Brian D – Master of Pop Rock

Brian Delaney is a master of the pop rock genre. His songs are consistently well written, from every perspective. His recordings are clean, balanced arrangements with a professional ear for detail. There is something to learn from every track he posts, technically and artistically. His music always supports the lyric; his lyrics are always thoughtful yet accessible, with wonderful use of visual images, internal rhyme and attention to singability. I urge you to check out each and every song on his Profile page. Here are my favorites…

Ann Elise (included in MacJams’ Podcast #1)
‘A Minor’ Walkdown Blues
When Our Ship Comes In
Dream Waltz
Song For Ronnie Lane
After The Sun Goes Down
In Love With It All
You Belong With Me
Blind Eye
Late Late Picture Show
Wilted Flowers
At The Window
Tell Me
Karmann Ghia
Life Is Fine
Lay This Burden Down
Skinning Legs and All
– and his collaboration (Sing a) Happy Song by PaperAngel

Of interest to many Mac users on the site, Brian is a digital artist working at Apple, Inc. in Cupertino, CA. He is 47 and lives in San Francisco, CA. He has shared 36 songs with Macjams (as of this writing).

Brian started playing music seriously at age 11 when he started taking guitar lessons…

“I also had a brief stint on my older brother’s drums, but decided I preferred the guitar. I was weaned on The Beatles, since my older brother had all the records. I was just old enough to hear the records as they came out. Three memories stand out the most from my childhood:

1) Hearing Strawberry Fields for the first time and being hypnotized by that sad flute mellotron intro.
2) My father buying me Sgt. Pepper when it came out; my first album at age 7
3) Seeing The Beatles perform Hey Jude and Revolution on the Smothers Brothers show. That was all it took. I knew what I was gonna do for the rest of my life.

“I played guitar throughout grade school, jammed with friends all throughout high school. I was lucky to have close friends who played well so that I could learn technique from them. We eventually played in a band together in our early 20’s, mostly jamband stuff like Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers. I had switched to bass at this point, since no one else wanted that spot and I figured it was easier to get a gig if I was a good bass player. I played in several bands throughout my 20’s and 30’s in NJ, Philadelphia, PA (where I moved to in my mid/late 20’s) and eventually SF (where I moved to in my mid-30’s). I quit playing in bands when I hit 40. I was tired of lugging a bass amp around to play 40 minutes in some dump somewhere. The last band I was in was an indie rock power trio with decent songs and good harmonies (we all sang). We recorded an album, but broke up before we put it out! (A band I was in in Philly released an album in the late 80’s, but the less said about THAT one, the better!)

“I didn’t start writing until my late 20’s, quite late for someone playing for so long. I had played in so many cover bands it had never really dawned on me to try writing my own stuff. I was usually a support player in most of these bands where if we did play original music, it was someone else writing and singing lead.”

What were some of these bands? Any recordings available?

“One band was called Delmarva. I was a support player in that band and didn’t write anything on that album and only sang backup on it. I sang lead on several songs at gigs, but the guitarist had a real stranglehold on this record. He wrote it all, he sang it all. He wasn’t receptive to any material from me or the drummer (who is quite a good songwriter). Thinking back on it, that’s probably the real reason why I quit this band. It’s a bit heavy listening to it now – very grungy. Sorta math rockish.”

Do you remember the first song you wrote?

“The first good song I wrote was called ‘Love Complete’ and I still remember it, somewhat. It has too many chords and too many clever bits, but it wasn’t bad overall. I’m not a prolific writer, but I guess I’ve developed a bit of my own style. I usually write the hook first, almost always the chorus next. Music is almost always written first, verses last. I’ve tried approaching it differently lately so as to not get into a rut. I started teaching myself piano seriously about 2 and a half years ago and writing on that has been good since it makes me write differently. Sometimes I pick a song that I want to write one ‘like.’ A certain style. It doesn’t usually turn out that way, but it’s a starting point. Sometimes it’s built around a phrase I like. Any way that works is good. The more ways to approach it, the better. For me, it’s all about the hook. I also don’t like songs to be too long or to be too complicated. I always noted how all those gems on Revolver were just over 2 minutes long!”

All your recordings are so clear, clean. What equipment do you use?

“I started recording demos on a 4 track Yamaha cassette player (I still have it!) I seriously started recording decent demos when Garageband came out! Since then, it’s become my main musical outlet since I don’t play out anymore. Working at Apple is good, since I get hardware for a good discount and get software free. I have Logic Studio and am waiting to get a new Mac Pro to install it. I’m pretty satisfied with using GB, though. I am lazy learning new apps and am pretty non-technical when it comes to recording. Friends tell me I have to step up and upgrade, so hopefully this year I’ll move up to Logic. I had an older version of Logic Express that was unintelligible to me, but I hear its gotten way more intuitive.

“I usually record fast, to get it down quick. I’ll spend a day doing the backing track and the next doing the vocals and all the extras (usually a Saturday and Sunday). I use minimal reverb and echo mostly, and not a hell of a lot of compression (usually only on the vocals). I mix down, them play it on the computer, then the living room stereo, then the car. The car is the final test. If it passes there, its done. For mastering I run an Audio Unit multiband compressor on the analog preset, then a Dynamics Compressor Peak setting of -5dB to minimize random spikes and squeeze it a touch more in Sound Studio, then Normalize to 0dB, also in Sound Studio. That’s it. I use this procedure for everything. I use Peak LE for making redbook standard Master CDs.”

Nearly all the instruments on your tracks sound real, and are played well, one of the reasons I like your sound. What instruments do you play?

“Guitar, bass, ukulele, mandolin (just got one), harmonica, keyboards (still learning but getting proficient) and assorted percussion. I want to get a kit someday and try playing drums again. I’d need a space without neighbors, though. My current ones put up with an awful lot – drums might push them over the edge!

“I have a ridiculously simple and cheap setup. I play electric guitar direct and get all amp sounds from within Garageband. I use all the JamPacks for drum loops and MIDI drums, I have an M-Audio Mobile Pre USB interface, a $99 M Audio Nova condensor Mic, a 49 key M-Audio USB MIDI keyboard, a Yamaha 88 key Digital piano that I just use line out instead of MIDI for piano only, M-Tron Mellotron plug-in (ESSENTIAL), cheap Cambridge Soundworks speakers with sub woofer (paid a whopping $50 for ’em, too!)

“Instruments are the above mentioned keys, 2 Epiphone Casino electrics (Blonde and Sunburst), J-200 Gibson acoustic, Larrivee acoustic, Fender Jazz Bass, 2 Fluke Ukes, one Lanakai Uke, Epiphone Mandolin, Hohner Blues harmonicas in 5 keys, assorted tambourines, bongos, shakers, maraccas, etc. I had a sitar for about a year and a half but I never got too far on it, as it’s impossible to tune and even harder to play. I never got past PAINT IT BLACK. Oh well, maybe someday.”

Brian’s album Pizza & Fairytales is available on iTunes and sites like Napster. All of the songs made their debut on Macjams first and remain there for free download. Thank you, Brian!

“Getting immediate feedback was/is wonderful and inspirational. It’s nice to click around and see what other folks are doing too. I’ve modified almost everything from the original Macjam version to the released version, tightening things up, editing, sometimes changing lyrics or resinging a part along with mastering for release (I don’t think anything I have up on Macjams is mastered – they’re all rough mixes). Anyway, rock on and give peace a chance!”

For all Brian’s music, see his Macjams Profile page.

42 Responses to “Brian D – Master of Pop Rock”

  1. Len Gold Says:

    Brian is without a doubt one of the best artists on Macjams, I have been a massive fan since I first heard one of his songs. I even included a mention of him in one of mine
    He is also one of the most modest people around who doesn’t seem to realise what a great talent he has. I always play Brian’s songs to friends whilst explaining how good people can be at producing music at home. They are always extremely impressed.
    Len Gold

  2. Karmtoburn Says:

    Ditto on Len’s comment. Brian is a huge talent. I always enjoy his posts. His recent collab with PaperAngel was remarkable.

  3. michael2 Says:

    Awesome read, Brian is huger than life and I’m so glad I got an opportunity to hear how he goes about working his magic. Not many people can touch Brian when it comes to a pop song.

  4. Feter Says:

    That was interesting and a great reading. I’ve been always a fan of Brian ‘s music. I knew it since the first song I heard that Beatle-ish sound just down there. To read more about his true talent and music career certainly made me respect this Mjer more… Hats off!!

  5. Eric VanAusdal Says:

    Brian’s collection on MJ is humbling. This was a great read. Of particular interest was his setup. To get the sound he gets with his setup just goes to show that it doesn’t take a ridiculous setup to get quality sound. Top notch!

  6. rerlyMymn Says:

    Nice post

  7. rsolorio Says:

    Great interview Brian,

    An interesting side are the amazing covers he has recorded. “A Day in the Life” was truly jaw dropping. Brian’s ear for detail in his covers translates well into his own work. Nuanced, textured and clever.

    Brian is eager to help and encourage and I’ve been a big fan for many a year.

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