A recent addition to the What's In-Store Music roster is singer-songwriter, Brynn Elliott. Not only is this multi-talented artist juggling writing, recording and touring, but she is also carrying a full load of courses at one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country ... Harvard University! This week, she's got two tracks on the What's In-Store Music Chart: "California," by Dzeko ft. Brynn Elliott at No. 3; and her single, "Might Not Like Me," at No. 9. Not bad for college kid ...
You’re studying philosophy at Harvard. Pretty darn impressive! What made you choose this major and what do you like most about the program?
Being an artist, I am naturally interested in subjects within the humanities. What I was mainly interested in were ideas. I loved English in high school, but philosophy poses more of a challenge to me which is why I love it. I love wrestling with ideas and questions. And philosophy is just that. Being able to do that at school every day is a dream.
How do you juggle school and your live shows? What show, so far, has been the most memorable and why?
The tension between music and being a student is very much like being a student athlete. I practice music every day, and I travel on weekends during school or on breaks from school. It is a juggle and a tension. It's two full time jobs for sure.
The most memorable show for me show far is a tie between playing Red Rocks when I opened for O.A.R the summer of 2015 and this past summer playing Boston. Red Rocks is just such a surreal place, and playing music there was incredible. But then this past summer, I got to come back to Boston (which is where I currently live) and play at the House of Blues. Coming back, I was reminded how much this city inspires me creatively. My friends came to the show, and it just felt like home.
What has it been like working with heavy hitter producers Clif Magness (Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson) and Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift and what have you learned from these experiences?
Oh, it has been such a blessing and a highlight in my career so far. I learned so much from Clif Magness about recording music and production, and he even really helped me understand the arch of rock music history, for which I am forever indebted to him. Nathan is a songwriting and production legend. I have learned so much about lyric writing from him. I’ve also learned not to settle regarding songwriting. If it’s not the best it can be, then Nathan will always try to make it better, even if we are 7 hours deep in a session. His never settling is what I think makes him so great. So yes, both experiences have been life-changing and I am so grateful.
You’re quite the philosophical thinker. Where does that originate, and does it tend to help or hinder your songwriting?
I think it originates from when I was younger and I started thinking deeply about the realities of life. I would ask myself at the age of fourteen things like, “What is real and what is not real?” I’ve always thought about things in a slightly slanted and slow way, which is how philosophers think. Or at least the ones I’m drawn to. So, when I discovered philosophy, I realized there were people like me and I felt understood.
It helps my songwriting in that I always want to capture an idea or concept in a song, whether that’s dealing with things like freedom or feminism, anger, fear or faith. Songs always start from ideas Sometimes I am insecure about the songs seeming rich enough. My barometer is meaning. If I can sing something and really mean it, then that’s what counts for me, no matter how simple or trivial it may seem on the surface. I think philosophy is just like songwriting. Philosophy is a huge subject, and when you first go into it you think you are going to solve all the world’s problems. But then you realize you can only really work on one little piece at a time. Same in songwriting. You are never going to get the whole truth in a song or in an idea, but you can get a piece, and sometimes that’s all that matters.
If you could write a song with a philosopher from the past, whom would you choose and what would the song be about?
Oh, I’ve totally done this! I wrote a song once about the opposing philosophies of Soren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre and their views on despair. Sartre thinks that despair is all there is and we are stuck and Kierkegaard thinks there is a way out. The song I wrote is called “Stuck in my Head” and it’s all about finding that way out, so it’s a very hopeful song. Also, my single Might Not Like Me, is about 17th Century women in England who were doing philosophy, but because they were women they could not publish their own work and be formally known as philosophers. So, many songs I write in one way or another are inspired by philosophers!
Finally, a shameless plug: What would you like our readers to know about you?
I am so excited to be completing my senior year at Harvard right now! I will also be touring and releasing new music the rest of this year and next! So, stay tuned for all of that!