"Music and other forms of art are by far the most effective kind of social-work that exists. A single, nameless one-hit wonder brings more comfort to the world than almost any single psychologist can hope to in a lifetime." --Ian Brennan
Ian Brennan is a GRAMMY-winning record producer and has produced four GRAMMY-nominated records (World Music- 2011 and 2015, Best Traditional Folk- 2006 and 2007). He is also the author of four books.
Most recently, he produced the Zomba Prison Project “I Have No Everything Here” (Six Degrees Records) with prisoners of Malawi's maximum security facility, a record which was nominated for a Grammy award in World Music. Their new followup album "I Will Not Stop Singing" was just released in September 2016. The project was featured on the front-page of the New York Times and on the television program "60 Minutes" with Anderson Cooper reporting.
This past year also saw the arrival of six other albums Brennan produced, including: Khmer Rouge Survivors [Cambodia] "they will kill you, if you cry" featuring survivors of the 1970s genocide; and “Survival Songs”, the first official solo album from legendary LA-underground figure, Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster, Celebrity Rehab). It grapples with Forrest's own cycle of addition and recovery.
Brennan's fourth and latest book, How Music Dies (or Lives): Field-recording and the battle for democracy in the arts was published in February, 2016 (Allworth/Skyhorse, NYC). Booklist writes that, “Brennan presents a hefty, bracing tome…”, while Monolith Cocktail states, “How Music Dies is an adroit discourse and guide; a valuable reminder of music and arts true purpose.” Record Collector describes it as, “Think Alan Lomax meets Steve Albini with a megaphone.” fRoots states, “…it's an engaging, panoramic read packed with personal observations and thought-provoking soundbites.” R2 (Rock ’n’ Reel) Magazine in the UK states, “I was tempted to burn all of my albums, so persuasive was the Grammy-winning producer’s arguments….Beg, borrow, or buy a copy of this important book now.” MOJO reports the book is, “….full of wisdom from someone who cares deeply about the power of real music," and LargeHeartedBoy.com describes it as, “One of the most thought-provoking books on modern music that I have ever read.”
His novella, Sister Maple Syrup Eyes, was issued in the fall of 2015 (Pleasure Boat Studio [NYC]). The Readers+Writers Journal praises, “Sister Maple Syrup Eyes is a beautiful book. Achingly beautiful." And Louder Than War states the book is, “….alive with the energy of an eye-witness.” Small Press Picks notes, “In vividly re-creating Kristian’s personal journey, Brennan offers a layered and moving exploration of the truth…”
In the studio, he has worked with the likes of Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Kyp Malone & Tunde Adebimpe (TV on the Radio, Rain Machine), Flea, Tinariwen, Lucinda Williams, David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Nels Cline (Wilco), DJ Bonebrake & John Doe (X, the Knitters), Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney), Peter Case, Bill Frisell, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Jonathan Richman, Richard Thompson, and more.
With live concerts, he has produced shows of up to 15,000 people in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington (DC), Portland (OR), Tucson, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and Boston with artists as diverse as Green Day, Fugazi, Merle Haggard, film-maker John Waters, Kris Kristofferson, Tammy Faye (Bakker), the Blind Boys of Alabama, Vic Chesnutt, Peaches, and the Vienna Boys Choir. These shows have raised over $100,000 for local charities and political causes.
In the field, some of the artists that he has discovered and produced are The Good Ones (Rwanda), Wayo: Trance Percussion Masters (South Sudan), Acholi Machon, Hanoi Masters, and the Malawi Mouse Boys. Many are the first releases internationally outside of their respective countries in the languages of each band. The Mouse Boys' debut was named "the year's best gospel album" by Songlines Magazine. The record General Paolino featuring Mama Celina was named one of the “Top 8 African Releases of 2013” by Renegade Magazine.
Brennan also produced Italian superstar, Jovanotti’s official USA debut Italia: 1988-2012 for ATO Records in 2012 and co-wrote two world-premiere, new songs for the release. The collection was given 4-stars and named “...one of the best releases of the year,” by Aesthetic Magazine (Toronto).
As a writer, Mr. Brennan was first published at the age of nineteen and has contributed regularly to publications such as Guitar Player and Zero Magazine. He is also the author of the book Anger Antidotes, published April 2011 by W.W. Norton (NYC), which has also been released in an Italian language edition. Due to popular demand, his follow-up book, Hate-less, was issued in the fall of 2014.
"Nepotism and academia are both antithetical to major pop-culture revolutions. Innovation has almost, without fail, routinely risen culturally from the bottom to the top, not from the aristocracy that now rules much of the misnomered 'indie' rock world. Pop culture is rarely a trickle down affair. Be it James Brown, Elvis Presley, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, Grandmaster Flash, Edith Piaf, Johnny Rotten, Woody Guthrie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Kurt Cobain, The Carter Family, Miriam Makeba, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Django Reinhardt, Chavela Vargas or Eminem, many of the most important artists historically have originated from less than auspicious circumstances." --Ian Brennan