Photo By: Hunter Taylor
Singer-songwriter Brandon has returned to drop off his debut EP Coming Clean. The 7-track project features the previously released "Baby," and "Makeup," and "Mourning." The four new songs feature a similarly minimal production style to leave room for Brandon's comforting croon and soul baring lyrics.
We caught up with Brandon to find out more about the process writing Coming Clean, releasing a debut project during COVID-19, and more. Read the full interview below.
How do you approach songwriting?
I don't really approach songwriting at all, if that makes sense. It kind of just happens. It's whatever I'm feeling, or whatever I'm moved by at that specific time. It's whatever is happening in my life. I never say or tell myself that I'm going to write about a specific subject; it's really an outpouring of emotion in real-time. It's a very rare occasion that I sit at my desk and just start writing. I like to let everything flow freely. Nothing is preconceived or planned out. All of the things that I write are thoughts, poems, and melodies that happen to form together over time, whether that's within five minutes, a week, four months, two years, etc. I come up with a lot of tunes on walks, in the backseat of a car, in the shower, on my bike. I have about 1400 voice memos on my phone that I still need to go through. Hopefully, that's sometime in the near future, haha.
I read that your family is from Trinidad. That's amazing cause I was born in Trinidad as well. How much did that play in your upbringing?
I guess growing up with different values than most American kids played a big part in my upbringing. I was born and raised in Riverside, CA, but my mom and dad were born and raised in Trinidad. There were a lot of things that I didn't understand growing up, especially in the way that I was raised, which wasn't your typical American culture. I learned things a lot differently, and personally, I tend to learn things the hard way. Alongside that, I will say there were certain times that I felt left out of some circles or groups when I was growing up. I kind of felt like an outcast to some Black kids because I'm not African-American. Kids always looked at you differently, or they'd just call you weird or tell you something along those lines. I feel like some people forget that we're all from the same place. The only difference is the slave ships went in different directions once they crossed the Atlantic. Aside from all of that nonsense, I love where my family is from. I am so proud and so happy that I get to say that I'm Trinidadian. I think it's the most beautiful place on the planet, both culturally and geographically.
How long have you been working on this project?
This project has been done for a while now. I wrote "Mourning" two years ago. In October of 2018, WOW, that is really crazy to think about. Anyways, yeah, that was the first one that came out of that situation. Then I did "Makeup" the week after, and then a couple of weeks later came "Baby" on Black Friday, and "Her" came in mid-December. I can't remember the rest off the top of my head, but I wrote mostly everything within that timespan, like October 2018 to February 2019. It was just a matter of sitting down and finding the time to record with school in the way, which I wanted nothing to do with anymore. I had major senioritis, and all I wanted to do every day was go back home and make music.
I think in total, it took about six months working off and on. I recorded it between my dorm at school and my bedroom back in Riverside. Since then, I've added/changed a few things at my apartment where I live now. I really wanted to put it out on graduation day, which was in May of last year, but I decided to keep it. I think I made a pretty good decision in doing so. Like I said, I've added/changed a few things since then, and it feels a lot better now. So yeah, I guess I can say it's been done for a little over a year and a half. I've just been planning/waiting for the right time to put it out, and now is the time.
What does the name Coming Clean represent?
Coming Clean represents my coming to terms with the events of my life in that past year. I now have a clean slate. That part of my life is gone. It's about being able to let go of this past season of my life, and with that, move on to better things: new love, new friends, new experiences, new ideas, a new outlook on life. More than anything, I guess it means forgiving myself for my mistakes. For a while, I was beating myself up about everything. I mean, it's one thing to take responsibility for your actions, but I was really, really, REALLY extreme. It took a significant toll on me mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I'm glad I made it out of that, though. I'm a lot better now, and I've grown a lot. I'm a completely different person now than I was when I created this project. I feel free, and I'm ready for whatever is to come.
Which song on Coming Clean was the hardest for you to write (emotionally)?
I don't think that there was one single song that was easier or harder to write. Each one came in a wave. As I said, the way that I create is very unorthodox. It all just happens. If I had to pick, I guess I'd have to say "Her"? But I really don't know, I can't even say. I honestly shed a tear when I finished each one. They're all equal to me. It was hard to get through everything that was happening at the time.
How do you feel releasing a body of work during this crazy time in the world?
I don't know how I feel. I haven't entirely processed that yet. I am just happy that it's finally coming out.
When listening to other people's music, what's the first thing you pay attention to?
Nothing specific. I just close my eyes and listen.
Who are your ones to watch?
I really love Haich Ber Na. He's an artist out of the UK. I don't really know how to describe his music other than that it's unlike anything I've ever heard. Another artist I really like is Tora, also from the UK. The EP she put out a few months ago is beautiful. Honestly, I want to just say a few friends and artists I really admire and that I listen to on a regular basis - they've got some amazing music in the works. So, for now, I guess I can say Bathe, Kamal., C.S. Fulp, Santi, Alycia Bella, Sophiethehomie, Hush Forte, Love Mansuy, Daniel Price, Baby Keem, Postcard Boy, Bktherula, Jonah Yano, New West, Antoine Bradford, Quiet Luke, Teezo Touchdown, Hook, Asha Imuno, Q, Jean Dawson (not in any specific order).
What does success in music look like to you?
To me, success looks like being happy. I don't even have to be making music. For me, it's just the fact that I'm satisfied, and I love whatever it is I'm doing, wherever I am, rich or poor. It's really just being at peace, with myself and with God.
Listen to Coming Clean and watch the brand new video for "Her" below.