I have an affinity for hardworking people. That's why I like guys like Brandon Barnett. Brandon is one of Jackson's more interesting songwriters, and he also has a knack for churning out thoughtprovoking podcasts about the struggles of being a musician via "Left of Nashville." I sat down with Brandon last month to talk about things we liked and his music/podcast endeavors.
How do you feel about the state of music right now?
On one hand, there has never been more freedom, but on the other, it's awfully noisy because most everyone is going the indie route. I think the old ways are dying. I'm a big supporter of copyright, and it's a shame how certain companies have gotten away without paying people for intellectual property. You can either fight that through Congress, which they're trying, or you can find a workaround. Something like content marketing, which is providing value to people like what I'm doing with my podcast, "Left of Nashville."
I wish music could be more about creating a community that's more driven to creating good, solid art. There's so much pretense nowadays, but I guess that's always been there.
Yeah, well here's the thing. I'm not a big fan of musicians. I don't hang around musicians. I don't like the lifestyle. I'm too old for it now. I love creating something from nothing. One thing that was refreshing about going to Nashville and trying to do that thing was that people were unapologetic about their aspirations, y'know?
As a curator of content, what do you feel like is the most difficult part of creating a good podcast?
With me specifically, because it’s a documentary, I have to live it first, and there’s the whole thing of, “Am I doing this so I can make a good episode, or am I documenting?” There are so many straight-up interview podcasts, so I’ve taken from Startup, This American Life, Song Exploder, but sometimes you’ll get information that’s interview-based. There’s one episode where you can hear Jonathan Singleton giving me some advice, then there’s also some really bad audio of me driving to Nashville, and then of course, there’s music. I try to make each episode around twenty minutes but will make it longer if the subject warrants it. The podcast is scripted so I can really drive the point home, and I’m also not too good off the cuff.
You’re really good about spacing. One thing that I noticed right off the bat was that there was no time where I thought you were droning or overelaborating a subject.
Thanks, I’m a self-loathing person, so I’m really careful to think, “Who’s going to want to listen to me this long?” That’s why I wanted to do season three of the podcast about someone else. I was really sick of talking about me.
When you write songs do you feel like you’re writing more from actual experiences you’ve had, or do you try to disconnect so you’re not as particular with your songs?
I think there’s a healthy balance between doing the two because, left to my own devices, all of my songs would probably be sad, y’know? In order to write an upbeat kind of thing, I either have to look back on something or sometimes I make stuff up. I mean, it’s a three-minute song, man. The last three or four episodes of the podcast I was trying to do write a song a week.
How’d that go?
In seven weeks I wrote and produced three songs. First two I did in a week's time and were super autobiographical. My idea was to try to write even when a muse didn’t show up. I guess to kinda answer your original question, I take my stuff seriously, but I don’t really take myself too seriously. Again, it’s a three-minute song, man. If this one doesn’t strike a chord, or if it isn’t as deep or honest as it could be, it’s still something I created from nothing.
Do you have any songs that you feel like you can’t really let go of?
I don’t know if this’ll answer your question, but one of the three I just wrote called, “Any Other Way” was an open letter to an ex-girlfriend who by and large broke up with me because I went broke chasing this thing. Ironically, two weeks after we broke up, I signed a publishing deal. The song is simple, and it’s really just trying to say I can’t do it any other way. This music thing is what I am. That’s probably the most honest, vulnerable thing I’ve ever written. I couldn’t care less if anyone likes it because it says exactly what I want it to say without being bitter.