Brian Larsen

It’s been some time since recording artist, songwriter, producer and Baltimore native, Brian Larsen released his first record in 1998. He was only 11. Eleven years old – as in making the transition from elementary to middle school. He was so young that his parents used to drive him to his first gigs!

Several records later and many years of work with his band, Twilight’s Moon, Larsen is now 26 and a voting member in the Recording Academy (a member of their Producers and Engineers wing) and the mastermind behind the new collection, “Building”. His second solo record contains the rock foundation that Larsen has built most of his music on, with “a hint of pop, a dollop of folk, and a sprig of classical thrown in the mix.”
He continues, “My new album, ‘Building’, is definitely my best work. The songs are about ‘building’ or ‘rebuilding’ oneself up after a traumatic event like a breakup or the death of a loved one. These songs are very energetic and passionate and diverse, sonically speaking. There are a few really sweet songs, some more powerful rock songs, and a few ballads. I think that there are a lot of twists and turns to this album, but there’s a certain unity to the whole thing that really pulls you in.” Check it out ASAP. And keep an eye out for Gnome Thugs and Harmony while you’re at it (you’re going to have to read into the XXQ’s to figure out what that’s about). Speaking of which, there’s much more to get into, so keep reading for those answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Brian Larsen (PEV): A Recording artist, songwriter and producer, how would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you different from the others in your genre?
Brian Larsen (BL): My sound is an amalgamation of the kinds of music I love: a nice rock backbone with a hint of pop, a dollop of folk, and a sprig of classical thrown in the mix. I think I’m different from most others in my genre because I write and record every single one of my songs in their entirety. My songs end up being an unbelievably strong representation of who I am as a person and a musician. Also, I’m different because I believe in real instruments and real vocals being recorded in real time. Despite the recent trend to let technology do most of the work in recording, I like to keep my music “genuine” in that I don’t rely on excessive production tricks or plug-ins to create my sound.
PEV: Calling Baltimore, Maryland home, what kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
BL: My first concert was a Stevie Nicks show in the mid 90s – I guess I was about 7 or 8 years old. I grew up on lots and lots of classic rock and late 80s MTV videos (Billy Idol, Debbie Gibson, etc.). You gotta respect your roots!
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like?
BL: I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and when I first started out, the music industry was completely different than it is now. I released my first album in early 1998 or so (when I was 11), so the internet was in its infancy and there was no Facebook or Twitter or MySpace to help you promote yourself. The first pressing of my first two albums was on cassette only (though they were later printed on CD as well). There were so many fewer bands to compete with, but there also wasn’t an incredible social network of potential customers like there is now. At the same time, music piracy didn’t really even exist, so if someone wanted your music, they had to buy it. I played my first show when I was still a kid – my parents had to drive me to the show and I was so nervous that I nearly passed out. Those were interesting times.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Brian Larsen show?
BL: I like for my live shows to have the same vibe as my music, so I try to keep the feeling intimate and interactive. For most of my shows, I bring my incredible touring band along (Anne Muntuerto on guitar, Lydia Lewis on drums, and Devon Eason on bass), and obviously they play on most songs, but I also perform a few songs solo -- just me and an acoustic guitar. I like for there to be variety in my performances, and I do everything I can to try to make my shows as interesting as possible.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
BL: Nothing… when I step on stage, I am absolutely and completely in the moment. When you’re fully immersed in the present moment, there is no room for thought. Wow, that was really Eckhart Tolle of me (laughs).
PEV: What do you think of mainstream music today – as in what’s being played on the radio?
BL: Believe it or not, I think there’s a lot of really good music being made today. When I’m in the studio, I tend to not listen to a lot of music because I don’t want to get too heavily influenced by any particular sound. But yeah, there are a lot of surprisingly talented artists who I believe have a great deal going for them – artists like Young the Giant and Adele have really inspired me to believe that music still has a future.
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
BL: I write about what I’m feeling and going through in my life… life itself is a huge inspiration for me. My songs are extremely honest and personal, and a lot of my songs are about relationships (romantic and platonic). Writing is extraordinarily cathartic for me, which is probably why I write so prolifically.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
BL: I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past because I think it’s really easy to second guess life and the decisions one makes (especially since ‘hindsight is always 20/20’), but I am very surprised at how my life and my music has evolved over the last 13+ years. It has been an extraordinarily long road, but I wouldn’t change anything about the experience.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Brian Larsen?
BL: I’m working on a gangsta-comedy-rap album. As far as I know, I invented the genre… Not sure when the album will be done, but I assure you that it’s going to burn up the gangsta-comedy-rap charts. It will be both the best and worst selling gangsta-comedy-rap album. My rap name is “Gnome Thugs and Harmony”.
PEV: What happens when you hit a brick wall when writing? What are you methods to get over it?
BL: For me, writing has always been a very natural process. I don’t understand how some artists sit down and write music for an hour every day or whatever. If I’m not inspired to write, I can’t… fortunately, I have (literally) about 30 journals completely filled with songs, so I’ve never had a problem with not having material to pick from. There have only been a few times in my life where I’ve gone more than a few weeks without writing a demo of some kind.
PEV:  Tell us about your upcoming release, and second solo album entitled "Building". What can fans expect from this work?
BL: My new album, “Building,” is definitely my best work. The songs are about “building” or “rebuilding” oneself up after a traumatic event like a breakup or the death of a loved one. These songs are very energetic and passionate and diverse, sonically speaking. There are a few really sweet songs, some more powerful rock songs, and a few ballads. I think that there are a lot of twists and turns to this album, but there’s a certain unity to the whole thing that really pulls you in.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?
BL: It’s an indescribable feeling of accomplishment and contentment. Every completed song is like a time capsule that will exist forever, a permanent record of what I was thinking and feeling at that moment. I think there’s something very invigorating about finishing a song that makes me want to immediately start writing a new song. It’s a very vicious and yet deliciously productive cycle (laughs).
PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
BL: I’d really love to tour Japan… I’ve got a growing following there and I think it’d be a lot of fun to tour there while simultaneously spending time exploring the country. 2014 looks like it has potential, so we’ll see!
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?
BL: When I was younger, my parents and friends cautioned me and said that I should pursue a more ‘conventional’ goal. I’m very fortunate to be a voting member in the Recording Academy and a member of their Producers and Engineers wing and a few years ago, I attended the Grammy Awards for the first time and did the whole red carpet thing. I got a call from my parents saying that they saw my photo on the Life Magazine homepage and all of the sudden, everyone believed in me (laughs).
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from music?
BL: I have tons of hobbies, I’m just not very good at any of them (laughs). I love to cook and lately I’ve been watching the Food Network a lot [it’s on right now in the background]. I’m getting more and more into yoga and exercise now that I’m realizing how important it is to take care of your health. Ultimately, though, music takes up the vast majority of my time.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
BL: Well, I’ve always wanted to work with Dave Stewart, and I did have the opportunity to collaborate with him very briefly last year, but I’d really like to get together with Dave and work on a couple songs sometime next year when our schedules are in sync. Dave is incredibly busy and prolific… he makes me feel like I spend all day sitting on my ass, which is interesting because my friends tell me that I never stop to take a break.
PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
BL: I’m really looking forward to hearing what’s next from hellogoodbye. I thought their second album was fantastic and represented a huge growth for them.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal) what would be your career?
BL: If I wasn’t involved in music as a recording artist, I think I’d be a full-time producer or would try my hand at acting. I love the creative process so much that I can’t imagine not being involved with entertainment in some way.
PEV: So, what is next for Brian Larsen?
BL: I think I’m entering an extremely prolific period in my career… I feel incredibly alive and inspired and invigorated, and I really want to keep this momentum up. I’m going to be moving to Los Angeles in the next year, so getting ready for that will be a huge change in and of itself. I’m going to be promoting “Building” for the rest of the year while I continue to write and demo new music, make my fun little YouTube videos, and attempt to build a solar-powered rocket that will fly me to Mars… progress is slow, but I’ll keep you posted.
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