Jay Brannan talks "Rob Me Blind"
For New York City singer/songwriter Jay Brannan, recording his sophomore effort, "Rob Me Blind," was a dream come true.
"I ended up making this list of fantasy people I wanted to work with," Brannan said via telephone from his home. "Somehow, I got the first person on my list."
That person was David Kahne, who has worked with Regina Spektor, Paul McCartney and The Bangles, among others.
"I learned so much from him," he said. "I'm so happy with how it turned out. It was really cool.
"He has so much experience and so much talent. He's really good at knowing what a recording needs to be memorable or special. Every arrangement was built around the vocal. We started with what I do, which is simple and minimal. We would record the guitar and the vocal. He would create these arrangements that were supporting that foundation of the song. I learned so much watching him and listening to him tell the stories and learning how to create moments in music that draw people in and make a song special. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done."
"Rob Me Blind" carries the signature qualities of a Brannan album -- brutal honesty, sharp wit and sparkling melodies. Brannan prides himself on his honesty.
"I mostly just write to get things out of my head that have been spinning around in there," Brannan said. "Some people might look at is as therapy. I think of it as a survival mechanism. It's like pain, frustration and fear and anger and loneliness. Those are the things that make me feel I have to get something out of myself.
"That's the personal purpose to writing songs. I'm not the fastest writer. I don't just sit down and say, 'I'm going to write a song' and sit down and write a hit or something. It's very organic. I'm going through something or pushed to a point where I feel forced into expression. They're all kind of based on real-life experiences. And they're all really personal."
Brannan said singing the songs isn't difficult; it's cathartic.
"One of the things I've realized in my lifespan is honesty is a really healthy and really beautiful thing," Brannan explained. "I know for a lot of people it's challenging to be honest. But I think most people would agree when you give it a shot, there's a certain amount of relief that comes from it. Doing what I do, I get a lot of feedback. You get this feeling whatever it is you're experiencing or going through. We feel we're the only ones or that nobody else relates. I get a lot of feedback from people who say, 'I really related to that.'"
Fans express gratitude for it, he said. It gives this validation that listeners or even Brannan aren't alone.
"I think experiences are more painful than the expression of them," he said.
Brannan has an uncanny penchant for connecting with his live audiences, through the stories he tells and through his covers, which range from Joni Mitchell to Nicki Minaj.
"I've done a few hip-hop covers," Brannan said with a laugh. "I like folk singers and I have a covers album. A lot of times people request those songs like 'Zombie' by The Cranberries, or the Joni Mitchell song that I did. I've done Nicki Minaj and I did 'Straight Outta Compton' by NWA. Adele comes out sometimes."
The video for the album's title track is embedded below.
18 - Boston, MA - Brighton Music Hall
19 - Hoboken, NJ - Maxwell's
20 - Philadelphia, PA - World Café Live
21 - Washington, D.C. - U Street Music Hall
23 - Pittsburgh, PA - Stage AE
24 - Columbus, OH - The Basement
25 - New York City, NY - HighLine Ballroom
26 - Chicago, IL - Lincoln Hall
27 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock Social Club
28 - Kansas City, MO - Czar Bar
30 - Denver, CO - Larimer Lounge
31 - Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
2 - Seattle, WA - The Crocodile
3 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir Lounge
4 - San Francisco, CA - Great American Music Hall
7 - West Hollywood, CA - Troubadour
8 - San Diego, CA - The Casbah
10 - Phoenix, AZ - Hard Rock Café
11 - Tucson, AZ - Club Congress
13 - Dallas, TX - Sons of Hermann Hall
14 - Austin, TX - Stubb's Barbecue/Waller Creek Amphitheatre
15 - Houston, TX - Fitzgerald's
17 - Charlotte, NC - Visulite Theatre
18, 19 - Decatur, GA - Eddie's Attic
20 - Birmingham, AL - WorkPlay Theatre
21 - Nashville, TN - The End
23 - Orlando, FL - The Social
25 - New York City, NY - HighLine Ballroom