A folk singer-songwriter who has six studio albums to his credit, including 2016's For Favor, Brett Dennen is a musician's musician and has collaborated with the likes of Natalie Merchant, Jason Mraz and afrobeat guru Femi Kut. Raised in California's Central Valley, Dennen spent his formative years as a camp counselor and professional hiking guide, with campfires and acoustic guitars as the elements of his early musical career. The summers he spent serenading campers would kickstart his career as a crooner.
Brett Dennen's background
Brett Dennen was homeschooled by his parents, who let him largely chart his own course of study. He gravitated naturally toward music. NPR member station KCRW gave him his first break by putting the single "Desert Sunrise" into heavy rotation. He then performed most of the songs for The Mosaic Project's Children's Songs for Peace and a Better World charity album, which won a 2004 Children's Music Web Award and a 2004 Parents' Choice Award, before releasing his first self-titled album the same year with indie label Three Angels and a Saint Records. So Much More followed in 2006, along with a record deal with Dualtone Records. The album, which featured the hit singles "Darlin' Do Not Fear" and "Ain't No Reason," managed to hit the top spot on iTunes' folk charts and garner praise from singer-songwriter John Mayer. Critical acclaim buoyed 2008's Hope for the Hopeless, drawing praise from Entertainment Weekly and an "Artist to Watch" nod from Rolling Stone.
Loverboy (2011) prompted a shift in focus for Dennen. Burnt out by an ambitious touring schedule, he moved to California's Sierra Madres, took time off and stripped his music down to the bedrock basics. The results were Smoke and Mirrors (2013), which reached No. 10 on Billboard's Top Independent Albums chart, and Por Favor (2016).
Brett Dennen's career milestones
An inveterate tourer, Dennen's noteworthy performances include shows at landmark venues such as West Virginia's Mountain Stage, the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Missoula's The Wilma. He has also contributed to tribute albums for John Denver, Bob Dylan and Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan. His songs have popped up on episodes of Grey's Anatomy and on the 2011 Warner Bros. film Horrible Bosses.
For Dennen, though, music has always been about charting his own path, no matter if it takes him into collaborations with actress Mandy Moore (who appeared in the video for "Make You Crazy"), live performances on CBS This Morning or penning L.A. travel guides. Additionally, he has served on the board of The Mosaic Project and regularly performs charitable concerts for the organization.