Ethan Rose, Doug Schulkind of WFMU’s Give The Drummer Some, Dominque Arciero, Jermey Backofen, Adam Pierce, Gregory Page, and Chel White. Album artwork consists of a photograph by Carey Braswell and design and layout by DLT, Tom Brosseau’s longtime friend and collaborator.


Singles & EPs

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