Behind the Scenes of His Latest Project
"Whether it is playing piano for church, musically directing theater, or just performing at bar gigs I would rather be doing that than have a full-time job that I'm not passionate about."
Brennan Villines does things with passion, and those things usually involve music. Most recognizable from his appearance on FOX's The Four, he is now continuing to make a splash on the scene with his latest music video, "Better Than We've Ever Been," premiering exclusively on Popdust. In addition to sharing some photos from the set of the video's shoot, Villines also spoke to us about his journey thus far, explaining how important music has been in his life.
Watch the "Better Than We've Ever Been" Video Below...
How did you become interested in music?
My mom put me in piano lessons when I was 3-years-old. She noticed that I took interest when I was a kid always going up to it and playing. I actually would hum the pitches correctly. She took piano when she was younger and knew that I might potentially do well with some lessons. I studied with professionals from then on and ended up getting a scholarship in Classical Piano Performance to the University of Memphis. It was in Memphis where I developed into the artist I am today. Music and arts are a thriving part of the history and future of Memphis and I am glad to have spent 12 years of my life there evolving into who I am today.
Courtesy of Big Machine Media
You are originally from a small town in Kentucky. Do you think this influenced your music in any ways?
Yes. There isn't a lot to do in Dixon, Kentucky (or many small towns for that matter) besides hunting and farming, sports or outdoor activities. In fact, the only arts that my school offered at the time were basic music courses, marching band, and a theater department that was unfortunately dissolved before I even reached high school. I traveled for 30 minutes to an hour different ways to be involved in community theater, music lessons, etc. I participated in just about every sport available and always knew that music was going to be the path that I would go down. I was only good at basketball at an early age because I was taller than everyone else LOL.
Most people probably discovered you through your appearances on Fox's The Four. What was that experience like for you?
Being on The Four felt like home because I have been doing this for a very long time. I've been a professional performing artist for most of my adult life. To me, it was more than just another gig, it was a platform for me to finally show millions what I can do. It also turned into a platform to express the struggles that I have experienced in my life and journey. I came out about my journey with a meth addiction and learning that I was HIV-positive. I did that because that part of my life, as hard as it was, did not destroy me and I am better having gone through that. A lot of people deal with these issues and stigmas surrounding them, so I thought it was important to be open about that. I believe that it is an artist's duty to empower people and reflect positivity.
Courtesy Big Machine Media
What inspired the video for "Better Than We've Ever Been"?
I was living in Memphis in 2016 and I had just come home from a very historic and significant Black Lives Matter march in downtown Memphis. It was that evening in July 2016 that I sat at my piano and wrote the song. 2016 was a very politically charged year for our country. With the upcoming election, polar divide of society/political party affiliation, police brutality, and countless tragedies that we were dealing with as a nation, I decided to make art of it. The song simply means we are better together. Besides writing it under that influence, the song applies to my life in various ways. Drug addictions, relationships, etc, and I think many can apply it to different situations in their lives.
The video features you in some interesting and fun situations. Did you have any favorite scenes to shoot?
My director Drew Fleming and I decided to make the video not political. Instead, we shot it having me wake up and go about my day with minor things happening that usually make all of our days a little bit annoying (stubbing your toe, spilling coffee, etc.) and then turning into disaster and stress. Kind of like the saying, "They woke up on the wrong side of the bed." My favorite scene is the ending when we are all at my gig that I am trying to get to throughout the whole video. It's a dance scene in one of Memphis's most famous places to party called "Raiford's disco", owned by one of my dear friends Paula Raiford. It's a legendary dive bar that plays a variety of music, encourages inclusiveness, and also you can drink 40s while dancing (on) a lighted dance floor. I invited all of my friends to come and be a part of the shoot and it was a blast.
Courtesy Big Machine Media
Some of your music is inspired by a difficult point in your life. How did using music help you to get through these times?
Music is really the only thing that I know how to do well ha ha. Whether it is been playing piano for church, musically directing theater, or just performing at bar gigs I would rather be doing that than have a full-time job that I'm not passionate about. I have held a handful of 9-to-5 jobs and I simply cannot operate in them. There was a point when I got done with rehab that I try to reset my life and put music to the side by getting a regular job. I learned very quickly that that was not the answer and I've been pursuing music harder ever since.
You have also released your debut solo album this year. What was the writing and recording process for the record like?
I have recorded several projects in the past that I am very proud of but this project is a defining moment in my life. I am very proud of the honesty on this EP. Most of the songs are about the ups and downs of the last 10 years of my life. I have had a lot of help with this record. About two years ago I was performing at a very special venue in Memphis called Molly Fontaine lounge. It was there that I actually got my start performing live in Memphis about 12 years ago. I was playing with my trio, and my former drummer, Benny Reiner who had started that gig with me years ago and who had moved to NYC years earlier was in town visiting.
Awestruck after not hearing me play in a few years, he pulled me aside after my performance, and said "Man what the f**k are you doing here?" He meant no disrespect from his comment, but rather encouragement like, why am I not doing more with my music? I had actually become fairly comfortable in Memphis. I was able to perform and make a living and live a great lifestyle but I wasn't doing as much as I could. That one night prompted me to begin traveling to NYC over the next year and a half and the result is this EP.
We recorded most of the record in Benny's apartment in New York. Some of the production for my upcoming song "Kaleidoscope" was done in Memphis at a legendary studio, Young Ave Sound, where I held a space with my good friend and drummer, Ryan Peel. Ryan, with the help of producer Scott Hardin and writer Nicole Boggs crafted that song. It comes out very soon when the rest of the EP drops. On that note, many of my good friends have participated in the curation and crafting of this project both on the recording and live performing side including phenomenal musicians, Neal Bowen, Claude Hinds, Alex Kramer, and David Parks. I am so very grateful that my job is to make music with some of my best friends. I now reside in NYC and have recently formed a record label, Rockasaurus Records, with my producer and long-time friend, Benny Reiner.
Courtesy Big Machine Media
What else is coming up next for you?
I really don't know and that is the freakishly exciting part ha ha. We have some exciting things in the works that I will release news of soon but I know that once the EP drops we will be releasing some live performance dates. We have been continuing to make music through the whole process of this release and will continue with the release of music on a regular basis. I am very excited for some upcoming collaborations as well as remixes to some existing works. If you will be in the NYC area on September 23 you can see me play at Rockwood Music Hall at 6 PM with Nicole Boggs and the Reel.
The quarterback said "I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country." And then he tried to apologize. And only made it worse.
Drew Brees, a man who makes literally millions of dollars for throwing a ball, has come under fire for insensitive comments he made about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest police brutality.
"I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country," Brees said in the interview with Yahoo Finance. He clarified that this was in part because he envisioned his grandfathers, who fought in World War II, during the National Anthem. He continued, saying, "And is everything right with our country right now? No. It's not. We still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution."
This isn't the first time Brees made it clear that he cares more for the idea of a make-believe unified America than he does for actual human lives. In 2016, he criticized Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the anthem, saying it was "disrespectful to the American flag" and "an oxymoron" because the flag gave critics the right to speak out in the first place.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest of racist police brutality
Of course, the flag's alleged ideals have been proven to only be applicable to wealthy, white men—men like Brees. Sure, his grandfathers did a noble thing when they fought under the US flag during WWII, and no one, including Kaepernick, has ever said that sacrifice isn't worth respecting. Thanks to the sacrifices of many people (including the enslaved Black backs upon which this country was built, including the scores of routinely abused Black soldiers who fought for American lives), America has offered opportunity and peace for many, many people. In particular, Ole' Glory has been very kind to men like Brees: rich, white men who still control the majority of the power and the wealth in the United States.
But what about the rest of us, Drew? What about George Floyd whose neck was crushed by a police officer who kneeled on him so casually that he didn't even take his hand out of his pocket? What about Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot for the crime of being Black and going for a jog? What about Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was murdered by police in her home in the middle of the night for a crime that had nothing to do with her? What about Tony McDade, Drew–have you heard his name? Have you heard about the 38-year-old Black trans man who was gunned down in Florida last week? Do you understand why these people's family's may harbor just a bit of disrespect for your precious flag?
Is it possible for you to realize, Drew, that your wish for "unity" is not a wish for progress, but a wish to maintain the status quo? When you call for unity under the American flag, you're talking about your flag, the flag that represents a long, sordid history of racial oppression and violence. There is no unity where there is no justice. When you say that "we are all in this together," what you're saying is that we all have roles to play in the version of society that has served you so well. For your part, you'll be a rich, white man, and for Black people's part, they'll continue to be victims of state-sanctioned murders– but hopefully more quietly, hopefully in a manner that doesn't make you uncomfortable?
When you say, "We can all do better. And that we are all part of the solution," what you mean to say is that POC and their allies are at fault. Sure, you probably agree that Derek Chauvin took it a bit too far, and you probably feel a little self-conscious that he's brought all this "Black rights" stuff up again. But when you say "all," you place blame on the victims who are dying under a broken system. And what, exactly, do you expect POC to do differently, Drew? Ahmaud Arbery was just out jogging, and still he died. George Floyd was just trying to pay a cashier, and still he died. POC and their allies try to peacefully protest by marching in the streets or taking a knee at a football game, and still white people condemn and criticize. Still the police shoot.
After much criticism, Brees did attempt an apology on Instagram, where he posted a hilariously corny stock photo of a Black and white hand clasped together. His caption, though possibly well-intentioned, made it even clearer that his understanding of the movement for Black lives is thoroughly lacking.
Highlights of the "apology" include his immediate attempt to exonerate himself from culpability, claiming that his words were misconstrued, saying of his previous statement: "Those words have become divisive and hurtful and have misled people into believing that somehow I am an enemy. This could not be further from the truth, and is not an accurate reflection of my heart or my character." Unfortunately, Drew, white people like you are the "enemy," as you put it, because by default you are at the very least part of the problem. No one is accusing you of being an overt racist, Drew; no one thinks you actively and consciously detest Black people. But your lack of empathy, your apathy, and your unwillingness to unlearn your own biases are precisely what has persisted in the hearts and minds of well-meaning white Americans for centuries.
Next, you say, "I recognize that I am part of the solution and can be a leader for the Black community in this movement." No, Drew. Just no. Black people don't need white people's savior complexes to interfere in their organizing; what they need is for us to shut up and listen. What they need is for us to get our knees off of their necks.
Finally, you say, "I have ALWAYS been an ally, never an enemy." This, Drew, is suspiciously similar to saying, "But I'm one of the good whites!" The fact of the matter is that feeling the need to prove your allyship is not about helping a movement; it's about feeding your own ego. Not only that, but your emphasis on "ALWAYS" does a pretty good job of making it clear that you don't think you have a racist bone in your body and that you have taken great offense at any accusations to the contrary. I have some news for you, Drew: Every white person is racist. Sure, the levels vary, and while you may not be actively and consciously discriminating against POC, you have been brought up in a racist system, and your implicit biases are as strong as any other white person's. Your job now is to unlearn those biases and confront those subtle prejudices in yourself and in other white people. Maybe the first step in doing so is just shutting your f*cking mouth about kneeling at football games. Maybe you should even consider taking a knee yourself.
For other non-BIPOC trying to be better allies, check out one of these 68+ anti-racism resources.
We're glad they're on our side.
The world is up against a seemingly insurmountable threat, but luckily, we've got a crack team of heroes on the case.
Sure, there's already the girl with super strength, the guy who can fly, and the anthropomorphic, trash-talking animal tailor-made for merchandise. But this is a threat of intergalactic proportions, and we're going to need all the help we can get if we want to survive.
- BTS Makes Being a Korean-American Adoptee (a Little) Easier ... ›
- The New BTS Single, 'Black Swan,' Is a Genuine Masterpiece ... ›
- The K-pop fans have sabotaged racist Twitter hashtags ›
- K-Pop Stans Are Spamming Racist Twitter Hashtags With Fancams ›
- K-Pop Stans Crash Dallas Police Department's iWatch App with ... ›
- Reply sections on Twitter are filled with K-pop videos. Here's why. ›
- K-pop stans spammed the iWatch Dallas police app with fancams ... ›
- K-Pop Stans Crashed Dallas Police App With Fan Cams ›
- K-Pop Fans Take Over #whitelivesmatter Hashtag, Drown Out Racist ... ›
- K-Pop Stans Continue to Take Over Racist Twitter Hashtags ›
- K-pop stans overwhelm app after police ask for images and videos ... ›
- K-pop stans are flooding right-wing and pro-police hashtags online ... ›