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Bradenton to Broadway: Pirates' Brault charts his own course

By Jerry Crasnick

On idle nights during the baseball season, Pirates pitcher Steven Brault might wander into a local karaoke joint and put his name in the queue. If he’s in a Stevie Wonder mood, he’ll treat his fellow patrons to a rendition of “My Cherie Amour’’ or “Sign, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours).’’ If the crowd skews younger, he’ll shift to something from the Jimmy Eat World or Blink-182 catalogues.

“I’m never a guy that sings a slow, slow song,’’ he said. “Even if it’s slower, it’s still got a happy, upbeat feel to it.’’

Baseball road trips and karaoke nights are on hiatus for the foreseeable future. Since the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Pirates and 29 other clubs to shut down spring training operations, Brault has practiced social distancing in Bradenton, Fla., where he continues to rehab from a shoulder strain with help from the team’s staff.

But music remains an integral part of his daily life. And today -- officially -- he has something momentous to post on his resume.

With the release of “Steven Brault: A Pitch at Broadway,’’, Brault takes his musical aspirations up a notch. The album, a compilation of hits from “Rent,’’ “Phantom of the Opera,’’ “Wicked’’ and nine other shows, is a collaboration with Loren Harriet, a veteran music producer who has teamed with former big leaguers Bernie Williams, Bronson Arroyo and Nick Swisher, NBA star Dwight Howard and dozens of other professional athletes on projects through the years.

“I’m never a guy that sings a slow, slow song,’’ he said. “Even if it’s slower, it’s still got a happy, upbeat feel to it.’’

“We were probably more nervous than him,’’ Musgrove said.

Said Williams: “We listen to a lot of national anthems -- full spectrum from really, really bad to amazing -- and that was in the top one percent. We were all like proud parents.’’

In early February, Brault performed selections from his album as a guest vocalist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Where his musical aspirations go from here, who knows? He has already talked to Harriet about the possibility of a follow-up album of original songs or rock selections.

“I don’t expect this to be a big platinum record or anything,’’ Brault said. “It’s a Broadway album, so it’s not as big a market as some others. But I think people will like it, and it’s something I want to continue.’’

Brault has tinkered with the guitar and piano through the years, but he has no access to musical instruments during his current limbo in Bradenton. So he has to be content with singing in the shower -- not to mention the living room, kitchen and bedroom.

The full magnitude of his achievement might not kick in until the games resume and Brault and his Pittsburgh teammates return to the playing field.

“Steven will probably be the only current MLB player to have his walk-up song/mound entrance song be the first single from his debut album,’’ Harriet said.

The album was recorded over a two-week span at two Southern California studios in November. Bassist Leland Sklar and drummer Kenny Aronoff, accomplished session musicians who took part in the project, approached Harriet after listening to Brault and offered their personal endorsements.

“They came up to me after the sessions and told me, ‘He’s the real deal,’’’ Harriet said in an email. “Steven finished all his lead vocals in four days, which is pretty amazing.’’

Now that the creative portion is complete, the promotional duties begin. Brault sat down for several media interviews this week and will take part in a virtual release party on the Pirates’ Instagram page at 7 p.m. Friday with teammates Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Josh Bell, who appears on the album in the song “Wait for Me’’ from “Hadestown.’’  On Monday, Brault and friends will participate in a similar event on MLB’s Instagram page.

Brault, 27, is no musical gadfly. As a teenager at Grossmont High School in El Cajon, Calif., he was active in musical theater and had a particularly gratifying role in the play “Little Shop of Horrors.’’

“I played the evil dentist,’’ Brault said. “I was very good at being bad.’’

Among the other cast members: Terra Musgrove, the sister of Joe Musgrove, a fellow Grossmont alum and current Pirates starter.

Brault studied vocal performance at Regis University in Denver and helped form a band called the Street Gypsies. His musical inspiration is Chris Cornell, the late frontman for Soundgarden and Audioslave. Among his other influences: Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Brandon Boyd of Incubus and Serj Tankian of System of a Down.

In June 2018, Brault attracted widespread attention with a pristine rendition of the national anthem before a Pirates-Brewers game at PNC Park. He completed the anthem in a tidy 1:24, and Musgrove celebrated by bear-hugging him and lifting him in the air. The Youtube version generated 66,000 views.

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