Brett Dennen celebrates being back on the Redondo BeachLife festival stage
by Rachel Reeves
For Brett Dennen, who’s been touring for 15 years, the coronavirus pandemic was bittersweet. Like anyone else who performs live music for a living, he had to cancel a lot of paying gigs. But he also had time to write songs and paint pictures and hang out with his toddler, Van, in the great outdoors, near their home by the beach in Ventura.
“A year and a half of straight bein’ with him every day,” Dennen said. “Gosh, that’s real special.”
Fatherhood, which Dennen entered in 2019, has changed his life and journey as a songwriter.
“It just kinda deepens everything,” he said. “It makes everything more powerful, more meaningful, more challenging, that’s for sure — it makes the harder times even harder, but makes the better times even better.”
Fatherhood during a pandemic has been a particularly perspective-changing experience.
“All my songs now seem to have taken on a new meaning, which is, don’t take it for granted,” he said. “Even my new song, ‘See the World’ — it’s not so much about traveling anymore as it is about not taking things for granted and understanding the beauty and preciousness of every moment.”
Certainly one of the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic was to never take anything for granted. Dennen has long woven into his music powerful messages about the state of the world and the insatiable greed of some, which harms both the earth and the many. He grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, in nature, and he regularly uses his platform to raise environmental awareness.
He sings about how “we can’t keep paving over this world we won’t all fit in,” how we fill the holes with drugs and get our sunlight from boxes, how superficial it all is, how it’s got us “forgetting that we’re leaving soon.” He’s been thinking about the pandemic and the lessons it offers, in consciousness and connection.
“I do definitely think a lot of people are having some sort of an awakening, where digital life is not enough, and it’s all about community and it’s all about a broader sense of connection,” he said. “But I mean, it went the opposite way, as well, with a lot of isolationist people feeling entitled and wanting the country to be a certain way or be whiter, or whatever, all that bullshit, but I think in the bigger picture, globally, there’s a lot more understanding of the importance of understanding our interconnectedness.”
Dennen’s touring schedule this year features venues, people, and places he’s already been.
“It’s kinda the same old thing, but now it’s all new again,” he said. But even if he’s not going anywhere new, after a year and a half of being at home, it all feels new.
“I think that the fans go to festivals because they wanna celebrate and they wanna be a part of something,” he said. “They wanna be in a group of people that are like minded and like the same music they do. They wanna be outside, they wanna listen to music, they wanna get drunk, be high on life. They just wanna have fun and celebrate. Musicians look at it more as, this is what I do and I like doin’ what I do. But I don’t think we always are in the moment, sayin’, gosh, this is fun, and we’re celebrating.”
Beachlife Festival, he thinks, will be different.
“It’s gonna be one of the first ones,” he said of the festival, one of the first to reschedule after the coronavirus became a pandemic. “I think all the bands on stage are gonna be feeling the celebration.”
Brett Dennen plays BeachLife September 12.
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