Brett Dennen - We Want More
Author: Carlisle Rogers
Monday, 19 May 2008
Brett Dennen, the darling auburn-headed troubadour from Oakdale, California, is 28, but he looks 14 and a half. His honest-to-goodness watery vocals, frank lyrics and boy-next-door appearance have simultaneously disarmed and warmed critics in the US.
His second album, the first to be released in Australia, So Much More, was recorded in Jackson Browne's studio, sans Jackson. 'I worked with this producer named Kevin McCormack who happened to play in Jackson Browne's band, but Jackson didn't have anything to do with the record other than we just used his studio,' Dennen says. 'I hooked up with the studio through Kevin. He's made a lot of records in there and it's a great studio. It was right at the time. He was the guy for the job.'
In a sea of guitar-wielding folk-hero wannabes, Dennen says it was his own unique flavours that made him stick out. 'I have a lot of African and Latin influences that you can hear in my music [which] set me apart from other singer/songwriters out there. I think my songs are really honest and personal and that sets me apart too. Plus, I dance on stage, which not a lot of singer-songwriters do. I, in fact, wear shoes, but I take them off on stage a lot of times.
'I don't think I sound like a lot of people. Most people go for a Ryan Adams sort of Nick Drake vibe. My voice is unique, it's crackly and high and kind of pitchy. I do a lot of finger picking and percussive stuff on the guitar too.'
So what was Dennen doing before his meteoric rise to television soundtracks and Rolling Stone magazine's hit list- Helping little kids, of course, and peace and stuff. All the things that most rock n roll heads roll their eyes at, he's in there getting his fingernails dirty, the same ones that finger-picked his Darlin' Do Not Fear to the high rotation list of every commercial station in America when it first came out there in 2006. 'I was working for non-profit organizations up in San Francisco called The Mosaic Project,' Dennen says. 'It's like a peace school and we get kids from various racial and economic backgrounds together to create this beautiful spectrum of kids. We basically just talk about who we are and what makes us different from other people and learn how to communicate non-violently. It's all about building community across our differences and celebrating our differences.'
Brett says that with the second album, he has honed in on what makes him unique. His songs are honest, and just a little bit preachy, but he says it's about consistency, in the end. 'I have my own process and I've learned how to say the things I say a little bit better. I think I know who I am a little bit more. I'm trying to be a message of hope and the champion of good people,' he says. 'I'm trying to be political and spiritual, but also compassionate and caring. I want to be a voice for good.'
WHO: Brett Dennen
WHAT: So Much More through Downtown/Inertia
WHEN: Out now