Brandon Schmitt
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Brandon Schmitt

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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"Expanded Notes on Brandon Schmitt's I was Blind"

Expanded Notes on Brandon Schmitt's I was Blind, composed in real-time this afternoon in the Portland Public Library, by Douglas W. Milliken

1. Leaving Song

° Intro: creaking chair: nice
° Very faintly: is that a second guitar? with lots of tremolo? or maybe an organ? Is this simply an auditory hallucination, some production-related excuse for the fucking-A richness I hear? I want to set up shop. I want to dedicate myself to this. Develop a lab. Start an internship program. Hot college girls looking to get their minds blown over their summer break. Juanita and Oppenheimer. How is it possible to spend so much time and energy willfully studying something so small and simple? Like some stylized Democritus laboring over a stories-tall microscope, trying so desperately to see inside an atom, decipher how it's put together—fierce energy and spinning debris—only to discover it was just a tiny red brick all along.
° On second thought: definitely a guitar.
° "Don't you know how it feels when you stick around."
° "But I don't even know to whom I pray."

2. I was a Child
° Composed of picked notes that rise and fall in volume and intensity like a confessor's voice breaking and fading, sometimes welling with hurt, mostly just a raspy whisper. Resigned to the fate so clearly looming—not looming, rising like a moon or jet contrail, burning across the sky, everyone can see it, you were the last one to see it—rising up ahead. Unable to change but mourning/hoping nonetheless.
° The single moment of creative editing coming to fruition—the guitar becomes a banjo: like those time-lapse photo-dealies you sometimes see on the Discovery Channel where the fox lies down and dies and molders and finally is gone, just dirt and mushrooms and a few broken bones. Brandon as an old man sitting alone in an empty room.
° Entire album takes place in one room in an abandoned house—still traces of the last owners all around—broken floors and rotting plaster and kudzu creeping in through the windows, through the doors—recorded over the course of fifty or sixty years.
° "I ain't seen light like this in my whole life."

3. Lightning Song
° I'm sitting in the Portland Public Library with my books and notebook and stupid chunky headphones. Sitting at a little table with blinders built into the sides. A wooden chair that creaks every time I move. There are high school kids sitting at tables here and there, talking in voices they either think are low but are not or are maybe intentionally too loud, talking about the most inane shit in too-loud tones as if any of us care, as if we should envy their lives, and who's to say that we shouldn't or do not? A little ways away, at a desk identical to my own (creaking, blinders), a middle-aged woman with deeply-furrowed jowls the likes of which I have never seen and fill me with this horrible sadness—like I could almost attempt to imagine her life but know my imagination will just be a circus-parody, unfair and clown-like in grease paint, so I don't—labors over her tax forms. There are people who I see every day that I come here, people busily entrenched in this or that book or journal or magazine or paper, people sitting staring blankly, waiting for their turn to use the Internet. There are homeless guys wearing every stitch of clothing they own, there are housewives with and without children, there are people with nothing better to do, people with plenty of better things to do, people with too much to do, and we're all gathered here, where it's too warm and not cleaned often enough, all these people sitting still or moving all about in a rush, such a fucking rush, and no one is looking at anyone else, no one makes eye contact, even when they almost collide and someone mutters an apology, no one sees anyone else, I don't even see anyone else, I'm forcing myself right now to stop and look around, look at these people, trying and see their eyes and make them see mine but they don't, they don't really see me any more than I can really see them, and all this when right now, right now, "Lighting Song" is playing. This is the soundtrack to this moment. This is what's playing right now. What the hell is wrong with all of us? Why are we so alone? All gathered together and so desperately alone?

4. I was Blind
° Harmonica!
° This morning on NPR, after the news and Writers Almanac, when the classical program came on, the morning personality played a symphonic version of "Michelle." The vocal melodies were performed by some world famous mouth-harpist, were performed on a harmonica, and though I kind of enjoyed it at the time, right now it's pretty clear to me what utter pussies Lennon and McCartney really were.
° The intrinsic accusation in the line, "your eyes were my eyes and I was blind," later balanced out by "there was no one to blame, I'm still glad that you came."
° There is always someone to blame. It's better if we don't think about it.

5. Time and Miles
° Time as a measurement of distance: speaks all-too-specifically to anyone who has driven a long fucking way all by himself.
° Maybe it's the progression of chords or just the sheer prettiness of the guitar, its sound and notes. Maybe it's the honest and unabashed delivery of lines like, "I hadn't felt that in years, yeah, so I counted on you." But there's some trace of Townes Van Zandt here. Not an affectation or (because of its various meanings) an impression, but definitely Van Zandt has been impressed upon Brandon (so, right, it is an impression). The same way Darnielle and Mangum have impressed themselves upon Brandon. Shaping the restless man seeking something he might not (probably will not) recognized even if it does finally reveal itself to him.
° The idea that setting something free and keeping that thing inside you might be the same thing.
° When the banjo comes in, you know you're home. The late sun trickling in through the fluttering wings of the trees. The smell of rain and earth. You know you've been saved. - Old Fat God


Songs about Love and Death and The Ocean: 2004
Songs about Fire and Seeing: 2004
Anonymous Songs: 2004
Shoulders Squared, Chin Up: 2005
Old Hearts and Algo, Algo: 2006
City Sun E.P: 2007
I Was Blind: 2008
send off smoke: 2009



Brandon Schmitt has thick Upstate NY blood running through his veins. Born in Syracuse, he has lived at different times between 6 and 8 different exits on the great New York state thruway. He has played with several bands, but started focusing on solo material after the hiatus of his longtime band (the pacemaker) and in performance and recordings has garnered comparisons to Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt and Daniel Johnston. In n these last three years he has released 2 full length albums and 5 e.p.s and recorded them and lived in over 10 different bedrooms and living rooms and studios, and in retrospect it seems like all the restlessness, traveling and writing that transverse those records served as roads to lead him to his third full length album: Send Off Smoke.

Send Off Smoke was recorded by four close friends in a room with no heat during the last week in the coldest month of the coldest winter in recent memory. The nine songs on the record were recorded live, all in no more than two takes during those last days and draw to close a song cycle that ranges from being six years to six days old, and crosses the state and the state-lines innumerable times. Drawing influences from folk, blues, soul, and country music, Brandon Schmitt and You-Tu have created a uniquely American record that feels as timeless as it is rooted in the present. Send off Smoke is a record about finding your way out of the woods without a flashlight on a moonless night, it is about loss and hope, friendship and redemption, and love and struggle. As the most lyrically cohesive record Brandon has made, it not only ties together ideas that he has been carrying around for years, but musically charges them with the energy, immediacy and hope found in the bonds of trust and friendship that created them. This fall Brandon will be doing and extensive tour in support of Send off Smoke, which is being released by Father Time/Baby New Years Records in August. A full band tour is to follow in the winter. Past tours and shows have been played with: Deerhoof, Grizzly Bear, Dufus, Daniel Higgs (lungfish), Arrington de Dionyso (old time relijun), Soltero, and David Dondero.