Characterizing Brett Dennen as a promising singer-songwriter sells the young man’s fully formed talent woefully short.
So Much More, along with his new seasonal song, “The Holidays Are Here (And We’re Still At War),” are strong evidence that Dennen’s idealism, melodic sensibility and gentle voice of protest will play an increasingly prominent role in the musical landscape for years to come.
The unedited transcript of an email interview There Stands the Glass conducted with Brett Dennen follows.
There Stands The Glass: A good friend of mine who mostly listens to punk music recently raved about you. Does this surprise you, or are you finding that you’re making inroads with people not typically into singer-songwriter stuff?
Brett Dennen: Well when you mix punk and folk together you get "polk", which is closely related to "polka" which we know has nothing to do with either the previous, so lets just say people are attracted to what speaks to them, and what speaks to most folks is truth. My music is one hundred percent truth.
TSTG: When will love come set me free? Has it set you free yet?
BD: Yes it has. Listen to what is inside of you. Spend some time on your own. Forgiveness will set you free also.
TSTG: Many of your songs, including "The One Who Loves You the Most," clearly echo Bob Dylan’s work. Even so, I don’t have the slightest inclination to compare you to Dylan. Why do you suppose that is?
BD: We were both born on a Tuesday.
TSTG: The lyrical content of a few of your songs are equal parts political and romantic. Why do you choose to directly tie these two subjects together?
BD: Love is thoughtless, all emotion. Politics is manipulative. It utilizes the mind. They couldn’t be more opposite than that. I like the balance.
TSTG: You come across as a super nice guy on So Much More. Are you?
BD: Why yes I am. Sometimes people tell me that I am not nice, but I believe that is their own insecurities talking. If someone feels as though I was not nice to them, it was me acting on behalf of what is best for me. I cannot let my own desires suffer so that I can take care of someone else’s feelings. That is called being a "push over."
TSTG: Have you heard Love, the new Beatles mash-up? If so, what do you think?
Is that the new Vegas thing? I have not heard it.
TSTG: Here’s a blurb about you in a trade magazine advertisement: "The Oakdale, CA, native continues to grow his fan base with a live show consisting of the honest songwriting of a Jack Johnson, the guitar work of Paul Simon and the attention grabbing energy of a Ben Harper leaving all in his wake of yearning for more." Setting aside the quote’s problematical grammar and non sequiturs, what’s your assessment of this description?
BD: I think comparisons are what people need in order to categorize. You can’t understand something until it is categorized. I am flattered. I am big fans of all those guys. I met Jack Johnson, he is about the nicest guy you will ever meet. A friend of mine is friends with Harper, so I am guessing he is great as well. As for mister Simon, he is in my opinion, the greatest living songwriter, and please feel free to quote me on that.
TSTG: Do you tour with a band? Did you consider recording So Much More as a solo acoustic album?
BD: Yes I tour with a band. No it is not an acoustic album. I consider it folk in a blender.
TSTG: Do you have a master plan of how you’d like your career in music to progress? Would you rather become a beloved cult artist like Loudon Wainwright III or a pop superstar like Dave Matthews?
BD: No man. I am fan oriented, but I also want to reach a lot of people through the mainstream channels. I will find a place that is just for me.
TSTG: This is a wild stab in the dark, but do you listen to much Chris Smither?
BD: Never heard of him.
Dennen’s tour schedule is loaded through March. So Much More is available here.