A few years back, California native Brett Dennen was a camp counselor, teaching kids outdoor survival skills and playing his acoustic guitar by the fire at night. Yep, he was that guy. But that guy self-released an album in 2004 and started playing in coffeehouses. Since then, the bushy-haired singer-songwriter has blown up, touring with John Mayer, appearing on virtually every late-night TV show, collaborating with the likes of Jason Mraz and Femi Kuti, and, for better or worse, being called "the next Jack Johnson." We recently caught up with Dennen to play a little "We Start, You Finish," wherein we started off a sentence and asked him to finish it:
My live show is not a success unless: I dance so much that 75 percent of my body is covered in sweat. I'll never get to 100 percent because I have such thick hair that it doesn't get sweaty.
People who have not seen me play live before can expect: A lot of really sour notes from my vocal performance, and a lot of really good notes as well.
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Brett Dennen is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 11.
The strangest thing I've ever seen while I was performing onstage was: Back when I was taking any gig I could get, I took a gig in this little town in Northern California called Bridgeville. It's famous for this big bridge that goes across a big river, and people claim that back in the day a spaceship landed on the bridge and tried to make contact with human life. So now every year they have this flying saucer festival where they build flying saucers and they throw 'em off the bridge and whoever goes the furthest wins. And I had to play on the bridge while they were doing that.
The strangest thing someone has shouted at me while I was performing was: "Take your pants off." I'm not really gonna do that. Sorry.
The coolest way I have seen one of my songs used is: Probably on YouTube. When people are like, "We all went up to Wisconsin on a cheese tour and we were listening to Brett Dennen the whole way and here's our slideshow," and there's my song along with pictures of people eating cheese. That's pretty heartfelt, I think.
Three words I would use to describe Jason Mraz are: Really, really mellow. He's a friend of mine and he's a raw [food] guy and he's real into meditation and yoga and smiling and being really grateful for life and being the guy on the couch smokin' a joint and chillin' out. And then he gets onstage and he's like "Skibba-dee-boo-bop-pah-bop!" and runnin' around and goin' crazy. It's funny.
I first realized I was musically inclined when: Mmmm, I dunno . . . Last night?
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The biggest misconception about me is: I think people think that I'm a stoner, maybe because I used to wear a headband all the time. A lot of the guys I roll with get high, but I don't really do that at all. Maybe they also think I'm like a super-crunchy granola hippie because I play barefoot onstage and I sing songs about peace and love and harmony or whatever. I'm into it, but I'm not a full-blown hippie kid who follows Phish or anything.
The oddest thing a fan has ever asked me is: "Is it true that you spend an hour before every show doing your hair?"
The three musicians I would love to hear cover one of my songs are: Björk, because I'm totally intrigued and fascinated by her. Maybe [Wilco's] Jeff Tweedy, because he's my idol and if he ever sang one of my songs, I'd probably just keel over and die. And then, I dunno, the Naked Cowboy in Times Square?
Ten years from now I hope to be: Doin' the same thing. And still have all my hair.