Brett Dennen headlines Keystone Mountain Town Music Festival Saturday | SummitDaily.com

Brett Dennen headlines Keystone Mountain Town Music Festival Saturday

For musician Brett Dennen, it's the songwriting that comes first and foremost. Rather than defining his music in a certain genre, he follows the direction of where the song takes him, treating each song as its own entity.

"Instead of saying, 'Hey, I'm a country singer,' where everything I do has got to come back to country, the only thing my songs ever come back to is the fact that they are written by a guy on an acoustic guitar," Dennen said. "They all have the freedom to go wherever they want. … I'm really into the way the music and lyrics make you feel when they're put together."

It's been more than a decade since his first self-titled album helped propel his career, and now, after releasing his sixth album in May, Dennen's stacked tour schedule keeps him in the moment.

"Touring for me is just a way to stay alive," he said. "It keeps me inspired. I think it keeps me relevant in the music spectrum out there, the music genome. I also love to travel and I'm always trying to reach something new musically."

Dennen will headline the Mountain Town Music Festival at Keystone Resort on Saturday, Aug. 20. With free music throughout the day beginning at 2 p.m. with Todo Mundo, Mingo Fishtrap and Miner, Dennen will close out the festival with his set starting at 8 p.m. Local food vendors will be concocting their best harvest recipes in both the sweet and savory categories, with a focus on peaches. Tasting tickets can be purchased at the event, and each item is priced a-la-carte, and a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. will round out the evening.

A FOCUS ON WHAT'S REAL

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Now that Dennen's established himself in the music scene, he says he's focused on being authentic and real when it comes to his songwriting.

"I'm not interested in writing songs to be cute or to be clever, or to say that's a great song," he said. "I want to make people feel something. … I either want to make people feel something, or I want to be really open and vulnerable myself, for the feeling I get when I perform the song."

For his latest album "Por Favor," he said he didn't want the recording to be too polished or produced, almost like a demo or a first record. He took that approach in the studio, capturing songs with only a few takes and without rehearsing too much. He focused on that idea of capturing his vulnerability when writing songs for this album.

"I really pushed myself to make the lyrics be really personal," he said. "I would ask myself, 'Is this something that I'm kind of uncomfortable putting out in the world?' And if the answer is yes than I think it's good, instead of hiding behind imagery and metaphors."

Many of the songs on "Por Favor" capture his experiences traveling over the last few years and opening up to the opportunities for spontaneity that can come with being in a new country. The songs are also about hard times, personally, romantically and professionally, and embracing the suffering that comes with it.

Dennen is currently working on writing music for a new album, with hopes to put it out next year. He has even been dabbling in winemaking with a friend, and has put out two types of California rosés under the label Dennen Wines. He enjoys the venture because wine, like music, is subjective and appeals to emotions. Like music, it is a communal experience.

Out of all of his endeavors, however, it always comes back to the songwriting, what he says is his biggest accomplishment.

"Music for me is a mediation I've been discovering over the years," he said. "It's just a way to keep me present. I also have been noticing, even more so in the last couple months, I've just been more and more present when I play music. And that's really a good thing for me because naturally I'm a really scatterbrained guy."

L.A. BAND MINER RETURNS

Returning to Mountain Town for their second year in a row, Los Angeles band Miner will bring their electric folk rock to the stage beginning at 6 p.m. A family band, Miner was formed by husband and wife Justin and Kate Miner, along with Justin's brother Jeremy Miner.

Justin, who had been with Kate for about 10 years at the time, asked the then-actress to sing on a few of the projects he was working on. Those songs quickly took off, and Kate quickly learned to play mandolin and the keyboard, teaching herself how to play guitar, and began to write her own music.

"We call her the natural, because she's always picking everything up and learning it as quickly as any human could," Justin said.

The two began writing together after they realized they had similar styles, Kate said.

After they realized the music would work together, they brought Jeremy in, and self-produced their debut album "Into The Morning" in 2014. The band then recruited Tobias Urbanczyk to play drums and spent some time on the road focusing on tour dates. Being on the road with family is actually easier, Kate said, because there are never any fights and they enjoy each other's company.

"I think we would miss each other if we went on the road without each other," she said.

It was right as they began to work on their second album last year that an unexpected event changed their lives completely. Kate's mother was diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, a fatal neurodegenerative condition. Because of its genetic basis, Kate and her sisters had a 50 percent chance of inheriting the faulty gene. She was now faced with the reality of a disease with no cure, one that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and deteriorates a person's physical and mental abilities. After deliberation, Kate and her two sisters decided to go through the lengthy testing process to find out. The band continued to work on their second album with the uncertainty of the future hanging over their heads.

"The recording process was definitely very intense because we had that hanging over us," Kate said. "This diagnoses that was a 50 percent chance of having a much shorter life than you expect."

Working on the album gave them a distraction, but the second album, "Tuanaki," reflects the emotions of their unresolved fate, while still remaining hopeful.

"We still try to always be hopeful with our lyrics and they way we write," Kate said. "That's the kind of music we want to make, is something that makes people feel hopeful. So I think it was just harder to find sometimes that tone when you're really, really sad, but I think music really helps as an outlet. Something to be working on together, mostly as a distraction, because it was so hard to not think about that every second of every day."

After returning home from the studio, they found out the results. While Kate didn't carry the gene, both of her sisters did.

Now, a year later, Kate has become very involved with advocacy for Huntington's Disease, lobbying in Congress for better care for patients, and fundraising. Kate said many people affected don't like to talk about the disease due to its mental implications, but she wants to put it out there and be involved in advocacy.

"The response from fans has been really touching," Kate said. "A lot of beautiful emails and letters and Facebook messages … People saying, 'I am affected,' or 'I know someone that has been affected by this, thank you so much for talking about it.'"

IF YOU GO

What: Keystone Mountain Town Music Festival

When: Saturday, Aug. 20

Where: Keystone Resort

Cost: Music is free. Food tickets can be purchased for $1 a piece, and items are priced a-la-carte

Schedule

1:30–8:30 p.m.: Colorado Food and Beer Garden open

2–7 p.m.: KidsZone – face painters and crafts

2–3:30 p.m.: Concert: Todo Mundo

4–5:30 p.m.: Concert: Mingo Fishtrap

6–7:30 p.m.: Concert: Miner

8–9:30 p.m.: Concert: Brett Dennen

9:30 p.m.: Fireworks Show Over River Run Village