On June 19, 2018, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Steven Brault sang the national anthem before a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers. He crushed it, which should come as no surprise given his background.
Growing up outside of San Diego, Brault (rhymes with “salt,” not with “so”) started performing as a kid. His first show was “Rip Van Winkle,” which led to roles in “My Fair Lady,” “Guys and Dolls,” and (of course) “Damn Yankees.” In high school, he joined the choir and fronted a rock band called Off the Water (you can still find their tunes on Spotify). After graduating, Brault attended Regis University in Denver because it was the only school that would allow him to do a vocal performance major while also playing baseball.
The decision worked out pretty well, as Brault was eventually selected in the 11th round of the 2013 draft. Three years after that, he made his big league pitching debut with the Pirates. And two years after that, he made his big league singing debut.
Given that the 26-year old lefty/tenor listens to the anthem every day for his job — and has now performed it in both the minor leagues and in The Show — he’s pretty much an expert. So we asked him to go deep on all things anthem, and some other music stuff, as he prepares to make his encore today at PNC Park.
Cardinal anthem sin: “People that do it too slow. People that add too much. Adding a little bit, making it your own? Totally cool. But adding a bunch of vocal runs and making the thing a completely different song? No. If you don’t hit the right notes, that’s annoying, but the main thing for all of us is pace. You can ask any major league baseball player. We love it when you just bang it out. Just sing it, sing it right, and just get through it and get done, and we can all be happy.”
Best anthems: “It’s very rare to have something that absolutely blows you away. I don’t remember the woman’s name, but I was in Triple-A with Indianapolis in ’16, and this woman sang an absolutely incredible anthem. It was quick, but perfectly on pitch. Nice, colorful voice. It was just a great experience for everybody involved. Have you ever seen Jack Black sing the national anthem? Check it out online. He has one of the best anthems. It’s really, really good. I love his voice. He can do anything. I’ve seen ‘School of Rock’ a million times.”
Worst anthems: “Instrumental national anthems. I don’t like the Jimi Hendrix one. You have to embellish it to make it interesting, but you have to keep it short. We saw a guy who’s the head violinist at the National Symphony Orchestra in D.C. in 2017, the last weekend. And he was so good. He played electric violin, and it was a baseball bat that he made into a violin [Glenn Donnellan and his batolin]. I don’t like the Whitney Houston one, either. It’s just too long. It’s too much. You can be a great singer, but you can still ruin the anthem. It’s got to be perfect. Twice this [past] spring, we heard this guy play it on the steel drums, and it was pretty good actually. Very tropical.”
Ever screw up the anthem? “No, thank god. There’s only one time that I screwed up the words on stage in anything that I’ve done, and I remember it so vividly because I completely froze. I was in eighth grade, and this girl asked to me sing with her on ‘Think of Me’ from ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ I went on stage and I just froze. Froze. Didn’t say anything. Just stood there sweating like crazy, frozen. And then badda-bing, badda-boom, the part ended, and I just walked right off stage. She kept singing, and I started crying backstage. I’ll never forget that, and hopefully it won’t happen again.”
Anthem pet peeve: “Pair-oh-liss instead of pair-ih-luss. It’s not a word. Through the pair-oh-liss fight? That is not a word. So that would be my pet peeve. Also, a lot of people, when they go ‘by the dawn’s early light,’ they don’t hit the right note on ‘early.’ They’ll do something different in there. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not perfect. But my anthem was strong. I was happy with it.”
#Pirates pitcher Steven Brault is slated to sing the national anthem on July 2. Here’s Brault as an 11th grader in “Damn Yankees.” (Courtesy Brault family) pic.twitter.com/lUBUMzFfpV
— Eddie Matz (@ESPNeddiematz) July 1, 2019
Idol or Voice? “I watched ‘American Idol’ a lot when it first came out, when I was younger, for the first few seasons. And then I watched ‘The Voice’ when it first came out because I thought it was a cool idea. But since then, not really. Now there’s just so many variety shows, it’s not fun. It’s kind of overdone at this point. I thought about trying out for ‘The Voice.’ Two years ago, my agent and I were actually going to get a scheduled audition, but the only auditions they had were right before spring training, so then I would have to miss spring training to do the audition, and that’s not going to happen.”
Non-anthem rotation: “My favorite musician is Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave. Temple of the Dog, all that stuff. I love Pearl Jam, and then getting into more recent stuff, I like rap. I like J. Cole, I like Logic. I still listen to a lot of musicals, too. Right now, I’ve been listening to ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ ‘Waitress,’ and obviously ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ ‘Hamilton,’ and all those super-popular ones. I love ‘Wicked.’ I love, love it. I think I’ve seen it four times. Haven’t seen ‘Hamilton’ yet, but I know every word. I just don’t want to pay $ 400 a ticket. I’m just always late on those things. I usually see it on the second time around — like ‘Wicked,’ I didn’t see for the first two years. And then I saw it and I was like, god damn it, now I have to see it again and again and again and again.”