Around 10 PM on a Saturday in February of 2022, journeyman songwriter Brendan Shea applied the parking brake and shut off the ignition on a moving truck and took a few moments to embrace the calm and quiet of a residential side street in East Nashville, Tennessee. This moment of serenity had been hard-earned. The moving truck was towing his tour van using nothing more than a couple rusty, weathered ratchet straps which, thanks to single-digit temperatures chasing a national-newsworthy winter squall across the Mid-Atlantic, had required tightening every 45 minutes or so along the 700-mile pilgrimage from Brendan's hometown of Buffalo, New York. All told, it had taken close to 17 hours on the road to get there, which was a lot of driving for a single person in a single day. Even though Brendan had no shortage of experience with long days spent alone on the highway, the grind of this particular day made him question how bad he really wanted to start a new life in Music City. It was a lesson in patience and perseverence one could easily apply to an independent music career. It gave him plenty of time to think about the journey that had led him there, and he couldn't seem to shake the feeling of crossing some kind of significant threshold between his past and his future.
It was in Nashville a couple years prior, on a different and much more enjoyable kind of marathon day, that Brendan recorded the tracks with a genuine who's who of Alt-Country session players at County Q Productions for his 2020 album Are We Sure The Dawn Is Coming? On his sophomore full-length release, Brendan revisits the events that inspired, sustained and ultimately derailed a traveler's journey, leaving behind the safety and comfort of day jobs and nightclubs in his adopted home base of Seattle, Washington for the allure of a new relationship which brought the opportunity to travel the country playing music full time in a 26-foot RV.
The opening track, Emerald City's Gone, is a breakup song directed to the city itself, which Brendan left without much more to show than when he arrived there. The lead single, We Can Beat Mercury, carries a "conviction you can beat the odds (during) an astrological period long associated with bad luck," (Twangville). The songs Gaslight, Stranded, and My Little Hypocrite drive the narrative of a toxic partnership, while Light Me A Candle touches on a deeper battle with addictive substances. And the album's closer, Turn Your Luck, laments the obstacles a touring musician faces while sarcastically reassuring himself that his fortune will soon turn around.
When the RV tour was over, Brendan returned to his native Buffalo for a personal and professional recalibration. His songs and his voice felt perfectly suited for America’s Rust Belt… a little beaten up and rough around the edges, a lot more substance than style. While discovering his second wind in a city doing the same, Brendan eventually connected with veteran players of Buffalo’s Alt-country scene and former members of the regionally-renowned group Bareback Jack. It was that iteration of the Strangest Ways that really elevated the live sound and helped Brendan put on some of the best performances of his career.
The band became regulars at reputable hometown venues like Sportsmen’s Tavern, Mohawk Place, The Cave and Babeville, while Brendan put together regional tours from the Gulf Coast to Canada to Appalachia to the Midwest. They were recognized as an "Emerging Artist" by the Sportsmen's Americana Music Foundation. They filmed a video for We Can Beat Mercury at the historic Riviera Theater which was featured on the “Band Together Buffalo” pandemic showcase. Emerald City’s Gone became a mainstay on Alt Buffalo’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” playlist. Brendan organized a tribute show for one of his songwriting heroes, Elliott Smith, on what would have been his 50th birthday, donating the door money to “Save The Michaels”, a Western New York charity that works to fight addiction.
All the while Brendan continued to refine his writing, as he compiled a collection of songs for a follow-up record about home, family and the conflicting, tug-of-war feelings those can conjure, about struggling to realize your full potential and longing for something more. For the restless soul who had traveled countless miles searching for something that always felt just a little out of reach, it was time once again to move on.
And so he set his sights on Nashville to test his mettle against the pros, and draw inspiration and energy from creative people doing creative things for a living, which is really, as far back as he could remember, all he ever wanted to be.
Are We Sure The Dawn Is Coming? (2020)
Lo-Fi Way or the Highway -- Best of the Early Years (2018) compilation
Brendan & the Strangest Ways (2016)
My Favorite Ancient Myth (2014) digital EP
Taylor Road Sessions (2011) digital EP
On This Casual Decline (2008) EP
A Good Distraction (2006) EP