Artist of the Week: DIY Singer/Songwriter Brent Nettles

What happens to a young, talented musician when he breaks from a major record label contract after being in a semi-famous band? Well, in the case of San Diego area singer/songwriter Brent Nettles, he went completely DIY, and in the process, created a collection of mesmerizing, heartfelt solo recordings that we are grateful to be the first major blog to review.

After leaving Warner Brothers two years ago while a member of the band The Finalist, Nettles returned Houston from California, began putting his song lyrics to music. The results are nothing short of remarkable.

While in Houston, Nettles found himself in an unplanned, three-day confinement in a makeshift studio with producer and friend Tyler Halford, recording a handful of songs that he had been working on for many months. Another friend, Jay Snider, later added drum tracks to some of the songs, and Taylor Johnson sat in on one track to play electric guitar.

The result is an impressive two set EP of mostly acoustic, Americana songs about love, rivers, faith and soul-searching. Nettles’ music is completely original, which, for him, was key after being exposed to the corporate side of the music world.

“I write songs that are not all that polished, but are honest, and I want people to hear them…I’m not really ‘trying to make it,'” he told IRC, and referring to his former contract with Warner Brothers, “I don’t really want to tango with the devil again.”

“I’m not bitter or anything like that,” he added. “I was young – 17 when we signed the deal. We made a record that was never put out, and they kept us under a contract for a while until we asked to be released because they didn’t do anything for us.”

At just 22 years old, Nettles’ down-to-earth outlook demonstrates a maturity and self-awareness that much older, “established” singer/songwriters we come across all of the time simply lack. He is curiously humble, and low-key, about his musical talents.

“I have worked really hard, and been really honest with these tunes. I have never tried to do a big push, or done any marketing, not because I’m lazy, only because my music is so personal. I didn’t know if anyone besides my friends would care to hear it. I have been, and I still am, a bit insecure about my music. There is a lot of fear that comes with being honest.”

No reason to fear; we think people will love this music, and be happy that it made its way from relative obscurity to be shared with a wider audience.

The first song from Nettles that we heard was, “It Must Be Nice,” a mellow, beautiful song that progresses along smoothly, marked by a simple acoustic guitar strum, well timed drum beats, piano and keyboard infusions, and touching vocals.

“It Must be Nice”Brent Nettles from Houston, Do You Read Me?

In addition to delivering songs about love, Nettles also has an astonishing talent for writing authentic American songs, as evidenced on songs like “In The Garden” and “Back to the River.”

“Back to the River”Brent Nettles from Hot Shoe Shuffle

Remarkably, his first two DIY EPs – Houston, Do You Read Me? and Hot Shoe Shuffle – are available for free download via Bandcamp, and we strongly recommend downloading them, especially since there are great songs that we didn’t include here (because we didn’t think it was kosher to re-publish his entire existing discography).

“I am kind of considering the two EPs I have out now as demos. Pretty soon I am going to make a full length record, and spend more time on it. I may have to ask a small amount of money for those recordings, only so I can eat. But who knows…God may provide a way for me create a really good product for free. I am a firm believer that you should give freely as you have been given.”

“Leave the Ground Dry”Brent Nettles from Hot Shoe Shuffle

Nettles has only performed a couple of shows as a solo artist at the E Street Cafe in San Diego, but said he would eventually like to go on a tour. “I would love to tour, ” Nettles said. “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to afford it in the near future. But I hope to one day. I love touring.”

Nettles lives with his wife in the San Diego suburb of Encinitas, and credits her with inspiring many of his songs. In our opinion, Brent Nettles is already well on his way – it’s just a matter of more people hearing his music, and the inevitable progression that will come as he grows as a songwriter, vocalist and musician.

Brent Nettles on MySpace

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