Q&A: Brandon Heath loves playing at Red Rocks Amphitheater, and he’s also proud of evolving as a musician
Brandon Heath will give a free Sunday night concert at the Backyard at the Riverwalk in Edwards. The concert series, hosted by Calvary Chapel Vail Valley will feature Christian recording artists now through Aug. 11.
Heath released his first record, “Don’t Get Comfortable,” in 2006 and has since been nominated for a Grammy Award. He started writing songs at age 13, and honed his songwriting chops at the famous Bluebird Café in his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
His strong Christian faith also originated in his adolescent years after he attended Young Life Christian camp. He’s played several shows for Young Life groups in Vail as well.
The show on Sunday starts at 6 p.m., and there is a free dinner served beforehand at 5:30 p.m. After Heath, the two shows remaining in the series are Brandon Bee on Aug. 4 and a T.B.D. performer on Aug. 11.
The Vail Daily sat down with Heath ahead of the show. Here’s what he had to say.
Brandon Heath: I’m actually with a friend right now in Asheville.
Vail Daily: Are you from Asheville?
BH: I’m actually from Nashville. Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t really grow up in the music industry, but it was certainly all around me growing up.
VD: Do you think growing up in Nashville influenced your decision to go into music?
BH: I think it did, two-fold. Number one, just that I was a music fan, and it was music city. But also, I grew up with people whose family was in the music business, so it just made it seem attainable. Honestly, for me, I just said yes. It was a series of invitations from people who believed in me and said, ‘I can help you,’ and I said, ‘yes.’ I’m very fortunate, because I know that a lot of people have different stories.
VD: Your first record came out in 2006. Tell me about being in the industry for 13 years. What have you learned along the way, and has anything changed for you?
BH: When my second single went number one, it was a song that didn’t have a chorus, so it wasn’t your normal single. But it was very vulnerable, and it was very specific, and for whatever reason, it worked for me. So, I really started on this path of feeling the freedom to throw the rules out the window of what you thought Christian music had to be. I got away with that for a long time, and was able to just do my own style.
I was definitely borrowing from influences of mine, like James Taylor, Garth Brooks, U2, One Republic. I grew up on country music and singer-songwriters. By the time my fifth single came out, I think Christian music was definitely changing, but I also felt that I needed to evolve, and I’m so proud that I have over the years.
VD: How would you describe that evolution?
BH: I started off very commercial pop. By 2012, when I was making my fourth album, I really wanted to dig into my country roots. I made a record called “Blue Mountain.” That was a theme record, and that can scare your label, because you’re getting out of your lane a bit. But I think it was so important for me creatively to do something like that. It’s my favorite record I’ve ever made. It’s been a rewarding journey and I’m really proud of everything I’ve put out.
VD: The show you’re playing in Vail is a free show. Do you play in churches a lot?
BH: I would say 60% of the places that I play are in larger churches.
VD: What’s the coolest place that you’ve gotten to play?
BH: I mean, Red Rocks, of course. My favorite place I’ve ever played. It’s like a spiritual experience every time I’m there. The performer has the better view, because you’re looking up at this amazing sea of faces, with these huge pillars on each side.
You know there’s a place in Nashville, my second favorite place to play, is a place called the Ryman Auditorium. It’s actually an old church that was converted into a theater. It was the temporary home of the Grand Old Opry, so it’s all wood on the inside, and there’s all these curved, wooden pews. The sound just reverberates in this really warm, woody way. And to understand the history, like Red Rocks, of people that have performed on that stage, you see an artist that just humbled to be there.
I often say, I want you to hear yourself more than you hear my music because I think music really allows us to hear our own voice. So, I try to make my music do that. I want to take you somewhere, and I want you to remember yourself, or just hear something that you need to hear.
VD: Have you been to Vail before?
BH: Vail is one of my favorite places. Mostly in the winter, but I’m finding out that summer is the better time to be there.
Richardson has shot for the magazine since 1984, and his work is up for public viewing at multiple locations in the area.