When Brooks Wilson began his path in sound engineering it was in 2002 at the old Pour House in West Ashley, and he didn't do it for the money. There were other motivations, like daily exposure to different, new music, being a behind-the-scenes creative force, and, well, free drinks. "That was the whole reason I took the job was because I could party as often and as hard as I wanted to, and as long as everyone sounded cool and was having fun, it was cool," he says. "And then a few years ago my body said, 'OK, fuck you that's enough of that. So I stopped drinking eight years ago now. I've been here longer sober than not."
But before the old days of working for drinks and his journey at a Pour House career ever began, Wilson was already headed toward a life in music. "In high school, I was the one who hooked up car stereos and stuff like that, so I was always into the actual hooking up part of it and it just kind of came easily to me," says Wilson, who's originally from West Ashley. "I could hear what I was changing when I was turning the knobs, so I picked up on it pretty quickly."
Wilson did have other brief ventures — after college he was a private investigator and then an insurance man, the latter of which kept bringing him back to the coast for work. Eventually, he realized he wanted to return to the Lowcountry, and to music, full-time.
Wilson didn't even necessarily have anyone to show him how it all worked — he just started playing around with sound on his own. At one point, he lived with a band and, out of necessity, began mixing them at their shows. A few years after that, he started hanging out at a bar that would become the Savannah Highway Pour House (now the site of Hunley's Tavern). "That's where I met Alex [Harris, Pour House owner], and he started booking bands. He had some knowledge, I had some knowledge," Wilson explains. "And I just started doing [sound] for him over there, and it just turned into a career over here."
The Pour House moved to James Island in 2005 and has over the past decade turned into a Charleston institution, welcoming everyone from Grammy Award-nominated country singer Sturgill Simpson to hip-hop artist Blackalicious to the Black Crowes' Chris Robinson. The venue also champions local acts several times a week, whether it's on the deck out back for free, relaxed, early evening shows or on the main stage. And that growth has all happened on Harris and Wilson's watch.
"Alex is cool, and I feel like I don't even have a boss," Wilson says. "And the people who work here actually care about the place, so we all have an interest. It's not like coming to some place and clocking in and you can't wait until you leave. We all have an interest, and we want to build the place up."