Brett Dennen with Langhorne Slim
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Brett Dennen: Soulful Storyteller and Vibrant Folk-Pop Virtuoso
Brett Dennen, a Northern California native, has been captivating audiences for nearly two decades with his distinct blend of folk-pop melodies, thought-provoking lyrics, and soulful vocal prowess. His signature red hair and lanky frame are as unmistakable as the music that has earned him legions of dedicated fans and critical acclaim.
Dennen's musical journey began in earnest at Camp Jack Hazard, a summer camp where he first discovered his love for singing and songwriting. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell, Dennen crafted his own unique style that reflects his passion for storytelling and social commentary.
Dennen's debut album, Brett Dennen (2004), introduced the world to his undeniable talent and served as a springboard for a career that has since seen the release of several successful albums including So Much More (2006), Hope for the Hopeless (2008), Loverboy (2011), Smoke and Mirrors (2013), Por Favor (2016), and See The World (2021). Each record has showcased his evolution as an artist, with a growing mastery of his craft and the ability to convey complex emotions through his songwriting.
With a successful string of albums and several Top Ten AAA singles like “Make You Crazy,” “Wild Child,” and 2018’s “Already Gone.” His single “See The World,” off the album of the same name, reaching Top Five on the AAA charts, Dennen has cemented himself as a fixture in American pop/folk music. He released his most recent single, “This Is Going To Be The Year,” on Mick Music.
Dennen's live performances are characterized by his infectious energy and charisma, with each show a heartfelt expression of his love for music and connection with his audience. His insightful lyrics often touch on themes of love, nature, and social justice, resonating with fans who appreciate the genuine emotion and thoughtfulness behind his art.
In recent years, Brett Dennen has started to let the world in on his secrets. In 2017, he created the “Lift Series,” an annual tour wherein he combines shows in ski towns with conservation initiatives and education in each locale. An avid skier and surfer as well as a conservationist, Dennen works with local organizations to spearhead beach clean-ups and educate young people to become climate stewards, driving awareness through his music and marrying just a few of his many sides in one effort to help drive positive change. Despite the success of his career, Dennen’s connection to his roots remains. In 2022, he tapped into his love for the outdoors and summer camp memories, hosting the first annual Camp Dennen outdoor retreat at Constellation Creek in the greater Lake Tahoe area, establishing a space for community, nature, music, and art.
With his undeniable talent, magnetic stage presence, and unwavering dedication to his craft, Brett Dennen has carved out a unique niche for himself in the world of singer-songwriters. As he
continues to evolve as an artist, fans and critics alike eagerly await the next chapter in this remarkable musician's storied career.
Langhorne Slim didn’t write a song for more than a year. A battle with clinical anxiety disorder and prescription drug abuse, which came to a head in 2019, had dimmed the
light within. The man who once seemed to ooze spontaneity was now creatively adrift, stumbling along in the fog.
In December, he entered a program and, for the first time in a long time, a path toward healing began to emerge. He began to see that inner peace was possible, even with the world outside raging.
A few months later, in February, a tornado came and decimated East Nashville, his adopted hometown. Covid-19 took root just days later, changing lives forever. In the early days of his recovery, a different reality was beginning to take shape, both within and without. New worlds were being born; old worlds were dying.
Knowing he was struggling to write songs and make sense of it all, Slim was finally able to flesh out a throwaway ditty one afternoon. His close friend Mike then suggested he try penning a song a day. Slim didn’t like the idea, but he gave it a shot.
To his surprise, the songs came. In a flurry of stream-of-consciousness writing, the new
tunes tumbled out, one after another, like little starbursts of joy, gifts from the gods you might say. Slim was tuning out the noise and finding beauty in the madness of a world coming undone. Over the course of a couple of months from March to May, Slim penned more than twenty that were certified keepers. Out of this bumper crop came the songs that make up his new album, Strawberry Mansion, which is being released this winter on Dualtone Records.
“I wasn’t sitting on the songs and I wasn’t overthinking them,” Slim says of the writing process of those months. “Something cracked open with the slowing down and the stillness of quarantine.
After finishing a song, whether he liked the tune or not, he’d call Mike, a videographer, and they’d record it and post it to Instagram. It was a form of therapy, he now realizes. “There was nothing precious about the process and it was a bonding thing between me and Mike as much as anything else,” Slim says. “It also gave me a release and maybe some potential form of healing, and was an opportunity to not always listen to the shitty thoughts in my head. I wasn’t ever thinking that I was writing songs for a new record.”
Prior to this creative outburst, Slim’s anxiety had grown so acute there were times when he actually feared picking up his guitar and trying to write. With the help of therapy and
friends, he was now learning to confront his demons rather than run from them. So, in the midst of a panic attack one day, he picked up his guitar and the song “Panic Attack” was born. It’s a raw, off-the-cuff number that rises above the dark subject matter with spirit, irony and humor. “I called a healthcare professional/ Wanna speak to someone confidentially/ Don’t know just how I’m feelin’/ But I’m feelin’ feelings exponentially,” he sings.
Album-opener “Mighty Soul” details a world beset by Biblical-grade plagues (coronavirus, the Nashville tornado) and government malfunction. It ultimately calls for healing through community and the recognition that we can all make a difference. It functions as the album’s spiritual center, a secular gospel number for all mankind.
The second part of “Morning Prayer” is one of the most affecting moments on Strawberry Mansion, with the singer reaching out and offering prayers for his loved ones who are struggling, for all of humanity, really. “For my friends who suffer/ For my mother, father and brother/ For a world down on its knees/ I pray for thee,” he sings with great poignancy.
“Morning Prayer” is inspired by the songwriter’s effort to pray for the first time in his life. “It’s not in the key of any one religion,” Slim says of the number. “For this, I’m grateful that my guitar was unknowingly yet appropriately out of tune. It’s a song to help me practice compassion, surrender, connection to nature, the spirits and beyond.”
The road to Strawberry Mansion, which was recorded at Daylight Sound in Nashville with longtime compadres Paul DeFigilia (Avett Brothers) and Mat Davidson (Twain), began in 2019 with Slim’s decision to get sober. Even though the singer-songwriter
kicked alcohol years ago, the insidious monster of addiction had crept back into his life in different guises. The last straw came during a road trip with a friend, who, at the end of the journey, let it be known that the man he knew and loved was no longer recognizable. So Slim called his manager and loved ones and soon checked into a program. That experience and his ongoing recovery program have given him a framework for grappling with the personal demons that have always skulked in the shadows, and helped him find light in the void. “It’s important for me to talk honestly about these things, because I feel it gives me strength, and it might help others along the way.” he says.
Strawberry Mansion is the singer-songwriter’s seventh full-length album. He released his first record, Electric Love Letter, back in 2004. Since then he has graced the stages
of Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Newport Folk Festival, and the Conan O’Brien show, winning fans over with his heart-on-a-sleeve sincerity and rousing live shows.
Born Sean Scolnick in 1980, Slim took part of his artistic moniker from his hometown of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, a place he’s still very much connected to despite making his home in Nashville. Since the advent of Covid-19, he has been traveling back to PA once
a month to see his mother and grandmother, and, like many Americans, finding strength in his origins and family bonds. The title Strawberry Mansion refers to the neighborhood in Philadelphia where both of his grandfathers grew up, a place he calls “dirty but sweet,
tough but full of love, where giants roamed the earth and had names like Whistle and Curly.” That idea of a mythical wonderland informs the new album from head to toe. Strawberry Mansion is not so much about nostalgia for the past as it is about the possibility of better days ahead in this world. These are songs that remind us we’re all part of a collective “Mighty Soul,” united in one journey, just like the characters in that old Philly neighborhood. It’s a life-affirming album for these times.