BY KATIE McPHERSON
Brett Dennen is an introvert, but you wouldn’t know it when you see him onstage. Up there he’s every bit the laid-back rocker you would expect to open for the likes of Jason Mraz, who welcomed him to the stage as “the chillest bro I know.”
Backstage before the show, Dennen explained the dynamic of an introvert who can somehow perform for massive crowds without batting an eye.
“I don’t like being in rooms filled with people unless I’m onstage or sitting in a corner. People suck my energy. It’s not their fault; it’s just the way I am,” he explains. “Performing is easy. Onstage in a song I can be revealing, but it’s hard to do that person-to-person.”
Dennen does make performing look easy. He saunters onto the stage in a loose flannel shirt and well-worn jeans. He brushes his hair back out of his face, pushes his glasses up his nose and lays into his guitar. As he opens with ‘Good Vibration,’ he shimmies his shoulders and joyously shuffles in place around his mic stand. The tune was released in February on his five-song EP, Let’s…, the first half of a two-part EP release written and produced with Dan Wilson. He just released the first single from part two, ‘Here’s Looking At You Kid.’
“It’s an easy beat and melody to follow, and people seem to like it,” says Dennen. “On this EP there’s a couple songs that have a really big sound to them and are meant to be heard in a big venue. There’s one really intimate song, and a lot of up-tempo stuff. It’s just fun music.”
Dennen is known for his lyrical prowess, making introspection and social causes somehow appropriate music for driving around with the windows down. For him, the decision to write with Wilson was based in chemistry.
“I had met him five years ago and he suggested to me that we should write at some point, and I took him seriously. It was like two friends just hanging out and jamming. He’s very agreeable. He’s got a lot of great ideas and he likes all of my ideas,” says Dennen with a laugh.
As an artist who has always released full-fledged albums, why break course and release an EP in two parts? In today’s age of social media marketing and instant gratification, is building anticipation for a new release still an effective tactic?
For Dennen, anticipation had nothing to do with it. He wanted to try putting out less music more frequently to see if fans might gravitate more toward new music when it’s bite-sized, giving them time to digest and enjoy a few songs at a time.
As for Friday night, August 17, Dennen’s set started promptly at 8 pm. Daily’s Place was only half full and still brimming with activity as inattentive concert-goers hunted down drinks and their seats. By the end of his set, illuminated by colorful lights against the darkness, he left the stage to a full amphitheater and near-thunderous applause.
Some dedicated fans stood singing the entire show. Song by song, they were joined by new fans dancing in the aisles of the floor seats with partners or solo. The majority, although seated, were no less captivated by his Bob Dylan-meets-Ed Sheeran style.
Ultimately Dennen seems like the type of artist who would play music whether or not anyone listened, the kind of singer-songwriter who would happily make art for art’s sake. In his forthcoming EP’s title track, ‘Here’s Looking At You Kid,’ he says it himself — “What I do, I would do it for free.” But with every note he played he earned new fans in Jacksonville, and rightly so.
For more information about Brett Dennen and to view his tour dates, visit brettdennenlive.com.