- Posted on Mar 7th 2011 10:30PM by Emily Tan
Dennen returns in April with 'Loverboy,' and prior to that, he'll head to Austin to play SXSW. Before making the trip to Texas, Dennen talked to Spinner about why funerals should be celebrations, what he really wanted to be when he grew up and how food is similar to music.
What can fans expect from your upcoming album, 'Loverboy?'
It's in the same vein as the music I made before. It's positive. It has a good message and it's a heartfelt personal narrative. I think the sounds are a little bit different. The production on the songs is a little more upbeat, more danceable, more groovy.
Is there any particular track that you're very proud of or have a personal attachment to?
Every song has its strong place in my heart, but the one I think I have the most fun playing is a song called 'Dancing at a Funeral.' I think it's song number two [on the album]. For me, it's just fun to play. It's one of those song that when I get out on the road playing shows every night, it's the one where I'll have the most fun playing.
'Dancing at a Funeral' sounds pretty upbeat, despite having to do with funerals. What's the story behind this song?
That's the thing I think about funerals: I think they should be celebrations. I think you grieve, and you handle your grief, but it should be a celebration of life.
Who or what influenced you while recording, 'Loverboy?'
I was really into a lot of music from the '70s and early '80s, like Steely Dan. I sort of tried to capture that spirit.
When did you decide that music was your calling?
Right after college. I started writing songs and playing shows here and there. As a kid, I wasn't like, "I want to be a rock star" or anything like that. I didn't think about it so much like it was a calling. I just started doing it, and it felt good and felt natural. But over time, after a couple of years of doing that, I was like, "OK, this is what I'm meant to do." I just sort of fell in love with it, and it took over my life.
Since you didn't dream of being a rock star as a child, what did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always thought I'd be some sort of educator or teacher or something like that.
What's your first music-related memory?
My best and early one was in 1986, when Paul Simon's 'Graceland' came out, and it was a big album for Paul Simon. That was a big moment in my childhood because my parents were big fans of Simon & Garfunkel. So when that album came out, my parents played it all the time in the car, and we'd just drive around and listen to it all the time. That was the first time I've ever been overwhelmed by the power of music.
You've toured with a lot of famous musicians, including Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Jason Mraz -- all of whom have praised your work. How does it feel to be revered by other musicians?
I think it's good, because it feels like you have a community -- a group of musicians looking out for each other, supporting each other, pressuring each other to be their best.
You have also collaborated with a bunch them as well. Which is most memorable?
Working with Femi Kuti was probably the most memorable, and that was on my last record, ['Hope for the Hopeless.'] It's just because we come from completely different worlds. He has a whole different concept of music -- music that's from Africa. It comes from an interpretation of the blues. It comes from the legacy of his father, [Fela]. In West Africa, his father was a legend, and he carried with him that legacy. To be around that was like being around Martin Luther King, Jr. or something, with that aura and that much power. So many people regard him as a hero.
On your website, a promo video about 'Loverboy' talks about your love of cooking. What is it about cooking that you like so much?
I just like bringing people together and giving them a reason to celebrate. Food does the same thing -- it brings people together to celebrate. I like feeding people healthy food, making them feel good, giving everyone something to talk about. Sitting around a table with food is a cause for celebration, just like a great song is.
What's your signature dish?
Anything that involves sunflower greens -- like sunflower sprouts, avocados, seaweed and leafy green vegetables.
You seem to be a pretty positive and optimistic person. With what's going on in the world today, how do you keep yourself and your music from being jaded?
I think it's just how I am and who I am naturally. I'm a pretty positive person, and I want my music to reflect that. I want to make people feel good about themselves, life and the world. I don't want to put out anything negative. I don't want to bring people down. I want to lift people up.
Catch Brett Dennen's SXSW Set on Wednesday, March 16 at Moody Theater (310 W 2nd St) 7:30PM.
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