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Brett Dennen

A Conversation with Brett Dennen (continued)

PM: Now, at what point did you start developing musically? When did you start playing guitar and writing songs? Did your mom foster that, or was that just your thing?

BD: Well, she fostered it indirectly, I think. Because of the way I was home schooled, I got into the idea of trying to learn how to do things my own way. And so when I started playing guitar, I taught myself. I took lessons for a while, but I lost interest in them because I think I just didn't like going to my lessons, I didn't like my teacher, I didn't like what I was learning. So then I quit. And after I quit, then I really started to learn. But for me, music was always something that I knew how to do sort of, but never really was like super into it. In high school I played in sort of like a punk rock band. It was kind of a funny band, all our songs were comedy songs.

PM: [laughs]

BD: But it wasn't like that's what I wanted to do. I honestly really wanted to be some kind of a teacher, some kind of an educator. For a long time I wanted to be an outdoor educator, like a science camp, or something that had to do with wilderness and fishing and kayaking, and being outside in the forest, or in a national park, or something like that. And then in college--I think it was just by the nature of where I was when I went to college: my cousin was in college with me, and he was a musician, and he really wanted to be in band, and so he recruited me to be in a band with him. I played mandolin in that band.

And then after I graduated college I went away for a summer to work at an outdoor program and came back because I really wanted to play music, I decided. And so I came back, and the band didn't work out. Right around the time that the band didn't work out, I started doing my own thing, singing my own songs.

PM: Do you mean that, up until that point, you really hadn't written too many songs?

BD: Yeah.

PM: Wow! And then all of a sudden you just kind of started writing your own songs?

BD: Uh-huh, exactly.

PM: Wow. I mean, what an unusual breakthrough in a person's life--and it does happen to some people, that at a certain point you just begin to write songs.

BD: Right. I know a guy, Joshua Radin, who worked as a writer for a sitcom, or something like that, for a long time, until he was the age of 30. Then he started writing songs, and he wrote some really good songs. And he found out that he could write songs without even really knowing how to play guitar.

PM: Wow.

BD: So I guess when it happens, it happens.

PM: Right. Now, there's something awfully special about your songs; not only that, but the way you play them and the way you sing them. It really seems to have touched a lot of important people in a way that has gotten your singer/songwriter career on this incredibly fast track.

BD: Uh-huh.

PM: In other words, are you surprised at the speed with which your career is rather suddenly proceeding? I mean, there was a first record, and then there was some very good press after that. But now on the second record it really it seems to be gathering quite a bit of speed. Is that not so?

BD: Yeah, I think so. But I think when you're talking about in terms of a career or the speed, I think that all has to do with the people that you're working with. I mean, I was the same person before when I wrote the songs for the first record, I just didn't have all these people, like a label, a manager, and an agent behind me--

PM: And a publicist, right.

BD: --and a publicist, getting the music out there, getting people like you to call me up and ask me about it and write about it, put it online, put it in the paper, put it on the radio. I mean, I guess I am surprised, but I'm not a different person. I'm a better performer, and I think I'm a better writer since then. But I'm not a different person. All that speed that you're talking about has to do with other people's involvement.

PM: Yes, and well put. How did you meet your manager, Leslie?

BD: I used to live with her daughter--her daughter had a back house, it was a trailer, kind of like a camper trailer, and I lived there for a while. And I had known her before that, I was friends with her from college.

PM: Very curious. So you're her first important client?

BD: I don't know. I don't know what she would tell you, but I think so.

PM: Yeah. Because it's very interesting, isn't it, that your first record comes out self-released, and I remember hearing that it was very good. And then the second one is with a small but very astute Nashville label. [Dualtone.]

BD: Uh-huh.

PM: And yet you're playing with and opening for some of the biggest acts in the world, because obviously they heard it, and they heard it before the big labels did, who I'm sure by now have come knocking.

BD: Yes, they have, actually. [laughs]

PM: [laughs] Because that's what they do. They take too long to find out something, and then when they do, they all come at the same time.

BD: Yep. You got it right on the head.

PM: But how is Dualtone doing with this record? When I went to their site I was very happy to see they were all about this Brett Dennen release, and they had it front and center, just like they should.

BD: Thanks. Yeah, I think they're great. I'm really happy with them. They're really there and in it for the music because they love music. It was founded by two people who worked at Arista for years, for a big label, and they left and out of their own savings accounts started a label because they wanted to work from the ground up with musicians for the love of music, and that's what they're in it for. I really appreciate that, and that's why I made the decision to go with them.

PM: Yeah, we're very, very big on them, being Nashvillian ourselves, we're very big on the Dualtone label.

BD: Yeah.    continue

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