Brian Strand is a talented songwriter, composer, and musician who writes and performs songs in a variety of genres, including pop, alternative, electronic, and folk music, all with a cinematic flair.
His new song To build A Home was inspired by one of his favourite song “This Is A Home”. Lyrically, his songs touch on the changing world, time, uncertainty and overcoming. In a recent interview with Mister Styx of Musicarenagh, Brain shared what really inspired this song
” Lyrically, the song reminds me of my father who passed away when I was 25, and how I continue to deal with the change in my world after living in the safe environment that he and my mother built for me and my brothers. It has been a very character-building experience that makes me reflect on myself and the world I have created for others.”
In the first few months of 2023, he plans to release Selfie, his debut studio album. Selfie is a 10-track EP that starts off heavily pop/electronic, turns to a more pop/alternative vibe as it goes along, and ends with an insecure, acoustic singer/songwriter closing song.
More of these were shared in the interview. Get the full story below
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What is your stage name?
Is there a story behind your stage name?
I’ve been in various bands over the years with names like Surefire and The Silent Game. In trying to come up with something for my new solo project, I found that the pool of available band names is incredibly limited, and nothing identified me better than my name.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration through interactions with people like my family, former bandmates, as well as in things I read, music I listen to, places I go, changes in the weather, unique sounds and my emotional state at any given time.
What was the role of music in the early years of your life?
There was always music playing when I was growing up, whether in the car or on the stereo at home. There was no shortage of Queen, Earth Wind and Fire, Enya, Sade and UB40, and the soundtracks for Cocktail and Blues Brothers were on heavy rotation.
I really started finding music that piqued my interest in my early teens, listening to heavier rock music from bands like Nine Inch Nails, Far, and Primus.
Are you from a musical or artistic family?
I have a semi-musical/artistic family. I remember listening to my mom play piano at night after my brothers and I went to bed. My older brother is a multi-instrumentalist and is one of the best musicians I know (I’d be in a band with him if he didn’t live on the other side of the country).
My younger brother has a gift for writing, and is a great designer and photographer. My oldest son is an incredible sketch artist, and he and my younger son have imaginations that know no bounds.
Who inspired you to be a part of the music industry?
As my musical taste started to develop, I gravitated towards rock music and was inspired to learn to play the drums, so I joined my school band. When that music didn’t align with the style that I enjoyed listening to, I looked for other ways to create music I liked, and created a garage band with some friends.
How did you learn to sing/write/to play?
Being a drummer, songwriting wasn’t a role of mine in my early bands. But finding unique or catchy melodies came naturally. I used to watch the hand positioning of the guitarist and would try to figure out chords on an acoustic guitar that my aunt left at my house. A friend taught me A and G chords on guitar, and my brother gave me a short tutorial using a MIDI keyboard with Cakewalk, which was my introduction to learning how to record the ideas I was creating.
What was the first concert that you ever went to and who did you see perform?
The first concert I went to was a Sacramento band called Far, who played at a small bar called Old Ironsides in Sacramento, CA. They ended up being one of my favorite all-time bands and their singer Jonah is one of my biggest musical idols.
How could you describe your music?
I would describe the music I am currently writing as a mix of pop, alternative, folk and electronic, rounded off with a cinematic touch. I try to pull in little bits of Elliott Smith, Foster the People, Depeche Mode and Sufjan Stevens.
Describe your creative process.
I never know when a good idea is going to strike. In fact, not all ideas are good to begin with and sometimes it’s fun to take on the challenge of turning a mediocre idea into a good one.
That being said, when I get an idea, I either record it as a voice memo on my phone, or I open a new recording session on my computer and play around on the keyboard or my guitar until something has that “spark” moment. Then I build around it, often without knowing what I want to do or where the song will go. Sometimes the music just has a way of writing itself and it kind of feels like I’m just along for the ride.
What is your main inspiration?
I am most inspired by personal growth. I like to look at the songs I’ve written as my personal benchmark, and am driven to write something better.
What musician do you admire most and why?
When it comes to songwriting, performance, showmanship, and creativity, the two artists that I really admire are Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Jonah Matranga of Far/Gratitude/Onlinedrawing.
Reznor’s body of work is so methodical and wide ranging. From the track order of his albums, to the live stage presentation, to the uniqueness of his music videos, he is so thoughtful in his approach beyond the music he creates. As a teen, I was instantly drawn to the way his music blended melody among chaos.
Matranga showed me the value of sincerity, simplicity, expressiveness, and connection as a musician and songwriter. At that time, I had never heard such explosive music be contrasted with such emotional and delicate vocals, and done in a way that felt so genuine. Watching him perform live was unparalleled. He would unapologetically own the stage.
Did your style evolve since the beginning of your career?
My style has absolutely evolved. Being a songwriter is a constant learning experience. Like any professional in any field, I started with limited knowledge, and over time I changed as I learned how to do things better.
I think what I like about music in general has evolved, and thus I changed as well. I really used to enjoy writing loud, hard, three-piece rock band music because I liked how that type of music hit me in the chest, and I liked the feeling of adrenaline I would get when blasting it on the stereo.
Over time, I found that what I was writing was lacking some of the elements that drew me to that type of music. Things like strong vocal melodies, meaningful lyrics and recurring melodic themes. Around the same time, I had two children and found as they aged that they are excellent judges of music. Often when they would be drawn to a song in its early stages of writing, it would end up appealing to a wider audience.
A friend told me that when your song can be stripped down and sung over just guitar or piano and still sound good, then you know you have something. Taking a minimalist approach to songwriting opened a whole new direction of writing for me. Now I find that I write my best music when the concepts are simple, and then extra instrumentation is thoughtfully added.
Who do you see as your main competitor?
I don’t see my music as having direct competition… at least not at the level I am at. Rather, I feel like I am part of a large musical community. But if I had to choose something that I am constantly up against I’d say time.
The industry has changed so much so quickly. As a songwriter, I want to pour all my effort into writing and creating music. However, in today’s world, a successful songwriter is hardly ever just a songwriter. Unless they have a sizable budget, they likely have to know how to engineer and master their music, distribute their music, create videos for their music and manage multiple types of social accounts to gain visibility amongst the seemingly endless field of other musicians.
What are your interests outside of music?
When I’m not creating music, I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids, hanging with friends, traveling, hiking, and exploring the city and surrounding area that I live in.
If it wasn’t a music career, what would you be doing?
Unfortunately, music still isn’t a career. So in my other life, I am a graphic designer and marketing consultant. However, if I could have a do-over and choose a different career (if music wasn’t an option), I’d look into architecture, cartography, or horticulture. Actually, a well-paid travel blogger would be pretty awesome too.
What is the biggest problem you have encountered in the journey of music?
I touched on this above, but I think trying to (or having to) take on as many roles as are necessary to create a reputable artist persona is an extremely challenging and daunting task, especially as I became a parent with a full-time job.
If you could change one thing in the music industry, what would it be?
Concert ticket pricing has gotten out of control. I find that even when wanting to go see my favorite artists, I am second guessing buying tickets due to cost.
Why did you choose this as the title of this project?
The song To Build a Home by The Cinematic Orchestra blows my mind every time I hear it, and I knew when first listening to it that I had to create my own version. The original features piano and vocals, and by changing that over to an acoustic guitar and creating a raw version felt like an interesting approach. When creating my version, I first recorded guitar and vocals, and then began to play around with bringing in strings to create a dramatic, cinematic feel as the song progresses.
Lyrically, the song reminds me of my father who passed away when I was 25, and how I continue to deal with the change in my world after living in the safe environment that he and my mother built for me and my brothers. It has been a very character building experience that makes me reflect on myself and the world I have created for others. Not only the physical spaces for my family, but the attention and love I give to them and those around me. That time is precious and limited.
What are your plans for the coming months?
I am planning on releasing my first solo album Selfie, which is a 10-song album that begins very pop/electronic heavy, and shifts to a more pop/alternative vibe before finishing off with a cinematic instrumental and a vulnerable, acoustic singer/songwriter closing song. Lyrically, the songs touch on the changing world, time, uncertainty and overcoming insecurity.
Do you have any artistic collaboration plans?
I have been working with a friend, Tom Flowers, from a band called Oleander for the last three years. He has acted as a sort of mentor in pushing me to develop my writing and production skills. We reimagined one of his band’s hit songs, Why I’m Here, and may release it down the road. He has also provided vocals and vocal ideas for various tracks that are still in the works.
What message would you like to give to your fans?
I hope you enjoy the music I create, and hope you are inspired to share the music that you like with others, whether it’s what I have created or the creations of other artists. That is what helps our voices and music to be heard