Brendan Bennett has had a whirlwind past year, but without doing a close-listen to the Southwest Florida-raised songwriter’s latest music, you most likely wouldn’t realize all that’s been going on. Hit play on any of the tracks from his previous EP, ‘Kids Wear Crowns’, and you can’t help but head-bop and singalong to the hooking melodies and shiny production that blends pop, rap, electronic and other genres into an upbeat mix. Even at his most emotional, Bennett can’t help but also make you want to dance.

Maybe it’s because the multi-faceted musician is an optimist by nature, or maybe, as he explained in our recent conversation, it’s because making music represents a form of catharsis when dealing with the darker periods in his life. Don’t be misled by the patina that glosses over most of Bennett’s discography, though–his struggles all manifest in his music, often packed into verses and meticulous flows that roll off the songwriter’s tongue with effortless authenticity. Bennett’s new single, “923”, serves as an ideal example of this approach to music that Bennett has spent his past few projects honing; the title itself marks an extremely difficult day in the artist’s life.

Since that day, he’s spent the past year trying to figure out how to heal, and his artistic vessel has played an undeniable role in that process. Read about Bennett’s journey when making “923”, his forthcoming project, and his thoughts on the rise of Florida’s music scene in our latest Q&A:

MDR: How’s your summer been?

BB: It’s been good, bro. It’s been very busy. We were traveling a lot, making a shit ton of music. We actually just had a conference call the other day when we realized we have like way too many songs, which is an exciting place to be.

MDR: I want to get into the new song, but first I just want to get a little bit about your background in general, what you’ve been working on lately. Tell me a little about your process.

BB: I’m making most of the new shit with a set two producers really. Capi is one of my main guys and lately I’ve been working a lot with Bensbeendead., who’s the feature on the new song. We’ll kinda f**k around and experiment with some sounds until we find something we really like. For my writing process, I kind of let the music dictate how the song feels. What it makes me feel is what I want to make the song about. I do a lot of freestyling on the melodies and the progressions and the hooks. And then I kind of take it home and put words to it.

MDR: Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

BB: I listen to a lot of music that doesn’t sound like my music, but it still influences me in a weird way. So I would say Isaiah Rashad, Smino, Frank Ocean, Drake; yeah, those are probably like my top four to be honest. Especially with Smino and Drake, I’ve learned a lot from them where they approach not only songwriting but the way they release their music too.

MDR: Smino is going crazy right now. Did you see hear his new “Reverend” track?

BB: That’s all I’ve been listening to the past two weeks! I’ll get in the car to drive somewhere and I’ll just put that song on repeat. So hard.

MDR: Over the past couple of years we’ve seen Florida really blow up as this hotbed for new music. From your perspective, what has it been like to see the Florida music scene rise into greater prominence like that?

BB: It’s been surreal. I mean it started so organically, especially the Southwest Florida scene. I feel like a lot of it was just young, broke kids that like found a passion for music and decided to come together and just work on it. I think Capi was a huge influence in that landscape. The studio he had I think really helped guide us. At no point did it feel like it was going to be something this big. Seeing in the past year what Dom [Dominic Fike] has accomplished or what BabyJake has accomplished, Nate Traveller… Being in these meetings and just seeing that they know all of us… It’s been an absolutely surreal feeling.

MDR: How would you define the Florida music scene? Do you think there’s a particular common sound?

BB: I don’t think so. I really don’t. I think you get a lot of different people with different influences in music. A lot of different production styles, genre-blending. I mean there are some things that people consider South Florida, like some of the harder rap. We have some dope people who do that. Then you look at someone like Nate [Traveller], you look at Dom, BabyJake, or you look at me. I feel like there is a huge, huge variety in the sounds and styles of these different artists.

(photos by @nc.khang & @mustbenoah)
MDR: I wanna get into the new record you have out today. Tell me about how “923” came together and the inspiration behind it.

BB: I was working on ‘Gold Coast Tapes, vol. 2’ with Eddy Rock. We had met Bensbeendead. a few months ago, and we were working on some music and so I hit him up like “yo, I really want you to be on this Gold Coast project.” So he sent me one of the ideas that he was working on, and I was just floored by it. The production on it was just incredible. It had originally felt like a love song, but I just got hit with this feeling that I had to make it something else. A year ago on September 23rd, 2018 I got a phone call. My dad committed a murder-suicide. I hadn’t spoken to him in probably four years. But the shock… the loneliness. I had already dropped out of school. I was in rehab. I mean, it was just like my life came apart in this moment. I really wanted to revisit that time period and ask myself, did I heal? Is this something that we can fix? Do I believe that we can dig in and do the work; let go of our old scars or old traumas or are we cursed to be in this space of confusion forever, pretending that we’re moving on? I really was just trying to dig into that headspace and do it for myself as a form of catharsis. Like, get rid of that feeling that had been there over those few months.

MDR: Yeah, man I’m sorry to hear about that difficult time… You’re able to use your kind of artistic vessel to heal in your own way, which I think is really powerful. Was it difficult for you to be vulnerable about that period in your life in the music?

BB: I think with time it’s gotten easier. I mean, obviously all of this was going on when I made the ‘Kids Wear Crowns’, but I just wasn’t ready to fully dig in to everything. I mean “Long Year” has some references to everything, but it still has a little bit more of an upbeat and inspiring vibe, when that was just not what I was feeling. At the moment it was just too vulnerable for me to dig into. I think as time has gone on, it’s gotten easier. And that’s kind of why I wanted to challenge myself on this next project, all of these next songs, to really focus on what those moments meant to me, and try to go back and be vulnerable because obviously my circumstances were kind of extreme and it is hard to talk about this specific day for sure. But at the same time, I feel like it’s really important that people aren’t afraid to be vulnerable and feel like they’re not alone. So, making songs has been a really rewarding process for sure.

MDR: I think a common thread through your music thus far has been a sense of optimism. It’s usually like upbeat and sort of lighthearted. Even when you get into heavier stuff, you maintain this optimistic spirit. Would you say that’s something that’s true to your character?

BB: I hope so. I try to, for sure. I feel like I’ve always been that person, that no matter what I’m going through I want to be an example of overcoming; being there for other people, showing them that you can heal, and things do get better. Not only do they get better, but we can make this world whatever we want to make it. It’s something really important and even when I don’t necessarily feel that way, I do try to incorporate that into my relationships, into my being, into my outlook on life. I feel like it’s super important to me.

MDR: What do you hope listeners take away after they hear “923”?

BB: I just hope it makes them feel something. I think that’s really what music is all about. I’ve put a lot into it. And so even if they can’t relate fully or don’t quite understand, I hope that they can just set that all aside, sit down, and just feel something.

MDR: Looking forward into the whole project that you’ve been putting together, what can you tell me about that? What can listeners expect from you after this track?

BB: A huge change in direction. I’m really excited to drop all of the music we’ve been working on, I’ve been trying my best to just completely get rid of every sonic template or idea that I’ve had and start from scratch. We have some really, really different things production-wise, content-wise, and I’m really excited to just flip the switch.

Listen to Brendan Bennett’s “923” here, and keep up with him via Instagram and Twitter.