Frontloader Sessions: Brenda Xu (part 2)

I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night. Funny thing is, I’m wide awake right now and sure, if I wanted to, I could go back to bed… but I don’t want to because I’ve got tons of work to do.

“Tons of work?” you ask? “How much is TONS of work?”

It’s a lot. A whole lot. Like this much:


I would never use that toilet.

You’re probably wondering what that picture has to do with the amount of work I have, and the answer is nothing. What, you want me to make sense this morning? I only got FOUR hours of sleep last night, man!

Last week we brought you the first part of Brenda Xu’s Frontloader Session. I had mentioned how eager I was to post that session to you all because of the sound we captured that afternoon. Here is the second part of those recordings.

I have to admit that I have been listening to these recordings on a regular basis. The performances were top notch, and I’d like to think that was captured through the music. If you like what you’re hearing/seeing, you should definitely pick up Xu’s latest album, For the Winter. This record undoubtedly suits this time of year, but as Xu pointed out in this short clip, the record has a deeper meaning than the title suggests:

Very cool. If you’d like to read more about the making of For the Winter, check out this interview at She explains the use of silence in her music… go read it after you’re done watching the videos!

“Snow” is a song that isn’t off the album. I could be wrong, but I don’t think this song is off any of her albums, so you’re in for a treat! Love the chorus… simplicity at it’s best:


Last up is a medley they play in their live sets. “Light Me Up” is a Xu original, while “Start a War” is by The National, off of their 2007 record, Boxer.

“Light Me Up –> Start a War”

I’d like to thank Brenda, Ben, and Kacy again for coming to do the session. I truly had a wonderful experience and will absolutely continue to listen to not only the recordings from this session but her studio albums as well. As of this writing, I don’t see any upcoming shows on Brenda’s website, so be sure to stay updated on her happenings through the links provided below.

Oh, and I had to share this photo… Sherman claims it’s not “photobombing” if it’s him. Whatever that means.


Dig it, share it, and be ready for more Frontloader Sessions coming soon!

Brenda Xu on: [official] [facebook] [twitter] [iTunes]


Frontloader Sessions: Brenda Xu

IMG_0125I wrote about Brenda Xu back in September (here), just prior to the release of her new album, For the Winter. I was smitten with the track, “Light of the Moon,” and reached out to Brenda to see if she and her band would be interested in coming in for a session during their tour of Southern California.

Wouldn’t you know it, they said yes. Rad. I was stoked. Totally Jurassic.

So on a warm October afternoon, Brenda and company came into the studio, instruments in hand, ready for whatever happens. Boy oh boy, I am so thrilled with what happened.

There are two kinds of fulfillment that I have come to know when working in the music business: one is the kind that you feel when you make something of your own out of nothing… the kind of satisfaction that you get when you walk in with nothing and walk out with a song that you can’t wait to show the world. The second kind is when you make something out of someone else’s music… it’s a different kind of satisfaction, but it fills you up just as much as anything else. I had the opportunity to feel both of those kinds of fulfillment during my time in Nashville not only as a songwriter but as a music director as well. In doing these Frontloader Sessions, I’ve come to experience the second kind of fulfillment on almost a weekly basis. I love it, I dig it, and I can’t get enough of it.

This session with Brenda kicked that need into high gear.

The music gods must have been smiling down upon us that afternoon, because the sound captured was so good that when I hear it, I want to tell my mom about it:

Me: Mom! You have GOT to listen to these recordings!!!!
Mom: Why? Did they get you an “A” in class?
Me: Uh, mom… I haven’t been in school for a few years now.
Mom: What? Then what have you been doing this whole time? You know your brother? He still gets straight “A’s” all the time.
Me: That’s impossible. He’s not a student, either. He’s a professor.
Mom: You’re right. He’s a PROFESSOR. How come you’re not more like your brother?

Anyhow, it was such a pleasure to watch them perform. Everything came together to make this delicately beautiful sound. From Ben’s steady drumming to Kacy’s accenting guitar work to Brenda’s soft yet dynamic vocals… I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Can you tell that I’m excited about this session?

Up first is “Light of the Moon,” the song that grabbed my attention so tightly from her album. I love her vocal performance, especially at the refrain at the end of the song. Like I said, soft yet dynamic.

“Light of the Moon”

“For the Winter,” the title track from her record, was the first song we did that day. Brenda and Kacy used a bit of delay on their guitars, which only added to this swirly, atmospheric sound. Totally dig.

“For the Winter”

Brenda asked me if covers were allowed for these sessions. “You betcha!” I said, and they proceeded to play The National’s “Terrible Love.” For those of you that know The National, they had an awesome album in 2010 called High Violet. I actually featured a song or two off that record here… awesome album. So you can imagine my response when I heard their version of “Terrible Love.” Dare I say that I like this better than the original?

“Terrible Love (The National cover)”

I dare say. Yes, I do.

Brenda and the guys just got back from a tour that stretched the entire Pacific coast. I’m so grateful they stopped by for this session, and I hope they come back next time they’re in town. Be sure to pick up For the Winter by clicking on her site in the links below. If you like what you heard here, you will be ecstatic with the record.

Check out pictures from the session here.

Brenda Xu on: [official] [facebook] [twitter]


Catching a Breath…

While it’s true that I haven’t posted here for the past 10 days or so, I assure you that I have been busy working on this site. Ever since I rebooted earlier this year, the vision has been slowly adjusting and changing with what I ultimately want to do with it. It hasn’t been dull around here, that’s for sure. I spend a lot of time in the chair in the picture… the one that Sherman is sitting in. When he’s stubborn and doesn’t get out of the way, I just sit on him. Don’t worry, he has no bones so he just squishes under my buttocks.IMG_0109

The Frontloader Sessions have been so much fun to do. I’ve met quite a few talented musicians along the way, and I’m just getting started. The most recent session with Brenda Xu was a tremendous pleasure to do, as I think we hit upon a cool, cool, VERY cool sound that I cannot wait to share with you all. I’d like to think the artists are learning more about their music just as I am learning about the possibilities that this studio can muster up. Matthew Szlachtka’s session was also an exciting one. His songs hit me like a kung fu kick in the jewels, and I’ve been spinning his most recent release, Waits for a Storm to Find ever since.

There are three more sessions this month… October is packed! My goal is to make the Frontloader Sessions a MUST stop for any and all bands/artists that either reside in or pass through Southern California.

Aside from the sessions, I plan to continue to bring you some new and wonderful music around the country. While there will be posts about some bigger named artists, the main focus of this site is and will continue to be on the up-and-comers that will soon take over the airways. Over the past four months, I’ve had the opportunity to write about bands such as Twin Oaks, The Wind and the Wave, along with solo artists like Rachel Ann Weiss, Leah Shaw, and Kristopher James. Their music constantly fills my room, and I keep discovering new artists because of it. Yes, the brilliant thing about the Internet is how easily it is to connect new dots with the old ones.

Oh by the way, Kristopher James is making his most current EP, Movement: 1 is available for FREE via this link for the month of October ONLY. I suggest you go pick it up immediately (after you read this post, of course!).

So I suppose the point of this post is to say, “Thank you,” again. Thank you for reading when I was on MySpace… thank you for sticking with me through the transition onto this site… and especially thank you for returning after my hiatus. You have no idea how much it means to me.

I’m also writing this to further commit myself to this site and to building up the content. It feels so good to have a solid direction. Although it may take some time to get there, I can already smell and taste the arrival. It’ll be amazing, trust me.

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Brenda Xu: “Light of the Moon” + CD Release Party Info

photo_shoot_john_hancock_070_1244636257A few months ago, I discovered that Brenda Xu was in the process of putting out a new album. I had met Brenda back when I would go perform in coffee shops and bars around San Diego. Her soft, delicate style had always made me take a look at why the heck I feel the need to push so hard whenever I sing. I still struggle with that in my performances… but hey, sometimes “Yelling Asian Guy” is a good selling point.

So upon receiving an advanced copy of Xu’s album, For the Winter, I was pleased to hear that she is still writing some beautiful music that can calm the most savage beast. I popped the CD into my player and drifted away for a good 40 minutes.

Beautiful, beautiful music.

W139Brenda Xu will be officially releasing For the Winter on Thursday, September 18 in Seattle. The CD release party will be held at The Fremont Abbey in The Great Hall. Xu states, “Ever since I visited this space for a ‘vocal jam’ last year, I dreamed of playing here one day, and now I can’t believe that is going to happen next week!” She will be performing with her band, along with a string quartet. I would love to attend that release party, but I will be incredibly busy fighting crime as not only Batman but Robin as well.

Oh? You didn’t know that Batman and Robin are one and the same? Yeah, the costume changes are tough to do, but it confuses the bad guys, and that’s all I need to get the upper hand.

For those of you future super heroes, make sure you come up with a gimmick that shocks and awes the bad guys. In the end, they’ll thank you for it. I still receive thank you notes from all the bad guys I’ve put away. One of them reads, “You da best. Tanx 4 kiking my ass n makin me feel guud about it.” People, that’s what I call appreciation.

Anyhow, you’ll find my favorite track of Xu’s album below. “Light of the Moon” has so far been played 18 times on my iTunes and I’m sure it will rack up more digits. There are some songs that just stop me in my tracks. Thank goodness I wasn’t listening to this whilst fighting crime…

Me: Hold on, bad guys. Hold ON! Will you all just HOLD ON???
Bad Guys: Why? What’s up, Batman and/or Robin? We gon’ throw down or wut?
Me: Of course we will, but hold on until this song finishes. It’s such a good song!
Bad Guys: Werd to yo mutha.

For those in the Seattle area, get your patoots to Xu’s CD release party. For those not in the Seattle area, I hear it’s a perfect time of year to visit, especially on September 18.

Be sure to visit one of Xu’s links below to pick up For the Winter on September 18. No, it won’t magically appear in your iTunes account…

Here are some upcoming Brenda Xu show dates. I’m looking forward to her California shows. Perhaps I can get her into the Frontloader studio for an acoustic session…? You never know…

10/4 Portland, OR – The Waypost
10/5 Cottage Grove, OR – Axe & Fiddle
10/7 Sacramento, CA – The Torch Club
10/8 Roseville, CA – Beatniks Books
10/9 San Francisco, CA – 50 Mason Social House
10/10 Atascadero, CA – Last Stage West
10/11 Santa Cruz, CA – The Abbey
10/12 Altadena, CA – Coffee Gallery Backstage
10/16 San Diego, CA – Lestat’s

Brenda Xu on: [official] [facebook] [twitter]