"Men get to just be musicians. We are “women in music”. It’s time to get rid of those words for good." We chat with Brandy Zdan
With her most recent album, Secretear, released earlier this year, and a new live single dropping today (the video is below), we thought it was time to catch up with Brandy Zdan and have a chat. So we did.
Hey Brandy, how’s your day going so far?
So good, just got off tour and woke up in my own bed this morning so I can’t complain.
What have you been up to today?
Went down to my new favorite coffee shop where they have the best breakfast tacos, and now I plan to relax most of the day.
What can you tell us about your latest record, Secretear, in two sentences?
It’s a record of deep personal discovery, both personally and musically.
But it also just rocks the F out.
I was just going to say exactly that; did you set out to write something that sounded so rock and roll?
Thank you. Both yes and no. I always have a loose vision and idea of how I want the songs to come out but I never set out too purposefully, otherwise you are screwing with the natural, beautiful, and mysterious process that is songwriting.
Most of the time you go where the song leads you. I don’t tend to write with instruments in hand. It’s all in the mind and I let the melodies come and then I give them formation in the mind so there are no limits. I’ll take them to an electric guitar or omnichord once there’s some idea of where they are headed.
How did you about writing and choosing which songs to record?
Do I choose the songs or do the songs choose me? I often wonder.
Sometimes you think you have a batch that’s ready to go to record and as soon as you demo them you realize they don’t hold up. Luckily, I met my husband at the time I was writing this record, and not only did he inspire many songs, he contributed to them as well. If the songs aren’t there, it doesn’t matter how good the album sounds. It the foundation to build upon.
What’s the one song on the record that you really want people to hear?
Good question. I think 'Secret Tears' is the one. I co- wrote this with my producer Teddy Morgan. I think it’s the most honest and wide open of the bunch.
One of my favourite songs is ‘The One’, what can you tell us about that track?
Glad you like that one! It’s one of my favorites as well. It’s my favorite drum track on the album. My husband’s playing on this one is so damn cool. And the way the synth weaves with the bass. We had a lot of fun with this one.
This was written after a failed relationship, well a series of them. haha. I was working my through why I kept choosing the same person over and over again.
I was dating a fellow at the time who loved the Stones and i think that’s where that guitar riff came from, unintentionally. I acutally don’t have any fondness for them. DID I JUST SAY THAT?! Yes, it’s true. Of course I respect the hell out of them I just have never become a fan. Don’t they say you either like the Beatles or the Stones? well you know where I fall.
I also love the honesty of ‘I Will’; give me the background to that.
This one came out of an omnichord jam and then morphed into this throwback-y beatles-y tune. It's a song about that space where you just stop trying so hard and let love come to you. This one took a while to get right. It made me work for it. I'm glad I kept at it and got this end result.
Your new video for ‘Wild Fire’ just came out, what can you tell me about that?
I've been a fan of the videograper Joshua Shoemakers work for quite some time so I was excited when he reached out to me about shooting a live performance video. It was a no brainer letting him take the reigns as our esthetic, color palette was a perfect match. We met at a smoky dive bar in Nashville and talked about our love for Lisa Frank and his one shot, no cuts live videos he's been doing with artists.The shoot was fast and furious, and all took about two hours. We set up and went for it. What we got was a sweaty, saturated pink, raw performance.
The live audio turned out so great, that we had to release that too.
You’ve got a great band with you on the record, how fun is it to see your songs come together in the studio?
It’s always the best feeling. I love the studio very much. In fact, I’m starting to produce records for other artists. There’s just something magical that can happen in there if the pieces are right.
Obviously there’s a lot of talk about equality in general at the moment, what’s your experience of being treated differently as a woman in your industry?
Where to begin on this one. It’s something that is ever present and we are always dealing with it.
The mention of your gender with your genre, or what instrument you play, etc, is something that gets my blood boiling. I think it’s devaluing the artist/art when “female” is put in front. “Female-fronted” is not a genre.
How many times has someone just looked right past me and spoke to my husband about sonics and tone, etc, and I’m looking at them thinking “I’m the guitar player, HI”. So many instances and interactions in the industry that are different than how i observe them to be with men. It’s frustrating, having to live in constant state of proving ones self just to be taken seriously.
Because this inequality exsists it means we have to even better than the boys.
Men get to just be musicians. We are “women in music”. It’s time to get rid of those words for good.
You’re pretty straight talking on your Twitter feed, has it ever got you in trouble?
Thank you for noticing!
It hasn’t really, maybe a little, but I couldn’t care less. I’m just saying truthful things i stand behind so I aint afraid of a little push back from men who don’t get it.
You live in Nashville, how’s it trying to make a living playing music there?
Making a living in music is complex. I don’t think many people make their living in one town. It’s touring that does it, film and TV placements, studio work. This town is full of colorful, imaginative folks who are hungry and searching. I love the community that I’ve found. It’s about lifting each other up vs. competition.
What’s the one place to go see music in Nashville?
I’ve always loved the 5 spot. It’s understated, has a long history and it’s a good solid hang where folks know the music is gonna be good.
You’re touring with Aaron Lee Tasjan, is that guy as cool as he seems?
He’s the coolest of the cool. Classy, kind, and uber-talented. His guitar playing is next level. I love the choices he makes. Between the two of us, there was much glitter and shine in our stage wardrobe.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
This doesn’t happen very often, and I honestly don’t remember when the last time was BUT I know that the day I meet Daniel Lanois I will be starstruck and I will do everything I can to keep me cool. haha.
If you could recommend one song to hear this week, what would it be?
Ron Gallo - 'Always Elsewhere'
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
I want to thank you for not asking who my influences are.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Black and strong.
If our amazing questions didn't give you enough insight into Brandy then you can visit her website to find out more. Or you could follow her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, or check out her Instagram.