A couple of weeks ago I got this email from this guy; his name was Brett, and he was inviting me to check out his music. As you can imagine, as a blogger, I get lots of requests to review albums, but this was the first time that a musician had contacted me about his music. I figured that meant I should check it out (I am responding to invitations, of course).
I am so glad I did. This music is powerful and lyrical and beautiful, like an unexpected swath of wildflowers just over the hill. In his song “Home,” he says, “As for me, I’ll be here. Maybe in a few more years I’ll find my way back to where I’m from. ” Yep, that’s how I feel. And yep, that’s what I look for in music – something that resonates in the deepest part of myself.
As you’ll see from Brett’s answers to my questions, he is a man I can admire and relate to. I hope you will find him to be the same.
What does it mean for you to be a musician, an artist if you will? I’m thinking of your recent blog post where you discuss this question?
I’ve always been inclined to believe an artist’s role is to show someone what’s right in front of them but for one reason or another, can’t access it. That can encompass many things ; a pent up emotion, a need for change, and hopefully, inspiration. I read somewhere that Michelangelo said his job was to reveal what was already there. I wouldn’t dare put myself in his company, but I have adopted that outlook on what I do.
In my blog I talk about the societal preconceptions regarding artists, and how, despite music, film, and art being such a integral part of our culture, many still don’t see the labor of the craft as being a legitimate career. On the other hand, there are many who do, and those folks are the deeply cherished backbone of anyone trying to create something.
Describe your music. Use adjectives, influences, metaphors. What is your music?
Imagine a dining room table. It’s rather large, yet the setting is intimate, so the guests can mingle. The menu for the evening is quite worldly, celebrating an array of ethnic foods. A little of everything. Looking around, you see the guests are just as diverse ; at once is Leonard Cohen, Carl Jung, JD Salinger, Ram Dass, Brian Eno, Robert Johnson, Jackson Pollock, Tom Petty, Charlie Kaufman, George Carlin, David Gray…. In the background you can faintly hear the stereo. It’s on shuffle between Radiohead, Pearl Jam and Mozart.
The centerpiece is a live microphone, and it’s taking it all in.
Yea, that about sums it up. And we haven’t even gotten to desert 🙂
If you were a spice, what spice would you be and why?
Ginger. Has an initial bite, followed by a sweet and warm sensation.
When you imagine someone listening to your music, what do you see in your mind? Who is your ideal listener?
From what I’ve observed, my listener base really runs the gamut in terms of demographics and musical tastes, which I couldn’t be more thrilled about. However the common thread I’ve found is they’re usually the contemplative type. Humble, often introverted, yet always very impassioned in their communication.
If you were to recommend five books to my readers, what books would you recommend?
The Perennial Philosophy by Alduous Huxley.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
(Anything) by Thomas Merton
Tales of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
And since I had a really hard time narrowing it down to 5, may I have another?
The Children’s Story by James Clavell
What is the most beautiful thing you have ever experienced?
When I was 18, I backpacked around Italy. One day in Sicily, on a very busy and fast road along the edge of the coast, I saw a stray dog get hit.
The car that hit it screeched to a halt, and a rather large Italian man jumped out, already wailing at the top of his lungs. He ran to the dog who was barely breathing, knelt down and draped his arms over it. He was crying hard and belting out something that, although I couldn’t understand, I took to be “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry”. By this point 5 or 6 cars had pulled over, and there were at least 10 people now surrounding the man and the dog. I could see several of them crying as well.
After a few minutes, the entire group moved towards the water’s edge, led by the man, who was carrying the dog. Once there, the man again knelt down, and set the dog into the sea. He got up on his feet, and the group stayed there for several minutes, heads bowed, in silence.
Think of yourself as an animal. What animal are you and why?
What a fine segue from the last question!
Elephant. Thick skin and strong, but big heart and gentle. Also occasionally the cause of social awkwardness.
If you could tour with any musician or band (or even writer) in the world, who would you tour with?
Hands down. Leonard Cohen. He has an aura of zen, wisdom. I just want to soak it in.
But I’d also really love to play with Pearl Jam. In my opinion, they’ve grown like a fine wine. That’d be a thrill for me.
What is best thing about playing music? What’s the worst?
Funny you should ask. I just answered a similar question recently.
Any artist knows the surge that comes from seemingly nowhere, as though you are merely a vehicle for some greater force to break through. The experience is transcendental, eternal. That would be the best part. The worst is when that portal closes. Albeit temporary, it feels like an eternity. You’re ripping your hair out waiting for that magic to return. It’s agony.
This duality is necessary I suppose.
If you were to make a mixtape for my readers based on your mood today, what 10-12 songs would you include?
I’m glad you clarified “today” because this list could change in an instant.
But today, let’s say:
Tom Petty- “No More”
Springsteen -“Highway Patrolman”
Sinatra – “In the Wee Small hours”
Leonard Cohen – “If It Be Your Will”
Greg Brown – “Spring Wind”
Kaiser Cheifs- “Angry Mob”
Tom Waits – “Hold On”
U2- “God Part 2”
David Gray – “Transformation”
The Who- “Love Reign O’er Me”
Simon & Garfunkel – “The Boxer”
Brett Ryan Stewart is a Nashville singer/songwriter whose lyrics lend a deep look into the artistâ€™s life experience of loss, purpose and hope. The Delaware transplant and self-taught guitarist has a distinct indie/pop sound peppered with a southern influence which named him â€œâ€¦a talent worth watching!â€ by Performing Songwriter Magazine. Check out his music at http://www.brettryanstewart.com; “like” him on Facebook; follow him on Twitter; and subscribe to his YouTube stream. His album comes out on February 28th, and I hope you will get hold of a copy. Meanwhile, check out this free preview of his song “Home.”