Brennan Walden aka Azure Sky shares his honest thoughts about his debut album, ‘End Of A Decade’. A few weeks ago, this 12-track material became available to stream and was promoted all over the blogosphere. So far, it’s getting good feedback from Rock music fans, discover more below.
1 – What do you think motivates you day in and day out?
I find that keeping an organized and aesthetically pleasing environment goes a long way to keep me motivated to create something new. Listening to your favorite artists is great, but digging for new artists and new sounds is where I find the newest inspiration.
Many musicians do what they do with no assurance that anyone will even hear what they’ve created, and if they do hear it, they may not even like it. So what makes me keep doing it? The answer for me is simple. I love creating music. It’s probably the same answer most musicians would give.
I love the feeling of everything else in the world fading into the background and just being in the moment, riding whatever wave the music takes me on.
The combination of the joy of making the music and the awe of seeing it create joy in others is what keeps me writing. Music is such an intangible business because it’s worth is intrinsic by nature. But there aren’t many things in this world that can have such profound emotional, spiritual, and even cultural impacts as music. So in light of that, I think its value is priceless.
I want my music to be my legacy. It will be something that my children and their children can have for as long as little Walden’s walk the Earth.
2 – Why is your debut album entitled ‘The End Of A Decade’?
Funny story… Ten years ago I made a choice to stop spinning my wheels pursuing other career goals. I have a college degree in Fine Arts that I don’t even use. I realized that in order to feel fulfillment and be happy, you have to go after your dream whatever the cost. I was always influenced by other people’s perceptions of me. It took me a long time to simply say, “This is who I am and this is what I choose to do with my life.” For some people that may not be such a circuitous path. My wife, Melanie, is a person that exudes self-confidence and I admire how she never changes who she is from one situation to the next, no matter who she is interacting with. So I guess she rubbed off on me.
This album is the final product of that choice and the support of my family to reach it. I didn’t have a road map to follow so it took a little bit of time. I played local gigs and even formed a band that ultimately fell apart. The saying, “If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself,” holds true for me. So I invested in the equipment I would need and learned what I could from YouTube and other internet resources.
For a brief glimpse of what my life looked like trying to write, record and produce this album: By day I’m a father of three beautiful kids and by night I’m a pizza delivery driver. I usually get off work between midnight and one a.m. Afterward, I would try to fit in a few hours in the studio. I had to tell myself that it was a marathon, not a sprint. There never seemed to be enough time in the studio even though I knew it wasn’t just myself making sacrifices. It meant only having the evenings on weekends to tuck my kids into bed. It meant my wife and I had a “high” and “bye” relationship throughout the week. Exhaustion creeps up on you after living like that for a while. I didn’t spend ten years strictly working on the record, but the end product was the culmination of a ten-year marathon.
3 – Which other titles were you considering for this album?
There were several actually. I had tossed around the idea of ‘Pages’ and ‘Subconscious’. I originally released an EP called ‘Subconscious’ in 2018 with only three songs — Societal Shedding, My Cup of Tea, and Shy. They have now been re-released with the other nine songs on the full LP.
The only other title that received serious consideration though was ‘Chrysalis’. It was kind of the perfect metaphor for the process of creating this album. Just like a caterpillar emerges from its chrysalis into what it was always destined to be.
However, I felt that this title was a bit too “on the nose.” My good friend Ryan Olterman had already created the stellar album cover with butterflies. The imagery said it well enough. So I decided that my original title (The End of a Decade) was the perfect way to summarize what this album was to me; the end of a decade long chapter and the beginning of a new one.
Oh man. I could write an essay on some of the songs on this album. I can summarize a few of the songs for you.
“I’ll Be Around”, is saying that we spend too much time speculating and arguing about what happens when we die, yet we rarely stop to appreciate the simple beauties and joys all around us. One of my favorite lines in this song is about my son Tristan as he experiences Autumn for the first time.
“Dichotomy” speaks about leaving behind youth and the struggle to find peace amidst chaos.
— “Standing in the epicenter of gravity with no control…I may be living but also, I’m already dying. Amidst all the noise in the rafters, I’m finding some silence.”
“Ishmael” tackles subjects that range from my own theories about the socio-economic paradigms in the world and the indoctrinated ideologies that pervade our culture, to theories about ancient civilizations and extraterrestrial encounters. The title of the song is in homage to the subjects and ideas in the book ‘Ishmael’ written by Daniel Quinn. It addresses the existential crisis of our time amidst the distraction of political and religious rhetoric.
“Goodmorning Goodbye” is the last song I wrote for the album but was a perfect way to introduce it. It is about moving from our first home where we started our family together. Serendipitously, my wife and I lived there for a decade and moved right around the time I released the record. In the opening lyrics, I’m speaking to our dog Titus who is buried beneath his favorite apple tree. Part of me wanted to wait until Spring before moving so I could see it bloom one last time.
“The Optimist” is about maintaining the ability to see the good in others and afford them the benefit of the doubt. It’s easy to become negative about humanity and your place in everything with all that’s been going on in the world.
— “Oh, Trojan horse come knock on my door because you know that I’ll fall for it over and over. I’m not gullible, I’m just an optimist who’s willing to trust.”
“Societal Shedding” has dual meanings, as do many of my songs. It is a sort of love letter and apology to the natural world that humans are devastating. When I look back on who I was in my younger years, I wasn’t who I am today. Change and changing one’s personal beliefs is natural and should not be frowned upon. Embrace yourself as you change.
This album addresses the transient nature of life. The message of the album as a whole is that life is short, so focus on the beautiful things it has to offer; family and your loved ones chief among them.
5 – Can you tell us more about the first steps in your music-making process?
I begin most of my songs by playing chords or fingerpicking on my acoustic guitar. There is sort of an implied melody that comes from the chord progressions that spawns my vocal melodies. Whatever emotion they evoke then draws out the words. I often can’t even explain how the hit they page. It feels like they come from somewhere else entirely.
In the past I would have written the music and lyrics simultaneously, using nothing but my acoustic guitar. For this album, I approached it much like an artist begins painting a canvas, a splash of color here, a shadow there. Each song was built in layers. I tried not to set limitations and rules for what and when things should be added or created. When the inspiration for a part occurred I just went with it.
It was a pretty painstaking process. Sometimes I would fully produce the first verse of a song and build on top of that once the inspiration for the chorus presented itself. Sometimes I had a chorus and no verses, etc. Each song went through several revisions. They became these huge multilayered productions. It’s fun, but also a difficult way to create a track. I probably won’t be producing songs quite this way very often in the future.
That’s difficult. I’m fond of each song for different reasons. Like your kids; you love them all for who they are.
From a production standpoint, I would have to say that “Ishmael” was the most difficult and required the most revision. It has some interesting chord progressions and transitions. A lot of the magic in that song isn’t very perceptible. A lot is going on underneath that creates the final tone and vibe. Also, it tackles an array of difficult topics that were hard to fit lyrically into the structures of the song. I’m quite proud of the final product, though the joy of listening to it has receded, much like my hairline while producing it haha.
I probably enjoy listening to “Sunshine” the most because it features my wife’s bubbly voice and it always brings a smile to my face.
7 – Who has inspired you musically? Why?
My wife has been the subject of many of my love songs. All of my best ones actually.
I would be remiss not to include my mother and father on this list. When I was a kid my dad would play his acoustic guitar at bedtime and in the living room while my brothers and I danced and enacted our theatrics. I remember watching him play and thinking it was like magic. I had no idea what he was doing yet I loved how it made me feel. I had never wanted to learn to do something so badly, then or since. My mother always filled the house with her voice. She sang often and beautifully in a high and melodic ringing tone. She still does. I think that influenced my gravitation toward ballad styles of singing.
Music wasn’t just something that I experienced through the radio. It was alive in my home. I can’t overstate how powerful that is. I went to school to become a game design artist and it wasn’t until I met and married my wife that I realigned my focus to what I believe I was truly meant to do and focus my time and efforts towards being a Musician.
As, for musicians, I was inspired by many of the usual suspects. I was greatly influenced by oldies groups, especially from the ’60s and ’70s. I only learned a couple of songs and some chords before I began writing my own songs. Writing my music was my whole impetus for learning the guitar. I still rarely learn other people’s music, unless my wife or children specifically ask.
8 – Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I have always wanted to have a band. I think playing in a group is one of the best experiences. To play this album live would be impossible for one person. Some of the songs have four guitar parts going at once. So I’m subtly pushing each of my children toward an instrument to fill out the ensemble haha! I can see my kids becoming my bandmates one day… until they get too cool.
I currently collaborate with my best friend Ryan Olterman on his project “Witness Note”. He is a fantastic poet and lyricist. I composed and produced the music on his debut album ‘Ghost’ which also just dropped on Spotify and Apple. I’m looking forward to working with him on his next project soon as well.
9 – What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I hope people take away a sense of hopefulness. I hope they feel a little lighter, a little less stressed, a little more at ease with themselves. I feel like my music would be a great soundtrack for a road trip. I want it to be fun and exciting, but at the same time provide copious amounts of chill.
When people listen to my album, I want them to feel inspired and think deeply. I hope that my music shows the youth of today that there is more to life than the “look at me” and materialistic culture of music we are currently suffocated by. I believe music is meant to raise us. It has the power to elevate but it requires elevated thought.
10 – Lastly, are you working on anything new?
Always! I write more rapidly than I could ever record. I’ve already got at least fourteen songs ready to go for the next album. I may whittle that down by two or three songs. The working title is “The Letter”. It’s going to be a more stripped-down, intimate sound. It will have a classic vibe and groove. I’m also very excited about the lyrics in these new songs. I think they are some of my best work. I may have some sneak peeks posted on my Facebook soon.