It’s hard, but I’ll admit it.I almost left Third & Lindsley once I heard the first mumbled line from singer-songwriter, Brett Dennen.
The WRLT Acoustic Christmas opening act, Meiko, had left my heart fluttering with her crisp and whispery croon, and then a guy I thought was just doing a mic check for the next act starting playing.
I told myself I was not ending my December 16 night out with a friend listening to this guy, but after settling into my chair at the Nashville venue I found more than another “favorite artist” for my Facebook profile. I found a message of hope in a troubled time-and some fun music.
Dennen sat to the side of the stage in a small chair leaned over his guitar as if it were a gift just given to a young son. A small “hey guys” was given to the audience from under the red hair covering his face, and he started playing.
A high-registered and mumbling voice with the likes of Jason Mraz meets Tracy Chapman, Dennen was first hard to understand. But once I started digging in and listening to his lyrics and happy acoustic beat, I fell completely into his music.
Dennen’s music is choc full of lyrics like Mraz and takes a humanistic look at the world. His latest album he is now on tour for is titled “Hope for the Hopeless.”
I recently had a chance to hook up with Dennen by phone before his show in Austin, TX. Here’s what I asked and what Brett had to say:
FLATT: How did you get started in music?
DENNEN: Well, I grew up in northern California, and I started playing in a band in college. And I got out of college and quit the band, and I started writing my own songs and recording them and playing and doing lots and lots of gigs in the northern California area. It started to grow, and I got a manager and a booking agent. And it kept growing and growing. And I kept playing further and further away and all over the place. Year after year, it was just playing and playing and playing.
FLATT: What artists do you listen to?
DENNEN: Currently-you know, I always listen to Van Morrison and Neil Young-but I got the new Bon Iver record which is really cool. And I like listening to My Morning Jacket.
FLATT: Who has been your favorite musician to tour with?
DENNEN: I had a lot of fun on the road with John Mayer. I had a lot of fun with the band called Guster, and I had a lot of fun with the John Butler Trio.
FLATT: Is it any different playing in Nashville as opposed to other places?
DENNEN: It’s different-well, I don’t know. For one, it’s Nashville, the self-proclaimed music capital of the world, so there’s a lot of musicians there. And then there’s a lot of people there who see a lot of music, so people in Nashville might not necessarily go as crazy as they might in San Francisco or Vermont where there’s not so much of the industry there.
But also, last time I was in Nashville and played, Matt Karney was there, and he came up and talked to me afterwards. It’s cool, because-like New York or L.A.-there’s always people in the audience and you can have special guests come out and things like that. So (Nashville’s) pretty cool.
FLATT: You talk a lot about-not just what your usual pop music talks about-but you seem to want to make an impact with you music, so what inspires that? Why do you want to try to make a difference?
DENNEN: As an artist I write about the world I want to live in. And as a musician and someone who is in the public eye, I think you have this responsibility to influence people. So I try influence people to live from their heart and make conscious decisions , and I try just inspire people to make positive change. That’s purely the reason I do it. I want to see the world get better, you know?
FLATT: When did you first feel like you wanted to make a difference? Not just in music, but in the way you live.
DENNEN: All my life. It’s been something that I have always done. Even as a kid, I was volunteering with my parents in many different forms. It’s just been something that I’ve always done, so it’s just a natural thing for me to do.
FLATT: Do you think that college students right now don’t realize what they can do to make a positive impact on the world around them?
DENNEN: It’s sad, because when you’re young that’s when you feel like you can change the world. Then you get older and you buy a house and have kids, and you don’t want to be so bold anymore. Right now, I think that there are a lot of college kids that don’t realize what going on, and they’ve got Blackberrys-and I mean, nothing wrong with a Blackberry. I’ve got a Blackberry-but you know what I mean. They’ve got distractions, and I think everything moves in cycles and things move in shifts. So I think it’s just a matter of time before things shift back the other way.