Brandon Heath: Finding the Sound
- Matt Conner CCMmagazine.com
- 2008 8 Aug
He’s a “New Artist of the Year” winner. He’s releasing his second album, What If We (Reunion)—after his 2006 debut was a hit with critics and audiences alike. He’s written with Jars of Clay, Matt Wertz, Bebo Norman and many others. And all he cares about is making sure the listener is connecting with his/her Creator.
It’s refreshing to talk to an artist like Brandon Heath about his music because there’s no pretense—just an honest, ordinary guy offering his heart and reflections. In this interview, Heath gives us the lowdown on the meaning behind the new title, working with the Jars guys and what it means to define his sound.
CCM: What informed the new album title, What If We?
Brandon Heath: The slogan “What If We” came from a conversation with a mentor friend of mine. We were talking about what God was doing in our lives. That work has often been with other people; it’s never been alone. For me it was taking the risk and putting myself out there as an artist. For him, he was involved in this ministry and not-for-profit organization that pulls girls from brothels called Restore International (restoreinternational.org).
Both of us are just ordinary people, but it feels that God has done extraordinary things just by us trusting Him. I love the fact we’re able to dream as big as we want as long as we believe God can do great things. So the ‘What If’ part is all about those possibilities and the ‘We’ part is doing that together. So, we’re wanting people to be inspired by that sentence.
CCM: I’ve read where you said you didn’t want to stray too far from your sound on the first record.
Brandon: Yeah, that was really the goal. I think as a new artist, to be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to figure out what my sound is. And I think others are, too. So you don’t want to confuse people too much about who you are. I want my music to be accessible, but I don’t want to be so cookie-cutter that it’s predictable. As we [were] finding out what my sound [was], I didn’t want to be too crazy on the second record.
But I think what ended up happening is that it sounded different because we were into Western movies. Also, a lot of people are using the British sound a little too much these days so we wanted to move away from that, too. We used electrics that sounded like Americana—kind of a Springsteen, Tom Petty sound—that being more of the sound spectrum, or a lot of the instruments we used, rather than the same British rock deal.
CCM: What have you learned about your own sound to this point?
Brandon: Well, that it’s a lot of what I listen to. I listen to a lot of the Nashville scene and the Americana sound. But I love listening to pop as well. I love a good pop beat and a couple of the songs on here have that. But I also work with a producer who is one of my best friends, and I give him a lot of input and stake in my own music. So I think discovering my “sound” is a process of Dan [Muckala] and I sitting in a studio and seeing what works.
I’ll be the first to tell you that my musicality is simple, and I sometimes don’t even know how to put it into words, but Dan has helped me uncover what I’m trying to get across. I think that’s what makes producers great—when they can help you define who you are.
CCM: How was writing with the guys in Jars of Clay?
Brandon: Oh man, I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long, long time. But we’ve never done anything creative—we’ve always just hung out. So I was really nervous going into it. [Laughs] I didn’t tell them that. There was a snow day in Nashville—one of the few we have—and Dan couldn’t be there because of his kids. But the other three—Charlie, Matt and Steve came to their studio called the Jarhole. It’s under construction now, and it was not the vibe to create in at the time, but we had a great time.
They came up with the musical part, and I developed the lyric almost by myself. They let me do my thing. They let me take off and come up with the melody, and most of the lyric, I steered. But the rest, they did it. Even on the recording [of this song], I’m not playing any instruments at all. It went toward their new sound as well. I’m honored to have written with them and have them on the record.
For more info on Brandon and What If We, check out brandonheath.net.
© 2008 CCMmagazine.com. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
**This interview first published on August 29, 2008.
Watch the latest Brandon Heath music videos on his official Godtube.com artist page!