Brandon Schott: Dandelion (2009)
The ringing chords of a pipe organ accompany Brandon Schott's imploring vocals on "Season's Turn", the song that introduces Dandelion, his new full-length album. Seasons turn indeed: the record's 13 tracks, recorded over three months from November 2008, span the one year anniversary of Brandon's diagnosis, treatment and recovery from a stage three cancer in his chest.
Featuring lyrics and music composed during his illness, as well as preexistent songs that speak to the experience, Dandelion, he says, is a fitting metaphor. "Dandelions remind me of childhood, of a certain way of seeing the world - of blowing seeds into the air as a kid, and watching them float on; a beautiful and weightless wonder. Yet, it's a weed an unwelcome growth in an otherwise tended garden. A cancer. And as much of a hardship this illness was on me and my family, we truly saw the most beautiful side of people through it all, doctors, nurses, friends, family everyone lovingly ushering us through. In the process, a glorious idealism was reawakened. Dandelion is a testament to that spirit how in the depths of one truth, we can discover and embrace another."
Schott tracked most of the record live with a select group of players at St. Mark's Episcopal church in Glendale, California where his confiding vocals and acoustic guitar resonated against a rhapsody of strings, bright ripples of piano, soaring electric guitars and ringing percussion.
From shadows into light, it is a multi-textural cycle of songs. "Fire Season," a tom heavy rocker with an ominous edge is balanced by "Not Far Away," when a celestial piano and elegant strings sustain a soothing lullaby. "Turning Toward the Sun" stages the protagonist in a position of resolve, prepared to slay demons. "Blue Star Highway," a glorious slice of California country rock, pays homage to a "Grievous Angel" at the "motel at the side of the road," where the darkness eclipsed him.
The reassuring emotional centerpiece that nearly concludes the record, "All Will Be Well," was the first song written specifically for Dandelion, and set the tone for the project, Schott says. "That was the outcome, and I was determined to get there."
Schott visited a hospital emergency room one Saturday afternoon for reoccurring chest pains, though nothing prepared him for what was to come. "The hardest moment for me was immediately" after I was told about the likely road aheadalone in the emergency room, scenarios bouncing around in my head. But the moment I made that first phone call to my wife it changed it wasn't about me anymore. The more people who joined my cancer story, the less it was about just my own struggle, the more it was about the bigger picture and the power and strength we all had to shape it. Together, we were not going to be defeated. This record was a way for me to summarize the experience and come to peace with it myself. I had to write. Being a songwriter, it was my applied therapy." With the release of the CD, Schott intends to let the music lead the way. He has founded Artists for Healing, a non-profit community of artists to lend their talents to a variety of fundraising endeavors. "Right now I just want to do work for things that matter. I would like the effort I put into playing, recording and presenting music to serve something larger. It represents a philosophical shift of how I wish to carry my work through this music business."
The concluding track, "Halo," is a gentle soliloquy: Schott speaking to his son with these words, "I carry around your smile to every stage in Hollywood/Every night I'm not around." Schott acknowledges the hint of melancholy. "There are times I hear that song and feel a sadness in neglecting time with my family for my music especially in the line, 'My song's on the rise and I can't let it be.' It was written very quickly in the hour before my son's bedtime. I finished it just as my wife was tucking him in. I ran into his room and played it for them both. Later, my wife and I reflected on the moment, and I expressed my regret about forsaking that time with him while writing the song, but she pointed out, 'You came back to him. You played him the song you told him you loved him and you kissed him goodnight. Just like you did in the last verse.' It was a very true moment."
Truth reverberates in Dandelion. "I knew this was going to be a very spiritual record and I wanted that energy reflected in these songs. I look at spirituality as a reflection of what binds us all together, that eternal presence that allows for a deeper understanding of why we're all here, of what we have in common. My experience with cancer tapped directly into that. In the end, it became an affirmation of beauty, of our potential and how we can take care of each other. With this album, my hope is to continue paying that energy forward and maybe provide some perspective and comfort to anyone that might need it the way I did, the way my family did."
Thirteen songs, one year, and a new life: Dandelion celebrates Brandon Schott's gratitude for all that really matters.