Interview: Brett Gleason on Brooklyn, photography and internal conflicts
Brett Gleason

Brett Gleason is the hunk-next-door. You have seen him collaborating with other indie artists like Derek Bishop, and alluring the masses via his photography, fronted by the lens of Walt Cessna.

Beyond his release of his self-titled album last year, Gleason has been a contributor with the [[Huffington Post]], discussing the aging process, ideals of love, side effects of social media, medicine, psychiatry, and being a queer, indie, solo singer-songwriter.

He has spent the past four years performing around New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC.

Here he discusses with me his inspirations, aspirations and how he views the world.

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Samuel: You mentioned that a speech impediment kept you at bay and burying your face in the arts. How would you describe your home life, and your relationship with parents and siblings?

Brett Gleason: My speech impediment made me a very solitary person as a kid and I think [it] has shaped my behavior as an adult as well. It made me very self sufficient and fueled my interest in the arts and athletics. I believe this is part of why I am a solo artist as opposed to a band member.

Luckily, whereas I had difficulty communicating with me peers, my family were the only people who could understand me, so I was very close with them, and still am. My parents come to my shows as often as possible and my sister is one of my best friends.

S: What made you focus in your piano playing and writing music through the years?

BG: I started writing at 13. I think that is when you start having a more intense, confusing emotional life and songwriting helped me make sense of this as well as express what I could not word verbally. I started writing on guitar as it was more accessible as a beginner but I became a huge Tori Amos fan and slowly shifted my focus to the piano. At 15 I re-engaged with my classical training and it is been my main instrument since even though I play everything on my records (except drums).

S: Creatively speaking, what keeps you so attached to photography?

BG: Creatively, I have slowly gotten involved in photography simply because it is a very visual word that requires immediacy and music is neither of those things. In order to engage with and connect with fans and friends I need to have strong visual content. I started doing photo shoots somewhat awkwardly and reluctantly but have had continuing relationships with photographers like Walt Cessna that have proven to be mutually creative and inspiring.

S: What was awkward about photography in front of the lens? How do you see yourself as Brett?

BG: Being photographed was awkward at first because I had to personally embrace being the center of attention, not my music or my videos but myself. Once I was able to embrace this I saw it more as a collaboration than an exercise in narcissism and have learnt a lot from working with photographers. It is given me confidence to have to stand proudly and assert myself on film.

S: What is your process when creating video-treatments?

BG: My music videos are a collaboration with my director William Murray. He was recommended by a friend five years back and we have such a good working relationship he has done four out of my five videos. He has an uncanny ability to interpret my vision and help make it a reality, again, on a very minimal budget. I think each of our videos has been significantly different stylistically and I am excited to work with him on the next one.

S: What inspired the tracks on your self-titled album? Do you feel that the same inspiration is a muse for the up-coming album?

BG: Most of my music is driven by internal conflict. I usually take an issue I am having trouble resolving and play it out dramatically in a song, personifying the different sides. The new songs I am writing are a bit different however, they deal more with picking up the pieces and putting yourself back together after such incidents.

S: What energies do you acquire whilst in Brooklyn? What is your relationship with the musical scene in New York City?

BG: Brooklyn is a great place to be an artist in the sense that there are so many of us. Most of the world is more pragmatic and less artistic but here there are lots of creative, ambitious people hustling to make their work and live their lives, it makes my dreams seem a little less ridiculous. It can however, be intimidating as there are so many musicians and artists in NYC that it can be really hard to get noticed, to get people to come to your show instead of the million others that night but being a small fish in a big pond is a good thing if you're willing to grow.

S: You mention your solitude being a large part of your personality. However music, like art overall, tends to be in large part about collaboration. How do you find yourself working with others? Is it an easy process?

BG: Most of my collaborations are over parts of my art that I cannot do myself; like my music videos or graphic design work. In those situations it's liberating to not be the one pulling the trigger, I can explain my ideas and have them fleshed out by someone more familiar with the medium. However, my collaborating musically is limited as I play all the instruments on my records except drums. This last album was the first time I used someone else to mix the tracks and that was a difficult situation as I had to hand over the fragile recordings I had been working on alone for so many years and hope they were handled with the same love they were created.

S: How do you see yourself as Brett, the musician?

BG: I am proud of who I am, both as a person with a dream and a person who creates music. I started recording and performing a bit later in life than I would have liked because I had no confidence in my voice, my style and have had to slowly earn it. Now, I feel like I finally am who I've been becoming and am ready to take my work out into the world, however painstaking and slow a process that may be.

The album is currently on sale via iTunes and Amazon.