Brandy Zdan — Falcon Interview
Songwriting veteran and former member of The Trishas, Brandy Zdan is back in the spotlight with her third solo album, the extremely personal Falcon, which is set to soar from speakers on October 29. The reflective songwriting found throughout the nine-song release – which she also produced and engineered – ushers listeners into a period of her life that was awash with loss, but also, crackling with the promise of hope.
I recently sat down with Zdan to discuss removing masks, discovering the light, and why the album had to be made in the manner in which it was.
Americana Highways: There is so much emotion embedded in the songs on your new album Falcon. Was it difficult to relinquish the reigns on this one, because you’re not only putting your creative self out into the world, but your personal self as well?
Brandy Zdan: It was uncomfortable at times. Still is to be honest. To truly take off all the masks and be vulnerable not only with the songs but also engineering for the first time. I decided to just give in to it and not try to control where this path was taking me. It felt as though the universe was conspiring with me to make this album. I was provided with the tools and answers I needed every step of the way. All I had to do was remain open. What else are we supposed to do as artists but put ourselves out there, right?
AH: Life is not easy. It zigs when you expect it to zag. That is something that anyone who sticks around long enough comes to realize. Do you think that makes your own grief and loss relatable to listeners even if the ties that bind them to your lyrics are not, in terms of their experiences, word for word?
BZ: When writing around the themes of grief and loss the goal was to be hyper-specific but also universal. I think if someone came to a song like “Falcon’s Wing” they might not necessarily know if it’s about miscarriage grief but just grief and loss in general. Same with “The Worst Thing.” There’s only a few lines in there that lead the listener to the narrative. I like for the production and music to convey the emotion. That’s my way into songs, for sure. I always listen to lyrics second.
AH: Night doesn’t linger forever. Eventually the darkness becomes light. Did bringing this album to life – which does highlight hope at times – help you to discover the light in your own life when all was (creatively) said and done?
BZ: Most definitely. I was already headed towards the light when I was pressing record on these songs. The light was entering when I wrote them as well. I’ve learned SO many lessons about myself as a person and an artist making this record. I’m stronger and better for it.
AH: You produced the album yourself. How did that help you take such a personal journey and maintain the vision? Did you ever feel like you needed to step outside of yourself and bring in another perspective or was the decision always one you found necessary?
BZ: I have been producing records for other artists for a handful of years now and I’ve always been good at maintaining the overall big picture of a record, remaining objective, or just being able to make calls without being too precious. Luckily, I learned I was able to do this for this record. I could take a step away and not be too married to parts or sounds and keep the vision and cohesiveness of the project maintained.
AH: What are you most proud of with the album and why?
BZ: The engineering and guitar playing. Being responsible for shaping all the sounds was a highlight and I love the way it turned out. My favorite guitar moment is the “guitar-harmonies” in the solo of “Can You Be Alone.”
AH: Falcon is your third solo album. What does it mean to you to now have a body of work – a catalog of music? Does that in and of itself mark a milestone in your musical career?
BZ: It means a great deal. I already have a back catalog of old band records and EPs, but this does mean a lot, yes. If the music industry gods are kind, there’s gonna be a HELL of a lot more. I’m a lifer, whether I want to be or not.
AH: Beyond the lyrical content, what would the Brandy who first picked up a guitar think of the music you’re creating today? Would it surprise her?
BZ: I think it would amaze her. To have moved to another country, started a solo career, fully self-made, without a ton of help… as well as moving into these behind-the-board titles – that was not at all on my radar as a 15-year-old.
AH: You’ve been in a band atmosphere. You’ve worked alongside of others to bring songs to life. How does the experience differ for you in terms of taking the musical journey on your own, particularly where you are today having produced Falcon?
BZ: They both have their place. The circumstances led for this album to be made in isolation. Both resources and external circumstances (pandemic) led for this to be made this way. Would I do it again like this? Hell no. (Laughter) I can’t wait to be in a BIG studio with a whole bunch of people for the next one. Falcon had to be made this way. I think I needed to be alone to go as deep as I did. No outside opinions, no nothing. Nothing clouding the vision.
AH: Expectations can be a difficult thing for creative people to take into a project because it becomes easier to be let down when they aren’t met. As someone who has had experience seeing your own creative endeavors released into the world, how do you manage your own expectations? Is it something that comes with experience or are they always there, whether you give them attention or not?
BZ: Putting things out into the world is both easy and hard. This record in particular has been very uncomfortable to do so at times. But I know that feeling is me stretching as a human. The music industry is an unkind place with little taste and priorities in the wrong place. SO, it takes daily work to remember that the opinions, interest or lack thereof, in your work is not a direct reflection in the quality of the work. That’s something I tell myself every day when releasing work.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
BZ: Doing this has never been a choice so, yes, I’m taking the journey whether I want to or not. (Laughter) For better or worse. I think the next 10 years are gonna blow my mind in the best ways. Cheers to that and many, many more records.
For more information on Brandy Zdan and her album Falcon, visit http://www.brandyzdan.com.