PORT TOWNSEND — Jarrod Bramson’s ties to the Jefferson County music scene ran deep.
He played guitar with his wife, Emily Madden, in the popular group the Solvents. He was a DJ for local radio station KPTZ and a host for open mic nights at two different establishments.
And whenever a friend needed anything — a place to record music, a bed to sleep on, an extra cord to plug in for a show — Bramson didn’t hesitate to say yes, say those who knew him.
Bramson, 43, died last week of an apparent drug overdose, according to the Port Townsend Police Department. A group of about two dozen of his closest friends have been together ever since they learned of his death at Jefferson Healthcare hospital on March 27.
Adam Michael Kelly, also of Port Townsend, is facing 10 charges in connection with drugs, manufacturing and the intent to deliver, including controlled substances homicide in connection with the case.
Bramson leaves behind 19-year-old twin daughters Aurora and Ana in addition to Madden and her daughter, Rosemary Carey, 18. Madden said they got together in a “Brady Bunch” way with children from previous relationships.
“They were everything to us,” Madden said.
While they didn’t have children together, Bramson and Madden often would pretend the young daughter of Oceanna Van Lelyweld was their own.
Van Lelyweld, one of eight close-knit friends who met Tuesday morning in a recording studio on the third floor of the Port Townsend Post Office, said she had known Bramson since he was 13.
“The girls are miraculous and talented, much like their dad,” fellow musician Seth Raymond said.
Bramson and Madden often were inseparable. Shannon Summers, another friend who shared memories, called their connection “the most epic love story ever.
“The way they loved each other taught me the kind of love I wanted in my life, and I have that today,” Summers said.
Madden said she and Bramson owned the ninth house ever built in Port Townsend, a building constructed in 1873. She said Bramson had converted a parlor into a recording room and learned how to put all the pieces of music together by himself.
While Bramson worked as an assistant editor for Feral House publishing company in Port Townsend and Madden works as a massage therapist, they also would play shows locally and abroad. Madden said they toured Europe twice and also performed in Mexico and Hawaii.
“If we went on vacation, we would find somewhere to play,” Madden said.
The recording studio was used by many musicians who sought Bramson’s knowledge and guidance.
“What he was creating was a lighthouse for other musicians,” Raymond said. “He would play with them and help them refine their performance. It was like, ‘It’s you and me, and I’m going to push you.’ ”
Their home also provided a safe space for many of their friends.
“Three of us have lived with them,” said Ruby Fitch, the music director at KPTZ.
Many of their other friends worked together at Pygmy Boats in Port Townsend.
And whenever anyone asked if Bramson and Madden would play a benefit concert to raise money for a cause — when Van Lelyweld’s daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, for example — the answer was yes.
One of Bramson’s favorites was for the Port Townsend High School choir so he could help put money into music programs, Madden said.
Madden said she and Bramson recently finished an album called “Memory Shreds,” which she hopes will be made into a vinyl record. It also will be available soon on Spotify, SoundCloud and iTunes, she said.
“It’s going to be a piece of art,” Madden said.
Others, like Adam Karagas, appreciated Bramson’s ability to write lyrics. Madden said Bramson felt many musicians no longer are writing meaningful phrases to go along with their music.
“He was idolized here,” Karagas said. “Musically, I admired him.”
Teresa Verraes, a family friend who founded the The Boiler Room, a now-closed coffeehouse for young people, saw many fundraisers Bramson and Madden put on as the Solvents.
When she learned of Bramson’s death, she started a GoFundMe campaign that had raised nearly $36,000 in four days as of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
It had surpassed both an initial $10,000 goal and a second mark of $30,000.
“I think it’s because they have given and given and given,” Verraes said.
The funds will cover costs beyond end-of-life necessities and help Madden and the girls, according to the campaign.
“One of our friends said it best,” Verraes said, “‘I guess if you don’t have it, your friends become your insurance.’”
Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at [email protected].