Interview by Annar Veröld.
Minnesota-based songstress Breanne Düren has had a busy year. After capturing our hearts recording a several tracks with Owl City, Breanne has recently released her debut EP, Sparks. The EP, recorded by Mike Daly (who has worked with Rachael Yamagata, the Pernice Brothers, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals), is a five-song introduction to Breanne Düren’s warm, soulful style. Red River Noise had the opportunity to talk with Breanne Düren for a better understanding of her inspirations, ideas behind her music video, her experience with Owl City, and where exactly it is the loveable songstress is heading.
Since your first, self-titled full length album in 2008, to your EP Sparks— how have you grown as an artists, and what have you done differently?
Breanne Düren: Oh, I really think that as an artist I have done a lot of growing. I think that as artists we always are and should be, getting stronger in what we do. I feel like during the time that I did that self-titled album, that time was a really experimental time. I was just learning how to write, and really that was my first experience recording my songs and listening to them. By the time I was actually done with the songs, I was like “Okay, I think I’m ready to start this now.” It was time to do the songs differently, and make new songs. It was definitely a time for me to grow and realize what it was that I was doing as an artist. Then of course, the experiences from touring have been huge. As a performer and a musician, being on stage and performing every night makes you a lot stronger. There have been so many new experience and new people, and being exposed to a lot of new music has been very influential. I feel like I have definitely grown a lot.
You have been taking dance and music classes since you were a little girl, what influences from your childhood inspires you now as a young artist?
Düren: I think there are a lot. I definitely grew up in a music loving family and we were always being creative and experiencing music and art. That has definitely stuck with me, it is in my blood, and it is who I am. We listened to a lot of music as a family, a lot of Joni Mitchell– I consider Joni Mitchell such an inspiration—and there was a lot of exploring and there were definitely a lot of influences from growing up.
So, what is the process like working on your full-length album, now?
Düren: I have a few songs that I didn’t end up putting on the EP that I believe are candidates for the full-length. I feel like the last of the full-length I still get to create it. I’m really excited. We’re about to leave for the Owl City Tour, so I’m getting ready for that now after all of the EP chaos has sort of ended. Once I’m on the road, I’m just going to be writing a lot, spending a lot of time on reading and writing, because I’m really, really inspired when I’m on the road. When I’m home I get a little too comfortable, so when you’re on the road and sort of uncomfortable and there is a lot of chaos, seeing new things and new places everyday—that’s really inspiring. I plan to actually write a lot of songs on the road this year. I already have a few ideas; this is going to be a record that will probably get written in airports and hotel rooms.
How does your songwriting process go? How does an idea turn into a song for you?
Düren: The process is usually different for every song. For me, I usually get an idea in my head for a melody or for a lyric, and then—by experience what usually happens is that I will get an idea and it will get stuck in my head and I can’t forget it. Despite that, I still like to memo things down in my phone or click “record” the melody on my voice recorder. I mean, I’ll get ideas anywhere and everywhere and on the bus. Once I start to get that one hook or lyrical idea, and I’ll sit down with it once I get a quiet room to myself and start building a song around it.
What was it like shooting the video for “Gold Mine”? Will you shooting another video for another song off your EP? If so, which song?
Düren: Yeah! We actually did a video for “No One Else”, which is actually completely finished. It is going to be coming out soon. The video for “Gold Mine” was totally a blast. I actually used the girls from my high school dance team that I used to dance for. So, I went to the high school if the girls wanted to be in the video. They were excited to do it. So, we choreographed the dance together and I had a good friend of mine—a girl that I used to dance with on the dance team—helped choreograph a lot of it. We all had good ideas. We had three practices, and then we had four hours a day of shooting at the community center—to set it everything up, do the dance a couple of times, tear it down and leave. I wanted the entire video to be done in one take, because I feel like those things are always so interesting. I felt like the idea was fun and different, and kind of had this light-heartedness to it. I always really liked those one take videos. It just helps you really focus, and it feels organic in a way. I pretty much organized the whole video by myself, and it was a very homemade kind of thing, but it was totally fun.
What was it like working with Owl City on the album, Ocean Eyes, and how did that come about? Which track did you enjoy working on the most? How was that process? Did you contribute to composing some of the songs in the album?
Düren: The songs were all written going into the recording sessions. But, it was totally great. I hadn’t really met Adam going down to his house, his studio basement in Minnesota. We actually had a mutual friend—Adam was looking for a girl to sing on his track, and this mutual friend thought we’d be good together and thought I would be interested and I was like “Yaaay!”— So, I went down to his little basement studio and we recorded “The Saltwater Room” and “On the Wing” and “Air Traffic”. Yeah, and I think “The Saltwater Room” is this kind of a gem of a song. It’s really cute and charming and light-hearted, and I’m really honored and excited to be a part of that song. There is also another song of the new record that is coming out that I have feature in, which is really exciting—it’s called “Honey and the Bee”. Yeah, so it’s just been totally a blast, exciting, and so new, to be a part of the Owl City experience, because I had never toured before. It was just learning a lot and experiencing a lot of new things. I can’t say enough good things about being a part of it.
Aside from opening for Owl City in select cities around the world, and singing back-up and playing keys with Young, also, what are you most excited about the upcoming tour?
Düren: Writing, hands-down. I just can’t wait to get on the road. It’s going to be very focused. When you’re on the road, it’s like every day revolves around music and performance, so you’re just in the zone all the time, which I think is really great. Like I said, when I’m home, I feel a little too settled in, there is family and friends who want me, and it gets very distracting, but on the road it is very focused, very about music all the time. So, I can’t wait to start really writing and making little demos of my music all the time.
You’re graduating college before heading out on tour– what was it like being a student and a musician at the same time? How did you juggle the demands of education and being a devoted artist?
Düren: I actually just finished my last class and my last final a week ago. I’m all done now, and I’ve got all of my credits. I actually didn’t make it to the graduation ceremony, but I have all my credits done. It was a lot of hard work having school alongside all of that EP prep work, but it’s over now. I can be rest-assured that I have my education now. Before the whole Owl City thing took off, I was in college and I was on the side starting to write and record, and that was around the time that I made that first set of recordings in 2008. So, it was very much time for me to explore what it was that I was doing and what I wanted to do. At that time it was great, I was meeting a lot of other singer-songwriters in the Minneapolis area and a lot of other students. The University community was great for me, because there were a lot of other artists and songwriters I was able to meet and we would do a lot of little gigs together. This past semester that I went back to finish it got a little hard, because it was like I was in two completely separate worlds. It was kind of like doing the college stuff to just finish, and then I had the music stuff and all of the work on the other hand. There was a lot of discipline and lot of not really having a social life.
So, your full-length album is coming out next year– aside from touring, what else is coming up for you in 2011 and beyond?
Düren: Well, most of this year is just getting to touring with Owl City and covering the opening spot, and working with the EP and letting it kind of introduce people to who I am as an artist and as a songwriter– like I said, working on new stuff. I don’t have plans to solo tour quite yet, but I certainly hope that I will have that opportunity next year, 2012. I’m just trying to meet as many people as I can, write as many songs as I can, and get as inspired as I can. I will keep working on demos. I would like to make a music video for every song on the EP, that would be awesome. I want to keep people engaged until I have my full-length ready to go.