Spotlight features interviews with musicians and industry professionals who contribute to our success.
This week we are proud to feature Billy Brandt. Billy Brandt is a quick-witted, hilarious, and very thoughtful jazz and blues songwriter. He is preparing for the release of his new album City Noir and the show to celebrate it at The Church in Seattle on Saturday, November 23rd. We talked with Billy about it all and this is what he said.
People who hear you talk will realize quickly that you’re not from the west coast. Where are you from and when did you move to Seattle? How long ago?
Ah, the Boston accent. It’s difficult to lose, not that i’m trying too hard (laughs). Yes I was born in Boston and raised south of there in Hanover, Massachusetts, playing ice and street hockey all the way through.
How long have you been working with Gigs4U?
I have been with Gigs4u for 4 years now and it’s been a blast!. It’s been a great lesson in singing at all hours of the day. Those morning gigs can be tough but they really help you get to know your voice really well.
What do you like most about performing at the airport?
It’s been great fun playing at the airport and meeting people from all over the world. Including a few celebrities. But the most fun is the kids coming through with their parents. They love the music and respond straight away!. They dance and smile. They are so much fun to watch and all the adults feed off of their energy, including myself. It’s rewarding to see the impact singing and music can make in the moment. It also reminds me and the rest of the travellers to destress just a bit.
Your new album “City Noir” is coming out soon. What can fans of yours expect from this new release? How would you describe it to someone who’s never heard you before?
The title track and concept of the CD is a look at the modern city of Seattle or any city, for that matter, through the lense of an old black and white film noir movie. All the atmosphere of anxiety, menace, pessimism, femme fatales and gangsters, crimes and card games, low lighting- juxtaposed against the modern tech era of cell phones and glass buildings. The video that I created with videographer Ken Hill tells the whole story and sets the tone for the rest of the album. In fact the video was premiered at SIFF’s Noir City festival last year.
I watched hundreds of old film noir movies as I wrote the tracks of this cd, which was tons of fun by the way. I imagined that I was writing a new soundtrack for a modern film noir movie. Each track represents a certain scene in the movie. It’s a whole thing.
Your release show for “City Noir” takes place Saturday, November 23rd. In fact it’s called “The City Noir Celebration”. Tell us all about it.
This is my album release gig, but since it has been out a while already this really just my CD party. I do hope it rains that night too and we get that real low light film noir, crime story, foggy, vibe happening. The location for the gig is an old church up on Capitol Hill. It’s a secret location, kind of, as no one knows of this place. Part film noir, part speakeasy and part abandoned church.
On the outside it looks like an old church but the inside is the new home of StudioX. Studio X, as you may know, was also displaced out of its Belltown home like so many other buildings and things throughout the city. I recorded the album with them before they moved. This is one of the first concerts that will happen here. It’s gonna a be a blast. Come as you are or film noir.
The charity Facing Homelessness will receive some of the proceeds.
You have an all-star band called The Thing & the Stuff band. Has it always been the same lineup or is the roster fluid? How long have you played with them?
I am fortunate to get to play with some of Seattle’s great players. They know their Thing & can play that Stuff. One of them, who was integral in the shaping of this Cd was Brian Monroney. He was my producer and he did a fantastic job. Helping me arrange and record and so forth as well as playing awesome guitar.
The roster for the band is fluid. But the musicianship is always well above sea level!
Some of the players: Tim Kennedy, Hans Brehmer, Alexey Nikolaev, Brad Boal, Emmanuel del Casal, Joe Doria, Darelle Holden, Kelly Ash, Bradley Hawkins, John Hansen, Chris Symer.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened while you were performing?
Early on in my career I played on the Irish bar circuit in Boston. I was set to perform at a bar in Southie. A real true Irish off the boat bar. So I prepared an Irish tune for the occasion, thinking that these guys would love it. Prior to this the only irish music I did was a U2 song. Anyway things got strange right away. As we we were setting up and putting things on the stage, we would turn to get the next piece of gear , only to find that the last piece of gear disappeared. Where did it go? This was a crowded packed pub, by the way.
People were stealing things off the stage and hiding them on us. I found my guitar amp in the bathroom stall in the basement. That was the beginning. Anyway we finally got our stuff set up and began to play. A few songs in I decided to play my traditional irish tune from the old country. The crowd got noisey, real noisey, they where yelling at the bartender. A minute later the bartender ran out from behind the bar and slapped down 3 100 bills. And said ‘ here’s your money now get out here before you can’t and don’t ever sing that song again “. We packed up and left. But at least we got paid.
What do you hope people take away from your performance after they see you?
I want them to be entertained and have a good time. Oh and take home a CD or two. Even though no one has cd players any more…
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