Brandon Schott: Golden State (2007)
Recasting the singer/songwriter genre into his own image, Brandon Schott evokes a sunny intimacy that belies a wistful emotional complexity. The title of his CD, Golden State, says it best as the lyrics map mythic byways of promise and possibility across the melodic horizons of classic Southern California songcraft.
As lush vocal harmonies give way to layered pianos, and vibrato rich guitars dot a vibrant soundscape of metaphor and melody, Golden State traces the arc of a relationship from discovery to acceptance to release, within a cycle of songs. “The album began its life as an EP,” says Brandon, “The original idea was to do something raw, stripped back, and quick. As the songs started to develop I realized there was a more to the story that I wanted to tell.”
Brandon’s sound and story are similarly trans-Atlantic. Born in Virginia, he spent most of his childhood in England where both of his parents were stationed in the U.S. military, and returned to the U.S. as a teenager. “My last night in London before we flew out of Heathrow, I had a moment of panic, ‘I’ve got to see Abbey Road before I leave.’ I went to tourist info booths, but no one could tell me where it was.” Back in the states, Brandon found the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper at the local library, brought it home to a room with nothing in it but a sleeping bag, and listened to the record over and over. “I think that’s the beginning of my real love for English musical culture. It sounded like what I thought England should sound like.”
At Berklee College of Music in Boston, Brandon interspersed songwriting and music business interests until eventually songwriting won out. “Berklee is an invaluable lesson in inviting other energies into my perspective, and that was a huge gift,” he recalls. “But as a songwriter, I had to forget a lot of what I learned in order to internalize, and write from a place that was more honest and less tactical.”
Being a husband and a father is key to Brandon’s personal life. ”As a father, it’s an opportunity to show someone your world. I did my first record, Release, after my first son was born. I need to show my kids, as well as myself, that if you have a dream, don’t talk about it, do it – share it.”
A sense of community infuses Golden State with a homegrown touch. The record was tracked almost exclusively at friend and co-producer Jason Wormer’s home in Atwater Village. A debut video for the song “A Simple Life” was shot at Karma, a coffeehouse where Brandon performs regularly amidst an embracing coterie of friends and musicians in “small town Hollywood,” as he observes. “My family and fellow musicians -- everyone I’ve met out here -- we all lift each other up. If there’s anything to learn in this music business it’s that the community we put ourselves in is our most important asset.”
Named one of the Best Unsigned Artists two years running by the Los Angeles magazine Music Connection, Brandon recently returned to the UK on a multi-date tour anchored by a performance at the legendary Cavern Club in Liverpool for the International Pop Overthrow Festival. (And this time, when in London, he reported that he walked across that exact white-striped intersection on Abbey Road.)
The narratives that fill Brandon Schott’s lyrics can be as intoxicating as a sunset coloring the vast Pacific, as intimate as a breath on a lover’s cheek, as innocent a child’s gaze or as exhilarating as a spinning carousel. And like the carnival ride that he evokes in song, Brandon Schott spins his music toward a luminous destination: Golden State.