Brett the Friendly Host
Good vibe-ing songman Brett Dennen, whose local showings have included a Bowl show with Jason Mraz, returns to the more intimate venue of the Lobero.
When: tonight, 8 p.m.
Where: Lobero Theater, 33 E. Canon Perdido
Cost: $30 to $35
Information: 963-0761, www.lobero.com
A tall drink of water and good vibes, the man of song Brett Dennen has been a fairly steady presence in Santa Barbara since he started his adventure with his debut album in 2007. He has played at SOhO early on in his recording career and kept good double-billing company with fellow Glen Phillips at the Lobero—a show in the long-running and now retired “Sings Like Hell” series—and in his mode as double-upper with Jason Mraz, Mr. Dennen hit the Santa Barbara Bowl stage just last fall.
Tonight, Mr. Dennen returns to the welcoming and more intimate confines of the Lobero for a show in the long shadow of last August’s release of “Here’s Looking at You Kid,” the second half of an EP project with the hit “Already Gone.” He has six feature-length albums out to date, the most recent of which was 2016’s “Por Favor,” and has carved out a unique place for himself in the pantheon of modern singer-songwriters, between folk, pop and rock, and with a songbook steeped in a friendly, optimistic outlook.
In a News-Press interview a few years back, Mr. Dennen addressed his ability to keep his cool head and sense of humility and balance in his career, a philosophy which remains as his sphere of influence has expanded. “I’ve been able to maintain just being myself and doing the things I want to do,” he said, “and letting my music progress and the career progress alongside it.”
Did he have a vision of how you wanted his musical life to be, back at the beginning of this whole adventure?
“When I first started, my vision was a lot smaller. It was more about playing in a folk singer setting, playing the venues that lend themselves more to folk acts, listening rooms or folk festivals, open-air and mountain festivals. I did one up there, the Live Oak Music Festival. Things like that, that’s where I really saw myself.
“But I spent so much time playing on the road, I just fell in love with making people dance and getting people involved and bantering back and forth with the crowd. I was just really trying to make people have a good time. As I saw that happening, I realized that I wanted the music to be a little more upbeat and be more of a soundtrack for that real live feeling – for lack of a better term, rocking out.
“I feel that has been a natural progression, as well. It wasn’t that I changed my sound overnight or anything. It just gradually progressed into that, as I met different musicians and played with different people.”
Beyond music, the singer is a passionate watercolorist, a wine aficionado with a vintage to call his own. And this former camp counselor for at-risk kids has extended his camp spirit ventures, in selective ski and surf spots, with his aptly-named “Lift Series” and “Vacationer Series.” There, music blends with conservation efforts and other projects with the goal of, well, uplift.
Although his writing has been hailed for its melodic charms and lyrical nimbleness, sometimes drawing comparisons to Paul Simon (lite), the ever boyish-looking Mr. Dennen came relatively late to the songwriting game. “I didn’t start writing songs until I was almost done with college,” he admits. “But I’ve always considered myself a creative person and an artist, so I’ve always been comfortable creating. I’d like to think I could continue with that, like if I would start sculpting, I’d like to think that whether or not people would like my sculptures, I would like to at least be comfortable with that art form itself and just dive right on in and get inspired and produce.”
In his writing process, he says, “certain melodies or certain chords just make you start singing something and luckily, it’s something I wanted to keep. I don’t know where it came from. I wish I did.
“It comes from a combination of training and story ideas, whatever is happening in my brain, subconsciously, and things I’m making up. Who knows, maybe I drove past a sign that said ‘wild child,’” he says, referring to his Cat Stevens-esque song “Wild Child,” “and not even seen it, but it might have lodged in my brain somewhere, and when I picked up the guitar and started messing around, it came out.
“It would be fascinating to know where these things come from, say if somebody could videotape my brain.”