If asked, Brenda will tell you her first musical influence was in the womb. Her Grandfather was an operatic singer in Sicily. “He passed the musical gene on to a couple of his kids, my mom being one of them.”
She began playing guitar and writing songs at age six. Her eldest sister taught guitar to kids in the neighborhood and she used to watch. She was obviously watching closely because Brenda has complete command of her instrument. She did take piano lessons for a couple of years to gain comprehension on a technical level, but said: “ I was hesitant about getting into any kind of formal training because I felt what I had was a very raw and natural talent. I didn’t want to mess with that, I just wanted to see what would happen.” What happened is this: an artist emerged that performs with a unique passion and heart stopping dynamics. It is impossible to miss the feeling she is conveying.
Curious as to what fuels her topics in writing, she said: “music, as far as writing, just became a way of journaling more than anything. I was the youngest of five kids that was seen and not heard. So it became my voice basically.”
Brenda played in school and church until she graduated high school then, “started my solo career, so to speak. I played local coffee houses for a few years.” A childhood friend started a band called Plahaus (‘playhouse’) where she performed as a back up singer for five years honing her stage presence. She played all the major clubs along the Sunset Strip and other Southern California locations. Eventually L.A. lost its appeal and, as fate would have it, she moved to Oregon. “I moved there to get back to my roots and the basics. To regain who I am as a singer/songwriter. When I was in L.A., I wasn’t writing with the band. It was five years of singing their songs. The first visit I had in Oregon was for one week. I came home and wrote twelve songs. I said to myself, OK this is where I need to be -- there is total inspiration happening here. So I moved to Oregon in 1993.”
While feeling out the local scene, she came upon the Saturday Market. “I yanked out my guitar and started to play. Someone involved with the market came by and said: ‘you have to audition to play here’. When I auditioned, they were blown away. For the first few years of living here, all I did was play the Saturday Market building my audience base and mailing list. In this process, I found there was a local producer that had been coming to see me on a regular basis. He finally approached me and gave me his card. I ended up doing a couple of demos that landed in the hands of Scott Parker. Scott became my champion; he got me involved with the Warner/Chappell family. We started recording and talking to people to get involved with local production companies.” This led Brenda to opening for major acts such as: Dan Fogelberg, Ani DiFranco, and Robben Ford.
Even though she attained success in the North West one might think it was risky to leave the hub of the entertainment industry. This never crossed her mind. “Music has always surrounded me so, of course, it would follow me wherever I went. It was really about doing soul searching. Bottom line is, music is my best friend and I treat it as such. When it gets to the point where it becomes too much work or gets neglected, it’s time to stop. The business end became too much and the music suffered. I wasn’t writing, so I had to take a step back.”
Listening to her most recent release, Jackpot Highway, it’s hard to believe anything about her abilities to write, sing, or play is suffering on any level. When you sample her music or see her perform, it will be proof enough that Brenda is an artist that has much to offer to her audience.
Article written by: Leslie
Leslie Sallee is a former audio engineer and is currently trying to figure out what to do with the rest of her life.
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