Brendan Scott FrielWindsor folk singer Brendan Scott Friel has captured a dark and powerful sound with his latest single “Shadows” and its accompanying music video.

An artist with a passion for song and a love of performing, Brendan is gearing up for the release of his next album Summer Moons this month.


We spoke with him about the powerful new song and his upcoming album.

Tell me about the new song “Shadows”.
Shadows is one that I wrote actually a while back now and I’ve been waiting for a full album to finish. It’s definitely a representation of the darker side of my new album. Duality is a big theme I’ve been thinking a lot about. The first single was very much the optimism and a little bit of naivety that goes with that. This song is the opposite end of that spectrum, and I really wanted both to be present for people so they get a grasp of what this album is going to be about.

What’s your process of writing the song? Is it personal or fiction?
It’s interesting for this one in particular, because it’s half and half. I’m thankfully happily married, so my writing breakup songs are hopefully behind me from my own personal point of view. So that created an interesting dilemma for myself, where I really like sad songs. And I think there’s a lot to that to experience.  I had to tap into my own past experiences, but very much think of a protagonist who was fictional. That was a new writing venture for me, and I hope it turned out.

What’s your process of creating a character when you do incorporate a character? Is there a thought put into who this person might be?
Yeah. And it was actually the producer I was working with on this record, James Bunton, who really got me to dive in on that. If I’m going to create these characters, it’s important that they’re fleshed out and really well developed beyond the song details. He would ask me, how long is this person’s hair? Has this person traveled? It’s all thinking and really getting this rich character that informs the way the lyrics will move forward from there. So there was a lot of thought put into the details, like how old is this person that is singing? How many experiences he had in relationships, and even though it’s not necessarily present in the lyric explicitly, it’s implied through the voice.

I hear you used a very specific guitar this time. Tell me about the guitar you picked.
This was my producer’s guitar. He had one sitting around in the corner called Kay. I believe it was from either mid 60s that they sold at department stores. This would be the equivalent of a Costco guitar today.

I have this nice Gibson with me and all the standard, nice guitars that are on the rack and for some reason this guitar kept winning the shootouts, which is where we would record the track with three or four different guitars. Only he knew which one was which and I would listen and pick the one that I thought sounded best.

This Kay guitar, for whatever reason, just kept winning, it didn’t sound great in the room, but when you recorded it, it just really had this dead, but beautiful quality that just I couldn’t get over.

Brendan FrielIt’s funny how that works. I found a $5 guitar at Value Village, missing a couple of the tuner pegs. So I’ve been restoring it, but the sound on this thing is incredible. And it’s like a $5 Nova brand guitar. Same kind of concept. For whatever reason, some of those guitars have some very cool sounds.
It’s true. And I do think it is a one of a kind thing, like I might find another Kay guitar that doesn’t necessarily do the same thing. And same with that Nova guitar. It’s really special when you find one that works. You’re lucky to have picked that up.

The vocal performance on this is very haunting. It’s also very unique. How did you record that?

This was another first for me. We really wanted to give over to what this song was, and that meant a couple of unorthodox recording styles. Usually, when you’re tracking a vocal, you’re wearing headphones into a condenser like this, and you’re isolated and no one else can hear it. For “Shadows”, the song was actually coming out of the main speakers, I was lying down in the couch, and we had all the lights out. I was using this old handheld mic, just laying down in the dark and singing into it with the song in the room. That was so bizarre. I’ve never done anything like that. In my head, I was thinking this is not going to work, but as it kept coming together, I fell more and more in love with the fact that there’s this odd sounding vocal and it’s going to be polarizing. I do think that ultimately, this quality is what really commits the song to what it is.

The actual song has a very unique vibe. It’s dark, it’s moody. It tells a really unique, interesting story. Is that how you envisioned it when you first sat down and started writing it?
It’s an interesting question. It was so long ago. Now, I didn’t know that I wanted it to be this brooding or moody, but I think I had less of a haunting vibe in my original vision. It’s hard to say – I might be misremembering – but I did know I wanted it to be something very intimate and speak to a select few, who I think can relate to that experience. Those nights awake, just when you’re thinking about things you’ve said and things you could have said, and what a horrible experience that is. I’d like to pretend I had it all mapped out, but I don’t know that I did.

The music video continues that haunting process. It’s a very deep, deep video. So tell me about the concept of it. What was going on and where did you film it. It looks like a unique location as well.
I owe a lot of credit to Garett McKelvie, who was the director and came to me. I taught him guitar – that’s how we met. And I found out he does film and I started talking about my music videos. The only real idea that I had coming in was something I knew I wanted, which was that I didn’t want to be in it. I’m very much not an actor and I’m quite uncomfortable in front of cameras, so I didn’t want to pretend that I’m an actor.

There are people who dedicate their lives to this craft, and he was excited by this premise. And that’s where we got rolling. He came back with some concepts and discussed this idea of how lonely that feeling is when you’re in your room and how your room feels like this haunted awful warehouse entity. We could literally shoot that and have it transformed back into his bedroom by the end, and I was in love.

It was exactly in line with what my song was talking about and it did exactly what I hoped music videos do. Any sort of content I put out does, which furthers the original piece of work. It adds more layers and more context to what the song is. It’s not just a promotional kind of tool.

The location was interesting for sure. It was this big old brick building off Wyandotte in Windsor that we were lucky enough to get access to. It was freezing cold, like maybe the coldest day of the year, so hats off to Trey, who is the lead actor, in the music video. He was in just this thin little coat, which must have been freezing, but he didn’t complain once – he hung in there did all the takes. It was pretty amazing to watch.

You briefly touched on this earlier, but the song is a very stark contrast to the first single. Tell me about that concept of trying to create that contrast and why it’s so important to you.
It was very much a challenge. Originally, this album was seen as two separate EPs. That’s how different the song styles were coming out, but as I continued to work and craft the songs, they started to draw closer together where they could be on one piece of work if I synchronized it correctly. It was challenging to make sure it sounded like it was coming from the same voice, but the same voice going through very, very different ends of the emotional spectrum that is life. I think the challenge mostly was on that sonic end – if I could tie these songs sonically, they could be very, very different thematically, or at least that’s my hope. I’ll find out how successful I am when the album comes out in April.

For those that are reading this for the first time, please explain the song “Cheap String Lights” just so they can understand that there’s the contrast.
“Cheap String Lights” is very much the other end, where the excitement of being up and not being able to sleep – but not out of the loss of love, but out of the feeling of love being next to you and feeling that I’m taking this for granted. I’m wasting hours by not being up with this person and there’s a whole night outside we could go explore together and reminisce on our lives together. I’m too excited to sleep next to this person right now and I need to wake them up.

It comes out of my annoying habit of not sleeping very well and constantly bugging my wife Alicia (Laughter). So that one is very much rooted in real life.

Explain the upcoming album. And what’s ahead for you in 2021.
The album will be coming out April 23 and it’s called “Summer Moon”. We touched on struggling with duality. I like to think of each song as a plot point on an emotional graph. In many ways, it could be someone returning to one person every summer and seeing where they are emotionally this summer compared to last. And each song builds that way. I would love to play these live, but of course, we’ll all see how that works. So as far as plans for 2021,

I want to put this out. If necessary, I will get creative in the ways of delivering the songs with a live feel, but it is important to me that this album is experienced both privately and then in show formats.

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