On a musical mission

Brett Dennen's uplifting tunes hide a darker side he's starting to explore

May 10, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun Reporter

Despite what his listeners may think, there is a darker side to Brett Dennen.

The West Coast folk artist with the boyish looks and pre-pubescent voice has kept his anger from seeping into his music. His two albums, the self-titled debut and last November's So Much More, are filled with uplifting songs of innocence and honesty. He will play these tomorrow at the Recher Theatre.

Dennen said he applies about 80 percent of his personality to his music and holds back his outrage and hatred. But as he overcomes his insecurities and further matures as a musician, he is letting these emotions seep into his songwriting.

"I'm getting better at it," Dennen said. "I want to move to a place where I can feel comfortable expressing those things, but I'm not there yet."

With a rash of tour dates stretching through late summer, Dennen said he won't have time to really focus on a new album until fall, and recording could begin in December.

Dennen is constantly writing lyrics, usually with a rhythm or melody in mind, he said. Often, the words and melody come at the same time. Then he spends time editing and molding the pieces with a guitar and chord progression, until he feels they're ready.

One of Dennen's most distinct attributes is his high-pitched voice. It helps give a sense of honesty associated with youth to his songs, he said.

"One thing my voice has is a real truthfulness," Dennen said. "It can be pretty sometimes. Other times it can be rough and out of tune and scratchy. I think that helps me, I think that works to my benefit."

Dennen is part of the vibrant West Coast folk collective that also includes Carey Brothers and Joshua Radin. Success has come through many different mediums for the scene, including TV shows, radio and record deals. "Ain't No Reason," a song from Dennen's new album, was on the TV show House, and he's also had music on Grey's Anatomy.

"It's a crazy time," Dennen said. "Nobody knows the right way to do it."

For the near future, Dennen plans to keep touring and building a fan base the traditional way.

"I try to play as many gigs as I can and try to connect with people on a show-by-show basis and make them want to come back and see me again and make them want to buy my albums," he said. "I try to stay focused on writing good, original music, and put good music out there."

Brett Dennen plays the Recher Theatre tomorrow. Animal Liberation Orchestra and Lucas Reynolds open. The venue is at 512 York Road in Towson. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 410-337-7178 or go to rechertheatre.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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