Newport Folk® presents
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
This event is 18 and over. Patrons under 18 admitted if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
Tickets on sale Fri. 7/29 at 10AM!
Tickets available at TICKETMASTER.COM, or by phone at 800-745-3000. No service charge on tickets purchased in person at The Sinclair Box Office Wednesdays-Saturdays 12-7PM. Please note: box office is cash only.
As common and simple as it is, “por favor” is such an evocative expression. From Spanish, it translates to “please,” a word that suggests a need for something, a desire to make a change. “Por favor’ was something I kept saying every day in the studio, and I got the other musicians saying it,” says Brett Dennen. “We were goofing around, and Dave Cobb, my producer, said it should be the title of my new record. I laughed it off at first, but then I really thought about it.”
“When you say please, you’re asking something to come into your life,” Dennen adds. “It might mean that you’re weak and need something to make you strong. But you’re admitting to some sort of weakness or some form of humility.”
That notion is at the heart of Por Favor, Dennen’s intimate and revealing new album that Elektra Records will release on May 20. Produced by Cobb, fresh from his Grammywinning work with Chris Stapleton and Jason Isbell, the record strips Dennen to his core as a songwriter with nothing to hide.
“All these songs came from a time of sadness for lots of different reasons. They came at a point when I wasn’t feeling confident about myself,” he says. “When I’m not feeling confident, I’m not a nice person to be around. I don’t take care of my health, my relationships, my stuff, and it all cycles into a miserable place. And I have a really hard time admitting that I’m in that place.”
A followup to 2013’s Smoke and Mirrors, his sixth studio album dives deep into loneliness, loss, and love and all its side effects. It’s the sound of an artist working through his insecurities in song, and thereby letting go of them. But it’s by no means a sad affair, nor is it the “rainyday record” Dennen initially thought he was making.
Often framed by uplifting choruses and bright acoustic arrangements, these songs brim with optimism, the palpable sense that the tide is turning. “And I want to love you for the way you are/ Not the way I am/ So let’s go now/ Back to the bonfire where we began,” he sings over a chugging groove on “Bonfire.”
On “Where We Left Off,” the album’s emotional powder keg, Dennen lays himself bare over the slack strum of guitar and one of his most unvarnished vocals ever recorded. The opening lines go straight for the jugular: “Everyone knows I’m a happy man/ But I haven’t been right.”
“Vulnerable was another word that kept coming up when I was making this record,” Dennen admits. “Is there something I’m scared to say? Can I dig a little deeper, reveal a little bit more? How far can I go That was my direction, and once I got that in place, I started shooting down things that weren’t in that zone.”
“I kept telling myself that all I have to do is be authentic and make the songs about the lyrics and how they interact with my guitar,” he continues. “I don’t have to worry about whether they’ll be on the radio or if they’re different from my previous stuff.”
Holed up at Cobb’s Nashville studio, with musicians the producer assembled, Dennen and Cobb worked fast and kept the songs rough around the edges. Dennen appreciated Cobb’s insistence on capturing them in just a few takes. “We recorded it the way people made records in the ’60s – really fast, all on analog gear, very few rehearsals,” he says. “We didn’t do anything more than five times. We didn’t secondguess ourselves – we just went with it. It’s not sloppy, but it’s in that right place between loose and tight and feelgood but not labored.”
Cobb adds, “I worked with Brett because of his beautiful balance of wit and melody. He’s very timeless in his writing and you really can hear his personality in every note he sings. The record was made totally live and we recorded all the vocals live with the band. It really was produced as stopped down as possible – we tried to make every note matter.”
More than a decade after his selftitled debut catapulted him to stardom, Dennen was once again attracted to how he made his earliest recordings. “My whole approach was that I wanted to write and sing the songs from the same place that I wrote the first record, which was a place of trying to discover who I am,” he says.
That marked a detour from his most recent releases. With those he felt like he was exercising his craftsmanship – “being a songwriter for the sake of being a songwriter,” as he puts it. “I really wanted this new album to come across as a whole piece,” Dennen says. “I consider it to be a batch of songs that all live together and complement each other.”
Which brings us back to the album title. Please.
“What was I asking for with this album” Dennen says. “I wanted to be a good person and feel good about myself again, but in a way that I knew it was OK to be sad. That’s part of life, the ups and downs. But with these songs, I want to make people feel good about themselves and about life through the good and bad.”
Keep It Together is our third full length album and it’s a bit of a departure from our last two records. We arranged all the songs with our friends Kate Siefker (drums, percussion, synth, bass) and Shannon Hayden (cello, guitar, mandolin, synth). Working with a closer knit team of just four ladies helped tighten our sound and unify each track into a complete collection. Our live performances with Kate and Shannon will be will be very tightly arranged because they were directly involved in the orchestration/recording process.
Lily and I wrote many of the songs separately and came together to revise/finish them. I hope listeners are able to see our unique personalities through our different lyrical themes. “Keep it together” is a lyric from the first track “Not Gonna,” which Lily wrote. This simple phrase has a lot of meaning to us: keep your shit together, keep our relationship as sisters together, pressure to keep our image a certain way as young ladies.
Women, and young women especially, are multifaceted, yet are often trapped in certain roles. As Nicki Minaj has said, “If you speak up for yourself, you’re a bitch. If you party too much, you’re a whore. Men don’t get called these things.” I admit I’m constantly afraid of saying something too “edgy” and offending someone or being “too nice” (what is too nice??) and not being true to myself. Lily and I started making music when we were teenagers, but we’re adults now and we’re thinking about the future. I don’t want to be afraid of my future because I’m a young woman. I want to do my best to be my best and create kick ass art without hesitation.
One of my favorite tracks is “Nothing,” which I wrote. This song is a dramatization of personal experience. While writing this album I thought about my romantic relationships and friendships and considered how these bonds affect me positively or negatively (or both). I’ve learned a lot about myself through my musical career so far and these songs sort of look back on who I was a year ago and who I’m becoming now.
Keep It Together is the most personal body of work that Madeleine and I have created. It feels especially vulnerable to me because I was a lot more involved in the writing process for this album. Each song represents a moment in time that is either a past memory or an event that I could experience in the future: these songs feel just like little parts of me.
This album is very honest too and has a good mix of drama and simplicity. I wanted some of the songs, like “Westfield” and “Smoke Tricks”, to feel like simple and steady streams of thought, which balances out the drama of songs like “Chicago” and “Nothing”.
Along with reflecting on the personal bonds that Madeleine and I both have, I also really wanted to focus more on the bigger picture and write about the experience of being a white woman in America and a college age kid in the 21st century. As I attempt to further discover who I am as an individual, the way society wants me to define myself is becoming clearer. It seems to me that young people are the same everywhere: regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic class. All young adults are in the same boat, trying to figure out what makes us individuals and trying to find our value in society. I see the same situations reoccurring within my age group: my peers are dealing with eating disorders, drug problems, and abusive/manipulative relationships constantly.
Madeleine and I are used to answering the same unintelligent questions (“What’s it like being sisters?” “Do you ever worry about picking out the perfect outfits for your performances?” “What do your boyfriends think about dating someone famous??”), but I believe with this album, people will pay more attention to our creation instead of our appearances and our “story” as a band. I can only speak for my own experiences, but my greatest hope for this album (as with every album we make) is that people will continue to listen closely and relate.