Get to You
Get to You is available via:
Rock ‘n’ Roll
The album, Secretear, is available via:
11th May, 2018
IT is nice to be able to come back…
to another American artist and discuss a different side of music. I will speak about Brandy Zdan in a second but, right now, I have a few other things to cover off. I will come to look at Rock ‘n’ Roll and why so many new artists are tackling it; Nashville and how the city is proving popular for many from this country – and continues to be a source for inspiration among U.S. artists. I will then look at artists who have a varied history and experience and mutate to do something more personal; shifting cities and finding a comfortable place; language and how that inspires songs and albums – I will then look at domestic situations and how a secure and happy life can be the key to creating fantastic and compelling music. Maybe I am doing this out of order but it seems Zdan is an artist who has found her niche and is making music that means a lot. I look at her online pages and there is a lot of information and some great photos. She wants to keep the listener and fan informed and goes out of her way to produce as much depth as is possible. I am impressed by the level of depth and detail you get on social media. One can discover her entire career and how Brandy Zdan arrived in the U.S., from Canada, and has moved through various stages. I am stunned to see an artist so young with so much experience in her back pocket. I will look at that in a bit but, as we are here, it is worth checking out what style of music she is producing. I guess it is the move to Nashville but I notice a blend of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Country. There is the yearn and heartache; that plaintive and romantic nature – together with harder edges and some raw, older Rock. It is fascinating seeing it all come together and the stunning sounds mixing alongside one another.
There is a big difference between simple Rock and Roll ‘n’ Roll. The former, today, is defined by bands producing big songs made for arenas. You get subtler Rock acts but the genre has gone through a bit of a transformation. I used to gravitate towards it because it had that quality and stuck in the mind. Now, I hover to other styles of music and feel few artists bring something new to the plate. Rock ‘n’ Roll, on the other hand, has that vintage quality and, if fused with contemporary strands, can be electric and nuanced. I have been looking around for music that has the passion and drive or Rock but whips up images of 1950s artists and takes me back to another time. Zdan manages to bridge the modern and historic and brings her own voice into the mix. Rock ‘n’ Roll has a place in various corners of U.K, music. You can hear it in various avenues and it is making a comeback. It seems more prevalent in areas like Nashville and Austin. I will look at Brandy Zdan’s move from Austin to Nashville but, now she is based in Nashville, you have an artist embracing all the past sounds; looking ahead and creating her own style. Look at the Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneers and performers like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly – they are less influential than decades ago but are still making a mark. Zdan splices Country shades inside the Rock ‘n’ Roll and you get an effusive and fascinating blend. One hears songs from Zdan and you get views of leather-clad men and rebellious women; some U.S. sun and scenery that sticks in the mind and gets the heart pumping. I have seen an evolution and change in Brandy Zdan’s music. She has covered a lot of ground already and continues to add new dimensions to her sound. Secretear, I shall look at later, is her latest album and one that crystallises and cements that incredible sound. I hope, the more and more people who hear her music, will look back on the classic sounds of the 1940s/1950s and discovers the artists who have influenced the U.S. star.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen
Brandy Zdan is a vivacious and bright character. She is photogenic and stunning; there is that star quality and image that stands out and marks her for glory. One might look at her and think she is an all-American artist. Zdan began life in Canada. There have been other moves but now, this minute, she is down in Nashville and vibing from the surroundings and myriad sounds. Like Manchester and London in this country; Nashville is proving a lure for so many artists. New York and L.A. are still popular but it seems like Nashville provides something different. You do not get the beach and physical climate of Los Angeles; New York has the five boroughs and bustle that is hard to disconnect from. Nashville is a perfect blend that provides eye-catching vistas and charm; there are lashings of beautiful spots and, alongside that, you have a lot of cultures and people packed together. Nashville is a calmer place and friendlier than somewhere like New York. Alongside that, you have so many different artists playing together. We assume Nashville is all Country and nothing more. The city has a vibrant scene that caters to all tastes and proclivities. Brandy Zdan has gone from Canada and, after spending time in Austin, she moved to Nashville and seems to be making music that sounds right and perfect for her. I could list all the bars and venues that are great to perform in; the top-ten artists in Nashville and all the wonders you can discover. Rather than being a musical TripAdvisor; I thought I would concentrate on why artists relocate and move here. I am seeing a lot of British artists play in Nashville more and more. It is expensive traveling that far but so many people go there for the environment and sensation that drips from every wall and gets into the blood.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen
I can understand why Brandy Zdan has gravitated there and feels comfortable. The history and legacy of Nashville is established and so many different labels and studios are based here. It is a great place to record music in and, as I hinted at, there are venues and spaces that have their own identity and colour. The people are responsive and receptive; the place has a calm and comfort but there is plenty of hustle and adventure if you know where to look. The weather is, for the most part, great and you have a wonderful climate/geography down there. All of these aspects come together and make this near-perfect location for the musician. It is not a million miles to New York and L.A. and Nashville has Texas to the south-west and Illinois to the north. A lot of British artists cannot afford to move to Nashville because of air travel and having to get a job down there. Many U.S. artists start life elsewhere and work their way down to Nashville. They take up smaller jobs and make ends meet and play as many gigs as they can. For Zdan, her life started up in Canada and she has plotted her way to the South of the U.S. and is making a new life there. Alongside her husband; there is that sense of a new lease of life and the next stage. I have mentioned changing cities and how movement can be quite common. Few of us find our feet and home that quickly: we all move around and it takes a bit to get to a point where we are secure and feel rested. Brandy Zdan has moved around and now, down in Nashville, she is embarking on the next phase of her career and, who knows, maybe there is another move yet. I can understand why she has come to Nashville and how the city’s past and present has led to where she is now.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen
You look at Brandt Zdan and think about where she has come from. It has been an interesting past few years and, in that time, there have been creative and geographical shifts. Nashville is where this unique brand of music is being created. The sound she is producing now is different to what she was coming up with whilst in Canada and Austin. There is a lot to unpack and look at when you are faced with Brandy Zdan. She has been a busy soul and picked up a lot of knowledge and experience along the way. She was part of a Gothic duo and released two albums – one in 2008 and 2011 – and were nominated for Juno awards (the ‘Canadian Grammys’); Zdan hooked with an all-girl band when in Austin and started to play with a range of different musicians. This seems to be where she is now and who she is most comfortable being. There are other musicians and people supporting her current work: the voice you hear is hers alone and it seems Zdan has more control over her output. The city is the perfect backdrop and the history as a songwriter means there is that ammunition and experience under the belt. Zdan has played for over a decade and released a series of albums – several of them as part of a duo. This, now, seems to be her first solo outing. Secretear is a solo outing but can you really count it as a debut? In terms of her new stage of life then it is: look back at all the work she has created and there has obviously been a lot of other stuff put out there. It seems all of the past material and experiences are the warm-up to the actual event. That may sound insulting to the people she has played with but it takes various different movements and configurations before you find who you really are. That backstory and knowledge has paid off when you listen to Zdan’s confidence and expansive songs. I have labelled her music as ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ but there is Indie, Country and Rock itself mixing inside of that.
There are many artists who shift around and never really find their calling and who they are meant to be. Others do not really take any risks and end up regretting that. Brandy Zdan has taken some risks and she has covered a lot of ground. It is impressive seeing her commitment to music and that curiosity rule. Zdan could have easily stuck in Canada and played the sort of music she was writing when she was growing up there. She embarked on a trip to the U.S. and has picked up bands and various albums along the way. Now, down in Tennessee, she has embarked on the next phase and it seems like this is the real deal. Brandy Zdan, then, has unveiled her debut solo album and I get the feeling she is not done yet – there will be many other albums and experimentations along the way. I will address some of the inspirations behind her latest album but, at this moment, I wanted to look at that development and past C.V. Starting in Winnipeg as a half of the duo Twilight Hotel, that has stuck in her mind and you can hear darker shades and the maturity that was present then. Look at the softer and Rock-inspired sounds on Secretear and you can trace that back to Austin and the music made there. Everything she has done before leads to this moment and enforces the music she is coming up with. The Spanish language, which is much more common in America’s South than Canada, is more prominent in terms of Secretear’s title and the sort of passions you hear running through the record. I shall move on from this subject but it is fascinating looking at Zdan and how she has moved along. Things are definitely hotting-up and it is wonderful discovering a fantastic young artist grow and find her place. I wonder whether there are more changes and moves coming from the Canadian-raised artist – maybe we will see another creative and personal change coming.
PHOTO CREDIT: @chrisphelps
I wanted to look at domestic situations and languages as spurs for creativity and inspiration. Brandy Zdan is married to Aaron Haynes (of The Texas Gentlemen) and some of the material on Secretear has taken its guidance from their courtship and little conversations they had. I Want Your Trouble, a single from the album, got its start from a text Zdan received from her husband – the title is what the text said; an odd thing to write but something that led to an incredible track. Haynes has co-written with Zdan and played the drums (on that track). Even though this is a solo outing from Zdan; she has other bodies on the record and it is a collaborative experience. It is similar to a piece I was writing on Jack White’s debut solo album, Blunderbuss. He was part of The White Stripes for all that time and played as part of The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs. His first solo album was not his first record but it is the truest assessment and distillation of who he is. That record addressed his recent divorce (from Karen Elson) and investigated cheating, doomed romance and, well, some cheerier things! He recorded that record in Nashville and it seems, with a group of great musicians and singers behind him; that album seems to be him hitting his stride and producing his finest material. I can see someone like Brandy Zdan hooking up with Jack White or finding her way to his Third Man space – crafting something on vinyl and enjoying freedom in his space. Domestic bliss and challenges make their way into Secretear. The album’s title derives from a Spanish term that refers to confidential talks and interactions and seems appropriate given the intimacy and passion you hear throughout. Given the fact she is (seems) very happy where she is in life right now; that could suggest all the songs are about her marriage and how she is settling into Nashville.
What you get from her record is much more than simple love and contentment. It seems natural to suggest she takes from her love life and there is that domestic inspiration. Zdan takes from others and the atmosphere; she borrows from music’s chest and sprinkles in her past life and experiences. It is wonderful seeing someone so young have that confidence and sense of direction. I have mentioned how Zdan has moved around but right now, it seems things are really starting to take off. Her online spread is fantastic and there are brilliant images to see. Zdan has produced some great information for newcomers and you can tell where she came from and the music she has already put out there. It is hard getting an idea of what an artist is about when you look at their social media. So many people keep things held back and there is not a lot to go on. Although Zdan’s music does a lot of the explaining; you look at her social media and one discovers all the history and the movements. I love the fact Zdan has taken risks and she has not easily settled. I mooted the fact she might move on still but you look at her current material and it sounds so solid and assured. Nashville might be a long way to come for some but, when you look at Zdan’s current music; all of the people she has met and what she has learned has gone into the music. Secretear is a summation of all her past sounds and movements but it is very much about the present and where the young artist is looking. You can read all of my words and theories but you need to look at the music to get a real feel of who she is all about and where she is headed. This is a big moment for Brandy Zdan. Her album has been out for a couple of weeks and, over the next few weeks, it will spread a lot further and reach so many more people – all will fall for it and discover their new favourite artist.
Get to You gets right at it from the start. There is a strange allure and sexiness from a groaned electronic note. It kicks the album off superbly and then bonds with a tense and riffling beat. Zdan steps to the microphone and puts out her declaration: it is going to take a long time to get to her subject. Given that, two tracks after Get to You is I Want Your Trouble, about her husband’s text; I wonder whether the opening track is about courtship and that flirtation. You can certainly hear the sweat drip and the heat rise from the initial seconds. The vocal is slightly processed and it adds a rawness and sense of intensity to the fold. I was invested right from the start and was hooked by the gravitas and passion coming from Brandy Zdan. There is a brief step-back where the heroine takes in all of the thoughts and impressions surrounding her. The chorus/title is repeated and there is that sense of calm. The beats come in and there is a sense of impending motion and unleash. We get Zdan looking around and searching for answers. When the song kicks up another gear, there are questions asked and a sense of discovery. The heroine asks who the man is; the need to know more and find out about this person – the first step to satisfaction, perhaps? You get a real sense of the bar and the sort of space she is in. The heroine is sitting across the room and watching the man walk in. She has been looking and watching; picking her moment and wondering what is happening. You get a view of the man and can imagine he is in a Nashville joint and drinking a beer. Maybe Zdan is drinking a beer as well and waiting for a girlfriend – or she is alone and looking to unwind. This man has come in and there is that traction and intrigue.
Sweet, energised backing vocals (wordless) add layers and physicality to the song. It is a thrilling and cool-as-crap song that has swagger and a drunken mind. That might sound odd but you get the impression our heroine is putting a few away and knows what she wants from this encounter. Spotting the man from across the other side of the room; maybe there are furtive glances and some sly winks. The chorus comes in and it is instantly recognisable. The sound reminds one of classic music and, I don’t know, it seems to remind me of music at its peak. Maybe that is Brandy Zdan showing how good she is: listen to the chorus and you get that rush of satisfaction and an instant hook. She is searching for something tonight but knows it will not be easy to get to the man. The song has a great live-sounding production aspect that makes it seem like you are listening to Zdan put out this song in the moment. You get rumbling and smacking beats; there is a groan and electronic bass that drives the song and adds sass and swivel to the thing. Zdan wants to get things turned up and wants to get what she wants. You never get anything too explicit and obvious with the song. Rather than go for the groin and present something quite juvenile; there is a mature yet exhilarated profession that is palpable. The heroine will lie – but only to herself – and wants that kiss. She can feel the electricity circle and there is a desire to have her way and get her man. The heroine twists words and elongates. It seems like the performance is a seduction and her body is contorting and grinding in a vocal sense. It is sexy and teasing; there is a hunger building up but we know things will not come together as quickly as hoped. It is frustrating but Zdan is biding her time and not being too hard on herself. I am not sure whether Get to You is about her husband and that first meeting. Maybe there is fiction involved but the song seems to have a special place in the heart of Brandy Zdan. It is a fantastic song that gets into the head and perfectly starts Secretear. Make sure you get familiar with Get to You and an extraordinary artist.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen
There are not many current musicians like Brandy Zdan playing right now. There is that rush of Rock ‘n’ Roll and something cool and sassy. The production throughout Secretear is clear and concise but allows enough natural light and manoeuvre to come through. Zdan is the star of the show and embraces and connects with every song. The ten songs vary in length but most of them are around the three-minute marker. Get to You is one of the shorter songs – I Want Your Trouble, at less than two minutes, is the shortest track on the album – but it delivers so much and packs quite a punch! The record is tight and focused and has so many different moods working alongside one another. Zdan played in Nashville a couple of days back and she is heading through the state and will play various gigs this spring and summer. The U.S. is a huge nation to play in and there are so many options for her. Canada is there and is where she came from – gigs back there must be in the back of her mind. I wonder whether Zdan will come to the U.K. and play over here. There are many people who would like to see her perform and get a first-hand account of the music. It has been a busy past year or so from the songwriter and things are going to get even better. As the summer looms, I imagine she will want to get out there as much as possible and play some gigs. There will be opportunities and many will flock and see Secretear’s songs live and in-person. I hope my words have done justice and represented Brandy Zdan in a fair light. She is a complete package and artist who is growing stronger and bigger. I know there will be challenges along the road but she will handle them with aplomb. The next phase of her career will be the most interesting. There is an album out there right now and it is stunning; how she follows this and what new sounds/inspirations she brings in will be interesting. Make sure you wrap your ears around Secretear and sensational songs such as Get to You. I chose to feature the opening track as it is one of the most immediate and intense. It is a fantastic workout and crystal from an album that has so much to love and dive into. I am still listening to the album and, the more I hear it, realise we are hearing the wings stretch from one of America’s…
PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen
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PHOTO CREDIT: Alysse Gafkjen