Brett Dennen: The Write Stuff

 
I made a conscious effort to make sure that everything had a locked in, hard groove. It's more fun for me as a performer onstage if the songs are more groove-driven, and if you can get the audience moving, you stand a better chance of opening their minds.

-Brett Dennen

 

Producer and multi-instrumentalist John Alagia, who helmed Hope for the Hopeless and was brought in by Jive to produce Loggins' forthcoming album, suggested Loggins work with Dennen, who says he had fun "trying to get into [Loggins'] brain and help him write songs that relate to him."

Brett Dennen
"Brett's unusual involvement in the process has made it one of the most memorable and enjoyable of my career," Loggins says. "His heart, passion and incredible work ethic are all qualities every artist would love to emulate."

Developing songwriting chops is one thing, but learning to trust your voice and sing is a whole different ballgame. In that effort, Dennen sought inspiration from Neil Young. When the legendary songwriter wrote the classic "Mr. Soul" in 1967 as a member of Buffalo Springfield, he met resistance about whether he was the right singer for the track from both his bandmates and the band's label, Atlantic Records.

"He was initially intimidated by his own voice," Dennen says. "But what's he going to do? He's going to keep writing songs and he's going to get over it and everybody else is going to have to get over it. I consider him to be one of the greatest singers of all time. Not because he can hit as many notes as Van Morrison, but just because it's authentic."

In his early recordings, you can hear Dennen holding back his voice at times, unwilling to lift the reins. But, the past five years have seen him let go, using a more soulful vocal style to expand his laid-back folk and roots rock. In a serendipitous twist, the lone guest star on Hope is one of the more soulful artists on the planet. Femi Kuti, the son of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti and a leading light in African music, provides backing vocals on "Make You Crazy," the album's first single.

Kuti flew in from his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria to record the track. Dennen, a huge fan of both Femi and his father, says it took a while for the pair to get on the same page. Dennen felt that Femi may have been trying too hard to fit into his style rather than just being himself. The breakthrough came on an instrumental section towards the end, where Femi wrote his own interpretation of the lyrics in Pidgin English.

"After he made a couple of passes, we were like, 'Holy crap, this is amazing," Dennen says. "We were all freaking out at how powerful it was."

Brett Dennen
"Crazy" uses a lilting groove as a Trojan Horse of sorts for a diatribe against injustice, particularly child slavery and encroachment on civil liberties. That is Dennen's sly maneuver on this record, adding rhythms and grooves to his songs in an effort to get more ears to listen to his social messages.

"I made a conscious effort to make sure that everything had a locked in, hard groove," he says. "It's more fun for me as a performer onstage if the songs are more groove-driven, and if you can get the audience moving, you stand a better chance of opening their minds."

That message is grounded in those summer camps as a kid, a time that seems to have impacted Dennen deeply in terms of his potential to reach young people. He also founded Love Speaks, a nonprofit that serves as a promotional arm for like-minded charities, allowing them to set up shop at his live shows.

"Every time you open your mouth and speak to a child, you have an opportunity to enrich that child's life," Dennen says. "Every word I write, every song I sing, I have an opportunity to put out a message. It might not always be a positive message, but it has to be heartfelt."

Brett Dennen Tour Dates
10/31/08 Fri Waterfront at The Aloha Tower Honolulu, HI
11/03/08 Mon Doug Fir Portland, OR
11/05/08 Wed The Triple Door Seattle, WA
11/06/08 Thu The Independent San Francisco, CA
11/07/08 Fri The Hotel Cafe Los Angeles, CA
11/08/08 Sat The Hotel Cafe Los Angeles, CA
11/10/08 Mon The Walnut Room Denver, CO
11/11/08 Tue Continental Club Austin, TX
11/13/08 Thu Schubas Chicago, IL
11/14/08 Fri Rams Head Live Baltimore, MD
11/15/08 Sat Tin Angel Philadelphia, PA
11/16/08 Sun Club Passim Cambridge, MA
11/18/08 Tue The Canal Room New York, NY
12/30/08 Tue Music Hall Of Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY (w/ Matisyahu)

Brett Dennen "Make You Crazy" on WFUV

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[Published on: 10/30/08]

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Comments

DelrayChris Thu 10/30/2008 07:12PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Cola21 Thu 10/30/2008 08:03PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Cola21

I find that to be a very naive remark, Chris. Any half-conscious listen to Brett Dennen's material picks up thoughtful lyrics, depth of content, and a brilliant ear for rhythm and musical flow. Just because an artist is young, holds an acoustic guitar, and might be known by more than 100 people doesn't reduce him to "barf." Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but I struggle to imagine an open-minded music lover disliking this music.

iwantstogetfunkedup Thu 10/30/2008 10:10PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Well Cola21, I wouldn't say I dislike it at all but I think he is highly overrated. But Barf maybe a little harsh.

mmmFriedFrogLegs star Fri 10/31/2008 03:51AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

mmmFriedFrogLegs

woah GINGER to the max

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Fri 10/31/2008 03:52AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
KCReb Fri 10/31/2008 06:59AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

KCReb

I think it's just fine these days to hear good bands on a commercial. I used to think 'sell-out' immediately, but now I look at it in a different light. I'd rather hear good music than some crappy jingle- and dudes gotta get paid in these harsh times. Wilco, MMJ, Flaming Lips, etc are all on board.

HoodooVoodoo starstarstarstarstar Fri 10/31/2008 08:10AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

HoodooVoodoo

How else is an artist supposed to supplement their income these days since CDs are free now (thanks internet!)? I don't care for this ginger baby though. He can go back to his gingerbread house.

sschaffner Fri 10/31/2008 08:36AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

sschaffner

don't be an asshole milesgone, why don't you check your own favorite artists list because i think you need to quit a few more bands. starting with ac/dc (speaking of barf), and then jose gonzalez (see sony's bouncy ball commercial). even the brash and antisocial modest mouse had a song in a car commercial! it goes against everything they stand for, but musicians have to do anything they can to make money these days (^hoodoovoodoo makes a good point). it's probably automatically built into every major record label contract whether you like it or not.

Road To Shambala Fri 10/31/2008 09:44AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Road To Shambala

Give this large red head a listen, you'll dig it.

mickrod420 Fri 10/31/2008 10:02AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

This guy is chill. I think he sounds good. All three cds. Good vibes and sound. Organic and from the soul.

OurBandCouldBeYourLife Fri 10/31/2008 10:35AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

OurBandCouldBeYourLife

Well said, sschaffner!

PooDolla Fri 10/31/2008 12:08PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

PooDolla

He even looks boring.

nomemory Sat 11/1/2008 06:44AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

nomemory

I consider myself an openmided music listener, been to hundreds of shows, own thousands of cds, blah blah blah...but his music (lyrics) don't move me all that much. I like his voice, playing style, et cetera, but many of his lyrics seem as ego driven as possible. Many songs are just ballads about how great a lover he is, and how he can make "insert random female" so much happier in ways that other guys can't...I can't stand people that write lyrics like that. Maybe if he keeps doing what he's doing, his lyrics will become a little more mature, and worldly, and less ego-centric. I'm sure that this comment, much like any that doesn't compliment Mr.Dennen, will get the required negative votes to make itself disappear. Oh well, C'est la vie.

nathanjrod Sat 11/1/2008 04:21PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

nathanjrod

Ugh. Super-lame, trust-fund, pastel rock.

The guy makes Keller Williams seem like a hyperaggressive a-hole.

I have no idea why I find his breeziness so personally offensive, but I guess I prefer music with a little more depth...

You may now give me a thumbs down!

Jeff Kash Sun 11/2/2008 10:58AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Jeff Kash

It looks like there is a dead fox on top of this girls head. I'm sure the show in Williamsburg will be filled with tight jeans and teary-eyes.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Mon 11/3/2008 04:57AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

hahaha.. and its a man. not a girl. and yes he is scary looking.

he is also like six foot seven.. a huge person.

and I did not know jose was on a commercial ???? yack.. thats too bad.

acdc? my fav band from highschool. Nothing will change that!!!

and I stand by my initial comment.. so there. :)

dreadyknowsbest starstarstarstarstar Mon 11/3/2008 04:19PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

dreadyknowsbest

Hair helmet sale! He bought the red one mike gordon got the grey one!!!!!!!

chidodger Tue 11/4/2008 07:20AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

chidodger

This guy looks like a cross between a Hobit and KD Lang. Who the hell told him that was a "good hair cut"?

prsand311 Tue 11/4/2008 02:09PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

prsand311

I like Dennen's style but I every time I give his last album a spin, I find many songs sound a like. I saw him live once and the guests I brought also agreed that all the songs just blended together. His guitar picking in each song gives each song a similar character. I am interested in hearing new stuff, but I am not planning on being blown away.

RedHeaven starstarstarstar Tue 11/4/2008 02:56PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

RedHeaven

Can we give a little love to Hot Buttered Rum for bringing Dennon on tour with them in 2004 and the Harvest Meltdown for Halloween in Yosemite in 05? They helped expose Dennon to the music scene in norcal. I loved his version of Madonnas Like a Prayer. Honestly though, I love his voice and I love his gingerly look, but his songs and writing have never stoked my fire. I do wish him the best, though.

Recreational Chemist Tue 11/4/2008 07:15PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Recreational Chemist

soundslike a rip off of that song those cooler guys made a year or two back

devonyacht Wed 11/5/2008 01:38PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Why is he using a photo of Ally Sheedy for his press photos???? Man that hair is creepy!!

bigchris star Sun 11/9/2008 11:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

daywalker

wimpy music for wimps, sung with a wussy voice

your chick might dig it....