Musician paints a picture with words
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 9:19 a.m.
“Sitting at a restaurant, you can look around and see people all with their heads down staring at their phones,” said Petaluma songwriter-pianist Gentry Bronson. “In this world of smart phones and social networking designed to connect us, it seems we’ve just become even more disconnected.”
Petaluma musician Gentry Bronson’s new CD “Human” is available for download on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, CDBaby and Amazon.com.
CD RELEASE PARTY
What: A joint CD release party featuring Gentry Bronson and Miles Schon
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 14
Where: Hopmonk Tavern, 224 Vintage Way, Novato
Cost: $10 in advance, $12 at the door
Information: www.gen trybronson.com, www.milesschon.com or www.hopmonktavern.com
This growing sense of isolation and disconnection Bronson sees inspired him to write a collection of songs that speak to the need to share the human experience with others in his latest CD, “Human.”
A native of Minnesota, Bronson’s musical talent came to light when he was about 5 years old. He sat at his grandfather’s piano and began to make up songs.
“My grandfather was so impressed, that he asked if I was taking lessons,” said Bronson. “I started taking lessons after that. My parents bought a piano from a vegetarian who had all the ivory keys replaced with plastic ones. The piano was kept in the farmhouse against an outward facing wall — not the best place to keep a piano. It was never in tune again.”
Bronson’s piano skills did continue to fine tune, just as his skills as a storytelling songwriter grew. Now an accomplished pianist, Bronson has won multiple statewide piano competitions and traveled across the country performing solo and with various bands. He was the featured vocalist on VH1 hip-hop artist John Brown’s single “No Games.” He has shared the stage with Big Brother & The Holding Company, Commander Cody, and the Manzarek Rogers Band (featuring the late Ray Manzarek of The Doors). His former band the Night Watchmen also had a cult-like following with its successful albums “Lost in California” and “Rain Come Down.”
Bronson eventually made his way to California, playing music and fulfilling a dream to surf. The casual, easygoing surfer style is evident in Bronson’s performances, with him coming on stage barefoot. His love of surfing and being barefoot has earned him the title of “the barefoot surfer pianist.”
“I used to wear vintage suits and a fedora on stage,” said Bronson. “One evening a musician performing with me came out barefoot and said I should try it. I did, and I promptly got rid of the hat and suit. I feel more like myself when I’m barefoot on stage. It grounds me.”
His down-to-earth, relaxed style has no doubt helped him to write an album full of honest songs that poetically talk about human experiences.
“The longer I go in life, the closer I get to being myself,” said Bronson of his songwriting. “I used to have more character driven songs, but now I’m telling more stories from my own life. I find these songs resonate more with people. It’s like a movie, but with a story I get to tell that unfolds in four or five minutes.”
The CD, “Human,” Bronson’s 11th album from a discography of more than 100 songs, features some very well known musicians lending their talents: multi-instrumentalist Bruce Kurnow, Miles Schon of the Miles Schon Band, drummer Alex Aspinall, bassist Dave Fairchild, guitarist Dennis Haneda and vocalists Valentina and Emily Rath.
Wanting to keep the CD as “real” and “human” feeling as possible, Bronson also made sure that all the music was played live — no auto tuners, drum machines or synthesizers. The musicians rehearsed the material, then performed.
“All the basic tracks were done in two days,” said Bronson. “It really speaks to the caliber of these professional musicians I had the opportunity to work with. Some albums are rough to make, but this was just magic making this CD.”
The CD’s opening track, “Anytime You Can Find a Human,” speaks about removing the walls we hide behind that keep us from connecting with others in a real way, that goes beyond a text message or a computer screen. The first single to be released from the album, “Hey Beautiful,” (track 4), features the guest vocals of Emily Rath of San Rafael. Valentina, a Petaluma vocalist, performs on “Shoeboxes.”
From “Shattered Glass Heart,” and “Redeem,” to “Two Wounded Birds” and “Stand Up to the Hurricane,” all of the album’s 15 songs explore a wide array of human experiences, from making mistakes, to falling in and out of love, to living through the good and bad times. The CD wraps up with the instrumental, “My Jigsaw Puzzle Piece,” which lets Bronson’s beautiful piano playing shine.
The CD is easy to listen to thanks to the very human stories shared in each song. Bronson is an honest poet, who in his bare feet, paints a picture about life and living that we can all relate to.
“I wanted to make a beautiful record,” he said. “And when people tell me that I have, it’s truly a compliment.”
(Contact Yovanna Bieberich at yovanna.bieber email@example.com)
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