For one of the hardest working and fastest rising stars in Canadian country music, Dean Brody remains a pretty laid back dude. As we spoke over the phone to talk about his brand-new, brilliant record Dirt, I got the feeling that he might be getting a massage or even meditating - he spoke so gently and seemed so completely chilled. I couldn't help but picture him dressed as a Buddhist monk in a cowboy hat as he spoke down the other end of the line.
Despite his uber relaxed nature, however, he was very forthcoming about the new album and we spoke about how his song writing process has changed over time, the reaction you get from country fans when you name a song 'Bob Marley,' and how he's already working on a Christmas song.
CMC: If you wanted listeners to take one thing away from listening to Dirt, what would it be?
DB: Just hopefully a good time. I always think of when I write a record to just having something that people will listen to while they’re going for a drive or a road trip and hopefully it makes you smile and makes you kind of thoughtful and think about things too at the same time. So yeah, I always write my records as if you’re going to listen to them in the car.
CMC: Do you have a favourite song off the album?
DB: Off this one – man it might be ‘Nowhere USA.’ It’s kind of edgy and it’s kind of got a Chris Isaak/Dwight Yoakam fell to it and I just love stuff that’s on the edge of country.
CMC: Some of the tracks are really personal – like ‘Bob Marley’ – was writing and recording this record an emotional experience for you?
DB: Some songs. Some of them are just fun. But the pressure is definitely different. The pressure is a little bit tougher now because I don’t have as many years to prepare now. They just keep coming. We’re already looking to record for number four. The record label is looking for new material now and I’m like, well I’m busy touring. So I’m trying to write in my off time. It’s a whole new challenge for me because I write all my own stuff.
CMC: You wrote ‘It’s Friday’ with the idea of playing it live in mind; are you always aware of how songs will play live when you write them?
DB: I think when I started out, when I was songwriting in the beginning, I would write just for myself - slow songs; ballads; really heart felt stuff. But the more and more I played live I realised people want to have an experience, have a good time, and I want to have a good time! So I was like, “Well, let’s do some songs that are fun and that we can drive down the road and listen to – crank the windows down and take off.” So, yeah, I try and write with the live shows in mind because the live show is so important.
CMC: You mentioned how time constraints have had a bit of an effect on your songwriting, but how would you say your songwriting process has evolved on this album as opposed to previous records?
DB: I think the first couple of records I was drawing from songs that I wrote among hundreds. My first record I got to choose from probably a hundred songs. And the second record I still had that group of songs to pull from but as we move along I find that I have less and less time to write and so I have to be more efficient. Whereas before I could write 10 songs and come up with one good one. Now when I have time I have to be good about it and make sure that it’s worth my time. So, I think I’ve gotten better at songwriting as far as editing – being able to know which one to chase and which one to let go and get down to business faster.
CMC: You come from a fairly humble and working class background – does that history still have an impact on how you treat your career and your fans even today?
DB: Yeah it definitely does. We still live in a place where it’s not really ritzy. I mean, I guess we could live in a more posh neighbourhood but I grew up in the country and I don’t feel very comfortable in really affluent places. I think that even if I get ridiculously wealthy I’ll hopefully – the fame might change things – but hopefully I’ll just stay in the same community that I’ve been in and surrounded by the same people I’ve been surrounded by my whole life.
CMC: One of the things that really shines in your songs is the attention to detail you utilise in your lyrics, is that something that you’ve really worked hard on in your career and would you consider it almost a trademark of your songwriting?
DB: Thanks man. I haven’t really thought about it much but maybe it comes from – I’m a very visual writer. If I write a song, I have to see it. Like right now I’m working on a Christmas song – it’s funny it’s six months from Christmas but I’m working on a Christmas song. But, if I can see the scene – like I can see the snow falling and I can feel it under my feet and I can hear the bells and smell the cinnamon and cider –if I can have all that in my imagination it makes it so much easier to write a song. Basically you just start playing a song and describe what you can see in that picture.
CMC: What songs do you think both your old fans and your new fans will be surprised by listening to Dirt?
DB: Well I think ‘It’s Friday.’ It’s a kind of a Celtic, east coast song – it’s heavily inspired by the east coast here. And then the second one is probably ‘Bob Marley.’ I’ve had a few people go, “What’s a country singer singing about Bob Marley for?” And I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess most country singers sing about George Jones and Johnny Cash but for some reason I don’t think about genres when I think about my musical heroes. I just think, “That’s a great song. That guy’s a great artist.” I don’t care if they’re jazz musicians or country musicians and Bob Marley is one of the best. So, I’m finding out that that’s actually a surprise to people – that there’s a country song called ‘Bob Marley.’
CMC: When can we hope for a return tour of Oz?
DB: We’re looking at March. I was talking to my management today and it’s looking like me and the boys are going to come over in mid-March next year. Man that’s coming fast so we’ll be there before we know it.
Words: Nathan Wood