An Interview with Brett Dennen
Singer Opens for Jason Mraz at the Bowl
Fall may be on its way, but season-change deniers will find great company in the sunny sounds of Brett Dennen’s new EP, Here’s Looking at You Kid. Known mostly as an album artist, Dennen made the unexpected move to release a two-part EP, the first of which was dropped in February. Collaborating with Dan Wilson, musician and songwriter behind inescapable hits, such as Semisonic’s “Closing Time,” Dennen has found the perfect producer and co-writer for his latest infusion of feel good folk pop. Slated to headline a tour this fall with Mercury Prize winner, Nick Mulvey, Dennen made time to chat ahead of his Santa Barbara Bowl stop opening for Jason Mraz on Saturday, September 15.
After releasing mostly albums for the past 10 years, what prompted the release of two EPs in 2018? Simply to change it up. The same way a novelist might release a book of short stories. Instead of spending a year or two years working on and releasing a full-length album, I chose to split it into two and release them a few months apart. I did it in the hopes that releasing music more often it will keep my audience engaged.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences? I love the great songwriters. People like Paul Simon, Cat Stevens and Van Morrison.
What are your inspirations behind the latest EP, Here’s Looking At You Kid? Is there a story from your life behind the title track? That song started out as a “Thank You” message to the people who have listened to me and supported me over the years. As always though, other ideas and feelings creep in. I was speculating what fatherhood may be like. So, it ended up being a song about life.
As an environmental conservationist and former camp counselor for at-risk youth, how do you believe that music could be used to bring people together or inspire activism? Music alone inspires. That’s what I believe. It makes you feel. Feelings are powerful, they move people.
What brought you and Nick Mulvey together? What can attendees expect from your fall tour? I’ve been a fan of his for about three years now but it never occurred to me to tour with him until someone I work with brought his name up as a potential touring partner because he’s releasing new music and looking to tour in North America. The timing worked out. I’m really looking forward to it.
As a wine lover and creator, have you found any favorite winemakers in the Santa Barbara area yet? Can you draw any parallels between making wine and writing music? Yes. I’m a longtime fan of Qupe and Au Bon Climat. I enjoy subtle elegant wine. Those wineries have made a strong impact on the style of wine making that I’d like to be a part of. Wine making is quite different from music. You can manipulate music all day, but with wine, at some point, you have to let nature take over. I think there’s a lot to learn from winemaking that can be applied to songwriting. I’d like to learn how to let the ingredients do their thing and trust in the simplicity.
Brett Dennen opens for Jason Mraz Saturday, September 15, at the Bowl. See sbbowl.org.