Homeschooled & Barefoot | Sound Stories & Interviews | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Music » Sound Stories & Interviews

Homeschooled & Barefoot

Folk singer Brett Dennen puts the ol' in folk



You'd think someone with such flaming red hair would be the stereotypical feisty hothead. But, at the prime age of 35, Brett Dennen speaks as though he has been around the block a few times.

In an interview on Vevo, he slowly and thoughtfully responds to questions fans post on Facebook, explaining that his guitars are named after famous tennis players and his favorite place to write music is a huge dome of granite located in the Sierra Nevadas. He speaks as though he is older than he is, not in a tired way, but with wisdom. But like his songs, which speak of the good and evil in the world, he also has a silly streak. The music video for his 2013 single "Wild Child" follows Dennen through a beautiful, mountainous wilderness, equipped with his hiking boots and backpack, but at the end, he settles into a lawn chair in the middle of a stream with a Hawaiian shirt on and a mixed drink in his hand. Though lately, he has been more into wine.

Dennen's old soul shines through his new project Dennen Wines, grown in his own native Northern California. His first wine is a sparkling rosé dubbed "Charismatic Fool" and features one of his own paintings on the label—a colorful emu-looking creature reminiscent of "Kevin" in the 2009 Disney/Pixar animated film Up. Much of his art uses the same vibrant palette with people and animals often his primary subjects.

He officially started his music career after graduating from Kresge College of UC Santa Cruz in 2004—not with a music, fine arts, or even a vintner's degree, but with a focus in community studies and social change. In addition to advocating for no smoking policies on campus, he has been involved with the San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit The Mosaic Project, which is committed to empowering youth from different backgrounds to thrive together in a diverse society.

Dennen's first big musical break happened the same year he finished school—a burned copy of his self-titled debut CD was given to KCRW DJ Chris Douidas, who played the song "Desert Sunrise" on his Valentine's Day show. And the crowd went wild for the song "Wild Child." Since then, he has opened for John Mayer, toured with Pete Murray and his song "Ain't Gonna Lose You" was featured on the TV show "Grey's Anatomy." His most recent album, Smoke and Mirrors, was released in 2013, and Rolling Stone called it his "strongest effort yet." In it, he works through some of the pressures he felt while putting out albums and touring non-stop.

"I used to spend a lot of time in the mountains," Dennen said in an interview with NPR in 2013. "And being on the road I had stopped spending so much time up there. So, I went up into the mountains and started writing. And what came up was just the way I was feeling. And I was just in a place of, like, not really being sure of myself or not really knowing who I was at that point."

Dennen will be joined by Hollis Peach, a freshly christened duo born out of Ashland-based band Patchy Sanders. Originally from Pennsylvania, Dan Sherrill and Jacqui Aubert continue on the folk vein together, with a five-song EP to their name and a full-length album in their future. Their rendition of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" is sure to light anyone's fire with their relaxed yet deliberate tone.

Brett Dennen with Hollis Peach

7 pm. Friday, August 14.

Athletic Club of Bend, 61615 Athletic Club Dr.


Speaking of...

Add a comment

More by Sara Jane Wiltermood