Contributed photo The Brothers Honeywell receive a contribution from a young fan during an afternoon session in Perth, Australia. Below, they play on London’s South Bank across from iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Brothers in busking

White Rock’s Nate and Hanlan Honeywell love their lifestyle as international street musicians

It seems you can’t be part of the Honeywell clan without being involved in music.

It’s a fact of life Nate and Hanlan – also known as The Brothers Honeywell – have embraced over the last several years.

While, for some, music is simply a profession, or a part-time avocation, they have taken it a step further, making it an integral part of their life experience.

Their continuing voyage of discovery making music – and making friends – as part of an international coterie of street performers, has taken them around the world, including travels in Australia, Thailand, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Norway, as well as Montreal and Halifax, playing everything from funky instrumental jazz fusion to soulful original ballads.

Nate, keyboardist and harmonica player, and Hanlan, guitarist-drummer, are both equally adept with vocals and versatile enough to pare the act down to just acoustic guitar and harmonica when inspiration and circumstances dictate.

This Christmas season is a rare one at home in White Rock for the distinctively blond-locked duo, and they say they’re determined to make the most of time with friends and family, while still squeezing in busking, recording sessions for a new point-of-venue CD, and a few more formal gigs.

Peninsula fans can catch them next on Sunday, Jan. 6 (1-4 p.m.) at the White Rock Beach Beer Co., 15183 Russell Ave., where they will be joined by a visiting friend and busking colleague from the Netherlands, singer Merle Jolijn.

The brothers recognize the inevitability of being a musician in their family, they said.

Dad Rice and uncle Jim have been well-known to audiences for years as the talented core of popular rock and blues band Sibling Rivals; their uncle Roger is a noted operatic tenor, their uncle Keith is a fine trombonist and music educator, while Keith’s son, cousin Ethan, is an up and coming jazz drummer.

And granddad Rice Honeywell Sr., of course, is beloved on the Peninsula as a cornetist, vocalist, keyboardist and leader of Red Beans and Rice, house band of the White Rock Traditional Jazz Society.

But while they, like many other members of the clan, had some experience with music, they’d never contemplated it too seriously until they travelled to Australia in 2015.

“We were just going to travel and see the sights,” said Hanlan, who had just turned 26 at the time, while his brother was 18.

“I’d always had a musical side, but I’d thought of it as just being a hobby – I’d never pursued it.”

After they’d blown through most of their budget getting the flight to Australia – and, they admit, doing some partying when they got there – they found themselves short of cash in the town of Renmark, three hours outside of Adelaide, South Australia.

While they found temporary work picking oranges, they decided to try to augment their earnings with some busking, even though the only instruments they’d brought with them were ukuleles.

“We thought we’d give it a whirl, but in the middle of the night,” Hanlan said.

“We were nervous – we’d only done two or three open mikes before,” said Nate.

But their efforts were well received, producing enough cash to suggest to them that, rather than continuing orange picking, they could keep themselves going, day to day, by making music.

“It blew us away that we could do what we were doing,” Nate said.

Travelling across Australia for 15 months, they began what has become a familiar modus operandi for them ever since – picking up an easily-moved rig of keyboard, drum kit and sound equipment in whatever country they touch down in and either disposing of it or storing it when they leave.

That continued when they made their first foray into Europe in late 2016.

“After four months busking every Friday and Saturday on Granville Street, we’d saved up enough to go on our next adventure,” Nate said.

It’s a lifestyle that’s pretty free and easy, and unpredictable, they admit, but it’s clear their musical talent and refreshingly open, charismatic personalities – as well as an open briefcase for cash contributions, a selection of home-made CDs and a sign proclaiming them as the Brothers Honeywell from Canada – have connected with audiences wherever they go.

They also discovered the camaraderie that exists among most buskers, particularly in Europe.

“In England, if you’re a musician, you’ve played on the street,” Hanlan said, adding that most of the other musicians they’ve encountered in their travels are more cooperative than competitive.

“The people who argue or are competitive about spots are doing it for the wrong reasons,” Hanlan said.

“Other buskers have got it figured out – it’s really great to share information with these people.”

They found others generous in giving tips on where to stay and the best places to set up, such as high-pedestrian, no vehicle areas in city centres where performers can be more easily heard, and less likely to be moved on by authorities.

Busy Friday and Saturday nights are good for business, they’ve learned, but so are noon hours throughout the week.

But nothing could have prepared them for the sub-zero temperatures they found busking on the streets in Germany in midwinter, they acknowledge. Ironically, they said, that produced some of their best earnings since they became buskers.

“I think people gave us more money, out of pity,” Nate chuckled.

They’ve also had the rewards of inspiring other musicians to try the busking lifestyle – including their own dad, who joined them for several weeks during their European travels, adding his own harmonica and vocals to the mix.

“Dad turned into a proper hobo while he was over there,” Hanlan laughed.

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Contributed photo The Brothers Honeywell play on London’s South Bank across from iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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