Wayne Brennan took a gap after releasing his debut album to travel the world, live a little and come back afresh. We spoke to him about his experience making this second album.
Q. Live Love Sing and Dance is your second album. Has there been a journey between the two records?
A. With any project you would hope to be progressing in your own maturity and sense of things with the passing of time. I feel that first off the writing and songs on the new album are much more mature and have a greater depth about them. I think this comes not only with age and experience but also simply believing that you have the songs in you.
On a more physical level, there was a journey and there is a kind of travel concept to the entire new album and this theme is evident starting straight off with the sleeve design. The sleeve was designed to look like a passport of sorts. And in it, each song indicates where in the world they were written by an official looking passport immigration control stamp.
The new album Live Love Sing and Dance has been written while you have been around the world in different places? Can you tell us about that?
A. In between my first album and my new one I took 2 years off to write and live life. So I based myself for 2 years on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands. From there I travelled to different islands across the world finding inspiration for my new album. All the songs on the ‘Live, Love, Sing and Dance’ were written on some of the most beautiful islands in the world at moments that were unforgettable. These islands were Fuerteventura (Canary Islands), Bali (Indonesia), Koh Lanta and Koh Phangan in Thailand, Islola de Ponza (Italy), Ireland, London and Barry Island (Wales).
Q. Guitar is very important to you and your music. Whats your favorite axe?
A. Yes my guitar feels like an extension of my own body at this stage. My favourite would have to be my old reliable nylon string Takemine EG522SC.
However, during the recording of the album I did use a Lowden 032 steel string which was one of Martin’s guitars and it is an amazing piece of craftsmanship and a pure pleasure to play.
Q. You have no working band, but you wanted to make the songs on this album as full and well arranged as possible. How did this get done?
A. I think many of the songs I write really benefit from having that full band sound. However, being so close to the song from a writer’s point of view it can be difficult to stand back and see the potential instruments that would suit it. But between Martin Quinn, Andrew Healy and I we have a kind of formula that really worked well for us. We would sit down and talk about the song direction. I would give the general feel and style that I was looking for and from there we would jam out the songs with Andrew on drums, Martin on bass and myself on guitar and vocal.
Once we got the right vibe for the song we would then, bit by bit, add to it by throwing ideas and possibilities at it and seeing which ones worked the best. From that point on I would give the thumbs up or down as to whether or not that was a sound or style that I was happy with.
Also, as Martin was the main producer he was instrumental in getting this album to completion. The array of instruments that he plays is mind-boggling! Also, from the point of view of a producer, he listens to what you say, how you feel about the song’s development and is always open to stopping, starting again and changing direction if ever needs be. I’ve worked with some producers in the past who tend to take total control over the creation process and as a result the artists ends up feeling isolated from his own songs. In the case of Martin, it is the very opposite, he is such an easy guy to work with and it’s always and unforgettable experience collaborating and watching the songs take on new life and direction.
On the song “Just Get it On” there are female sound bytes within the song. Can you tell us about this?
‘Just get it on’ is one of the more upbeat songs on the album and is basically about a guy meeting a girl on a night out. The style is latino and was influenced by my time living in Fuerteventura.
In the studio we were playing around with some ideas to bring a quirky dimension to the song and so I called my girlfriend Nikki and asked her if she would do some voice overs me. So from her office in South Wales she recorded little phrases onto her iPhone and emailed them to us in the studio. I think Nikki thought we were going mad but when she heard her samples in the context of the song she got the idea, it really worked well and I was so happy to have her as a part of the album! Its a tongue in cheek track so there was a lot of fun making that song!
Some tracks were harder to get to the finish line than others?
A. So true. Some songs tend to lead you naturally to where they should be, others demand a little extra work and some just confuse you completely. The latter was the case with ‘Howling at the Moon’.
When I wrote this song I imagined it would be a very simple song but when we got to the studio it turned out to be the opposite. We had the song pretty much finished but I kept feeling that something was missing. So, we continued to throw ideas at it from every angle. Finally, after many long hours we stripped it back and it started feeling right. The big factor in getting this song to completion was the mix that Martin gave it. Sometimes it’s hard to know that a song is finished when you haven’t heard the proper final mix. With a select few instruments Martin was able to bring them in and out at the right moments which really lifted the song and made it feel like we were onto something that would make the final cut and we were right!
Some of the songs needed Orchestral and String recording. How did this get done?
A. This is another one of the advantages of working with Martin as he writes such beautiful scores for strings. Initially he wrote string arrangements in Cubase and once we were all happy with those he wrote string scores in Sibelius.
Because of a special relationship with the fixer of the Prague Symphony orchestra, Mark Cahill, we were able to get the sound of great players in a large symphony hall in Prague on the recordings without leaving the country.
We sent them a backing track of the song and the string scores that were prepared. The Orchestra played the scores beautifully. The files were sent back across the internet to us in Ireland and we brought them back into the computer ready to mix into the song.
This made it so easy to have a full orchestral sound on the album with minimal cost and effort.
Your based in the UK now Wayne. How has that transition been?
A. The transition has gone very smoothly and it is nice to live in the U.K. I gig a lot in London and what an amazing city it is, full of life and endless possibilities. However, I can’t imagine that I will stay for an extensively long period there. It is always nice to take advantage of the city and return to the seaside or the countryside. Luckily enough I am based on Barry Island in South Wales for most of the week which is exactly what I need in life. Sea, sand and countryside.
You had gone back to the UK when the recording was completed and the mixing was carried out remotely?
A. Yes, this was a first for me and it ran very smoothly. The main reason why it went so well was because of the trust I knew I could give Martin in being professional and putting in the work that was needed. He spent many long hours mixing and sending me links to dropbox where I would then be able to listen to them in the comfort of my own home and give the thumbs up or suggest other possible tweaks. I would make some notes and email them to Martin and he would go about refining the mixes based on the notes and then he would Dropbox the tweaked mixes. We continued that process until we felt we had gotten them perfect. That didn't take long for most songs!
What has your release strategy been in this age of independent releases?
A. My very first concern was to get my album out there for the fans as it has been 5 years since my debut album release ‘In My Hands’. There were a lot of people asking when the new album would be out there so when I got it done I had it published online on the usual stores such as itunes, Amazon, Spotify, Shazam and many online digital radio stations. I also made the physical album available from my online store on www.waynebrennan.com. I haven’t toured the album yet but this is in the pipeline. I am currently working with a U.S based manager and together we are putting a strategy in place.
What was the reason behind Roots in these lands, which is a bonus track on the album?
A. ‘Roots In These Lands’ is a song that is very close to my heart. I wrote the song on a boat trip through my home county of Offaly. It was a week-long trip along the Grand Canal. The trip was documented in the mixedbagmedia production titled ‘A Grand Experience’ and was commissioned by Offaly County Council under the per cent for Arts Scheme 2012.
The song won the RAAP/RTE Awards in 2012 which was a huge achievement.
I included the song on the album as a bonus track because it fitted into the whole theme of travel which runs throughout the album. ‘Roots In These Lands’ being the final song represents a return to my homeland after 2 years of travelling the world and in this way I think it really complements the album as a whole in that concept.
How can we get the album?
A. The album is available worldwide across the web on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, Spotify and many other online stores. The physical album can be bought from www.waynebrennan.com