If you go
What: Brett Dennen, live eTown taping
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: eTown Hall, 1553 Spruce St., Boulder, 303-443-8696
More info: etown.org
Brett Dennen considers himself a wild child.
"Wild Child" is the title of the first single off his upcoming album, Smoke and Mirrors, and the music video features Dennen hiking around the Sierra mountains. He's also been collecting photos from fans — "showing off your inner wild child" — on social media for an alternate video.
"Oh my God, they're amazing. It's people with wild African animals, people surfing and people doing all kinds of crazy stuff," he said. "Whatever wild child means. My definition of wild child is probably different from what it means to me when I sing it. I want to see what it means to them. You know, my hope for that song is that people treat it like it's a mantra or a motto or an anthem. It definitely is to me."
Smoke and Mirrors, which is out on Oct. 22, was written at a time when Dennen was really indulging his inner wild child, living in the Sierras with his girlfriend. He took much more time off from touring than he normally would and wrote songs when he wasn't enjoying the outdoors. The result, he says, is a record he never had time to write in the past, and something closer to the music he was making when he first started out.
"It's not necessarily like I'm totally breaking into new ground for myself — not like I'm exploring new musical territories. In many ways, I'm revisiting some things I have done in previous albums, maybe," he said. "It's centered around an acoustic guitar, and my last record, I was really focused on getting people moving in a live show and getting people to dance, and that's what I was into then. Now, with Smoke and Mirrors, it's different. It's back to the sentiment of me sitting around with a guitar. That's where the songs came from. I was trying to be as personal and honest as I could be."
The relative isolation of the wilderness seemed to help block outside influence on the writing process, too, though that's never entirely possible. Dennen's first LP was out in 2005, but the years haven't made it easier to balance expectations with his own desires.
"I'm happiest when I don't worry about expectations," he said. "It's always my attitude from the beginning, but it's always a struggle. It never gets any easier. I think it's how everybody feels with the question of, 'Do I wanna satisfy myself? Do I try to make other people happy?'"
Of course, it's been going just fine, and Dennen continues to please himself and his fans. In a month, he'll have an album to prove it, and on Sunday, he'll demonstrate it live during a taping at eTown Hall.