YWIM chats with Brendan James about new album, house concerts
Brendan James is a classic talent who isn't afraid to expose his entire self through his music. If you want to know who he is, just pick up an album. Each song is more than a catchy tune - it's a story, an introduction, his view on a hot-button topic - it's complex and utterly heartfelt.
It only makes sense that when James became overwhelmed by the pop industry in 2011, and it started to affect his songwriting, he took a hiatus to do some soul-searching.
"I spent that time doing a lot of soul-searching and questioning whether I wanted to be involved in the pop music industry," James said. "Although I can write some folky things and I try to be somewhat alternative, at the end of the day I know I'm still considered pop and to get your name out in the pop world is trickier than anyone really realizes."
So he disappeared for a year. And when he emerged, it was with complete clarity about the message he wanted to send - simplify your life. He spent three weeks recording his fifth and newest album which he titled nothing other than Simplify.
"I picked Simplify for the title because that was my inspiration for my whole writing process this time around ... to just go somewhere by myself and keep things simple - ideas, sentiments," James said. "I just wanted to really come from a singular place that was authentically me."
James said he drew inspiration for the album from old souls like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Neil Young - artists who weren't afraid to express lyrically exactly what was on their mind.
Simplify covers a little bit of everything: From the heavier song about gun control titled The New Plan, to Simplify which talks about simplifying your life, eating the right foods, taking time to listen to your body and overall getting healthier, to Letter of Apology, a song about the environment.
"There are definitely some different topics going on in this album. There's a pretty heavy song about gun control, basically inspired by these shootings that keep happening and how I want to be one of the people who's always talking about it instead of letting it fall to the wayside over time and then having some tragic event bring it back up," James said.
"I'm not saying I want to do away with all guns or that that's even a realistic possibility, but I want to do away with this obsession that we have with violence and this fear that so many Americans have," he added.
One fascinating new trend that James and his band are a part of is bringing house concerts to towns that otherwise don't get much traction from the music industry. They're calling them backyard concerts, or house shows.
One of the brains behind taking James' music to houses around the country is his drummer on the tour, Craig Meyer.
"I had done it with a couple of other artists and the return was so great ... not just in a sense from a monetary standpoint or an audio standpoint but from a fulfillment standpoint," Meyer said. "This is a chance where you actually get to have conversations and share stories and really take a minute to appreciate the moment while you're touring."
James added that it's an equally fulfilling experience for both the musician and the fans.
"It's the most symbiotic experience that I have come across as a musician because you're very happy to give and fans are very happy to receive," he said. "You leave at the end of the night at 10 p.m. and you're both fulfilled and you go on to the next one ... where sometimes at venues there are so many other elements and things that can kind of mess it up in some way ... so you don't always get that perfect fulfillment that house shows give."
Apparently, house shows are a growing trend and could potentially take the industry in a different direction, the trick is finding hosts who don't mind learning the trade.
"It's a trend, it's starting. There have been people, like me, doing it early on but for years people have been doing it. We're building this framework, where I think more artists are going to do it because more hosts know how to do it ... and I think it's a trend that's going to keep growing."
James' tour continues through Sept. 4. You can visit his website to see if he's playing at a concert venue near you.