I have been checking out…
I Want Your Trouble and speaking with its performer, Brandy Zdan. She reveals the background to the song and working with Tom Blakenship and Carl Broemel; what comes next for her; what we can expect from her album, Secretear – what it was like recording in Nashville.
Zdan tells me about the gigs coming up; whether she will play any dates outside the U.S.; how she spends her time away from music – recommending some new artists to look out for.
Hi, Brandy. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, there! My week has been wonderful. Just got off the road from some fantastic tours opening for Buddy Guy and Doyle Bramhall II. It’s been a whirlwind couple months. Glad to be home for a minute.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a Rock ‘n’ Roll artist living in Nashville, TN - but originally from Winnipeg, MB (Canada). I’ve had a couple of ‘past lives’ in my music career as a sidewoman in a TX band called The Trishas and, before that, as half of Canadian Folk/Gothic duo, Twilight Hotel.
I live and breathe music: it’s all I’ve known. I’ve been doing this a long time but I’m most excited to be out in the world on my own with this new music. I love steel guitar, a fine scotch or fine tequila…and I’m an avid birder.
I Want Your Trouble is new. Can you tell me what inspired the song?
This song was inspired by a text message that my husband Aaron sent to me while we were courting. It simply said: ‘I want your trouble’. I knew it had to be a song, so I took it and ran and, of course, gave him 50% of the writing credit.
My husband Aaron Haynes plays the drums on this record and this really is his shining drums moment on the record. We had to track this at night and I came back in with a flask of whiskey to nail the vocal.
Needed to be a little loose for this one…
It features Tom Blakenship (My Morning Jacket) on bass and Carl Broemel on guitar. What was it like working with them?
They are incredible musicians and a pleasure to work with. This is the second record they have played on with me. Teddy Morgan, the producer, makes music with both of them and he knew they were the guys to call to round out the band. They really serve the songs in the best way.
The song is taken from the album, Secretear – out on 11th May. What are the themes and stories that we can expect from the record?
Thematically, this is kind of an unconventional love-song album. There are a lot of messages/reminders within the songs to myself, especially in the song, Secret Tears. It’s an album about self-love and, generally, just coming to terms with who you are which we all have to do.
It’s about the journey, not the destination.
It seems, with each release, you are assimilating new elements in your voice/music. Do you think you learn something new with each recording?
Of course, you do. You have to or you’re doing something wrong. Record-making has always fascinated me. There's a fine balance of knowing and not-knowing that must be achieved; a mystery that must be present, followed and honored - as well as a confidence to not second-guess the magic. There is no one right way and, as an artist, you can only learn by doing observing and listening
With every record made, you come out knowing so much more than you did before, but you also realize how much more there is to learn.
What is Nashville like for a recording artist? How important are the city and its people?
Nashville is a great place for a recording artist. I’m sure wherever you are standing in the city there are a dozen studios a stone’s throw from where you stand. Some of the most incredible musicians live here and, whatever kind of record you are trying to make; you can find someone to help you make it. I get called in to go do backup vocals on records all the time.
The city is full of the music business as well. Everyone is hustling. I love that vibe: people that work on their craft and where music is genuinely their career. Of course, there is a dark side to that: people get caught up in the game, the ‘hit-game’; there are slime-balls but, generally in my genre, it’s about making art and not about how many Facebook likes one has.
If you had to choose three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
The Beatles - ‘The White Album’
The Beatles were my way into Rock ‘n’ Roll - and this record lets you know you could try anything you want, experiment; challenge the listener. I love how this record broke the mould in many ways. I reference many drums sounds on this record and my favourite Beatles song, Happiness Is a Warm Gun, is on it.
Daniel Lanois - Belladonna
Lanois is my favorite guitar player and one of my favorite producers. This is my way into Instrumental music, which I love. Words can be limiting - while one’s not limited on a steel guitar; it can limitlessly emote.
Patti Smith – Easter
Patti is a goddess. She is the ultimate Rock ‘n’ Roll poet. Everything she does is the most inspiring. This was the first album I heard of hers and it knocked me out - and it continues to. Whenever I get down about the business or can’t find the muse, I think: ‘What would Patti do?’
Do you have any gigs lined up? Where are you heading?
Just got off a two-month cross-country U.S. tour with Buddy Guy and Doyle Bramhall II. Gonna be home for a while - but many shows are getting lined up.
Will you come to the U.K. and play this year?
I sure hope so! Just need the right person to bring us over. I came over many times with my old band, Twilight Hotel, and toured ALL over the U.K. I can’t wait!
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I hope to write the next album. Get better at guitar and stay on the road and play many, many shows.
It’s really quite simple for me. I also hope to record some cover songs and release them on 45s.
PHOTO CREDIT: @chrisphelps
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
My current favorite memory only happened a couple of weeks ago…
Drinking fine Cognac with Buddy Guy in his dressing room while we listened to him telling stories about all the people he’s worked with.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Do your own thing and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing.
Find what sets you apart and embrace it.
PATIENCE is necessary.
No two people have the same path.
The work is the reward.
If you want to do something else and can, go do it. Art as a career is ugly, unforgiving and the hardest. BUT; if it’s all you can do, do it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Erin Rae
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I get some, but not much. My husband and I love to venture out to a couple of our favorite and chill for a couple of days. Those being the Belmont Hotel in Dallas, TX and the El Rey in Sante Fe, New Mexico. There’s something about the right hotel vibe that gives me permission to really chill.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
This tune has been on repeat a lot lately…
The War on Drugs - Pain
Follow Brandy Zdan