Ex-expat singer-songwriter Bryyn released his new album ‘In Shapes’ on October 16. It’s a collection of ten original, somewhat unusual songs that piqued my interest, because I suspected an intriguing and thoughtful person behind them. So, I asked Bryyn a few questions, and he didn’t disappoint me with his answers.
Most of the songs on ‘In Shapes’ were already featured on ‘House Plants’, that was published by Aaahh Records. What’s the reason for making a new album out of old songs that were already released under cc license?
It’s an experiment. Part of it is that you don’t know the answer until it is done. The songs were “remastered” from ‘House Plants’ and also from some other previous recordings. Remastering is a pretty ambiguous term! Basically I gave the original stem files to Gar Ragland (of NewSong Recordings) and Richard Dodd. They sent these stems through their fancy analog summing mixer. This makes the final sound quality better than doing it all inside the computer as I did originally on my own. Overall, you will not hear much of a difference in sound on a cheap pair of headphones, but you will definitely hear a difference with a good pair of home audio speakers or headphones!
You originally planned to release ‘In Shapes’ in July. Why the delay?
July was a dry month. and the corn was slow growing. This impacted the farmers calendar and set me back. We moved from Switzerland to Ohio and then I thought, it’s high time to do some shrubbery cutting. So this took a long time and by the time I was done it was October!
Did living in Europe have an effect on your music, especially on this album?
It definitely had an impact on my music, but not so much on this album because these songs were mostly recorded before I lived in Switzerland! And also I learned that Switzerland isn’t really Europe, it’s a weird tiny place. Generally, it was quite isolating musically, but with the internet and all I met some good friends like Uniform Motion and Entertainment for the Braindead in Europe! We didn’t make a lot of songs, but we did make some nice ones. I think Europe is amazing, in all its parts, and will be impacting my music for the rest of my life.
Have you moved back to the US permanently?
I’m not sure what permanent means! I am hoping to move for a time to New Zealand and somewhere in South America, like Bolivia.
It seems to me that most of the songs are about God. Would you call it a concept album themed around your faith or religion?
The songs on the album are a bit of a mystery to me. You see, I only partially picked them. For me, I need to make all my songs! They are all special to me, little time capsules. The label actually picked out songs that they liked for the record. So it was not really my decision which songs showed up on the album. Interestingly, I would agree that many of them have a lot of concepts related to my personal religious experience. It even might sound like a concept album! This is pretty interesting. Thanks for capitalizing God.
“the world is rounder than an orange peel / the sun is further than the atmosphere” What do these lines mean? They are obviously true but silly at the same time like a nursery rhyme, but they seem to be unrelated to the rest of the song, and it kind of baffles me.
Sometimes I sing words that only certain people can really decode. I can assure you that someone out there knows exactly what this means (in its full context). In the basic sense, I once heard this story on National Public Radio in the USA. It was about a geologist who heard that kansas was “flatter than a pancake”. So he decided to test it!
He measured the surface roughness of the pancake, and then got some elevation maps of Kansas and compared them. It was amazing what he found! In fact, Kansas is exceedingly flatter than a pancake! He found that if you shrink the entire world down to the size of a billiard ball, it is actually far smoother than that! Even with the Himalaya mountains. They don’t even show up. After hearing this story from this scientist… I think we can really know that we are small, and even our biggest perceived problems are pretty small.
Your way of singing your songs has a certain kind of innocence to it, you sound so lighthearted even when talking about the heavier stuff. Is this a conscious decision to make Bryyn sound like that, or that’s how you interpret things naturally? How do you relate to your own lyrics emotionally?
This might be how I interpret things naturally, because I never really thought about how I sing when I sing. As I work on a song I think there is a lot subliminal going on. I try to go quickly as I write/record a song and not take more than one or two tries at a single part. Going back on things often makes them more “perfect” but also less true and transparent. As I write words I like to mutter to myself and sortof unlock words that I didn’t know where there. It can be terrifying and very emotional to realize what they mean.
What do you expect from the release of this album? As a musician, what are your wildest hopes for the near future?
I expect that this release will help my grandkids remember me even if my house burns down! I hope my house doesn’t burn down. My wildest hopes are to have more time to make music and start having a few more varieties of birds come to my birdfeeder.
I should also say that i have completed another Bryyn album called ‘In Hiding’. This is a companion album to ‘In Shapes’. It has all new songs that I recorded in Switzerland in the last year, and will be released in early 2013. I’m really excited about these songs! Also, I’m working on another album now called ‘Tend My Sheep’ (tentative name).
Would you ever give up your career in science for music?
Hm. It is nice to say that I’m a scientist around musicians and a musician around scientists! You don’t have to be very good at anything.
Thank you, Bryyn!