Michael Brandmeier writes songs. Many of them you’ve heard on TV, but probably didn’t know it. Think of any show, from “Dawson’s Creek,” to “Tosh O.” to “The Hills,” to “The Voice,” and oodles in between. Think of a scene, any scene…that needs its characters to move from one moment to another without words, and music swells from underneath, nudging you on how to feel, whether it’s two people leaning into a passionate kiss, or someone clinging perilously from the ledge of a building.
A lot of Michael’s music has crept in just that way, though his tends to be most suited for the ‘leaning into the kiss’ category, rather than the ‘building clinging.’
One of his songs was supposed to be a kiss inducing tune for any nonspecific season, but it has taken a wonderful turn into the romantic snowdrift of the Christmas genre.
MB: It was originally written for an independent film called “Karaoke Man,” starring a few actors I think you may have heard of (laugh) Brian Dietzen from NCSI, James Denton from Desperate Housewives, Caitlin Crosby who’s not only a good actress, but also a singer-songwriter. The movie production people sent me the rough draft of this movie, and I had five song ideas for it. The original version of this song was called “Your Scenery,” written specifically for a scene where the lead characters, Dietzen and Crosby were finally going on a date. I don’t think I’m ruining the plot for you…because I’m not sure the movie will ever make it to a theater! (laugh) Its release is hung up on a Bob Dylan track they want to use, and they can’t find the $55,000 to pay for it!
MC: So Dietzen’s character is a animator, painting Crosby in all these different colors as she leans up against a wall.
MB: Yes, and the wall has a mountain landscape painted on it, and she blends into it. I sent the song to Roy Elkins who is the CEO and founder of broadjam.com a music website. He wrote back to me saying, ‘Great song! But it needs to be a Christmas song.’ And I realized immediately that he was right, gosh darn it! (laugh) I knew deep down I had to rewrite it, and I don’t like rewriting.
MC: That’s when you called a songwriting friend, Matthew Lee.
MB: He lives in Colorado, and is one of the best songwriters I know. I said, ‘You have to help pull me out of the original lyrics, and turn this into a Christmas song. So, over the phone, two Friday nights in a row, I grabbed a beer, he poured a scotch (laugh) it was July, we Googled internet pictures of Christmasy stuff to get us in the mood and spirit, and we sat and rewrote all the lyrics, line by line, until it made sense as a Christmas song.
MC: The beer and scotch must’ve worked, because you ended up writing two different bridges for it.
MB: And I had a hard time trying to decide which one to use. One version goes, ‘this heart’s been broken before, but there’s something in the December air that says to try once more,’ and the other lyric is ‘this is what the season is for, we don’t have to be alone anymore.‘
MC: You recorded and released the original version of it last Christmas.
MB: Right. And it was nominated for an IMA (Independent Music Award).
MC: But that version, as nice as it is, with only your voice, wasn’t exactly what you thought it should sound like, right?
MB: I always thought it should be a duet.
MC: So you began searching for a female voice, and of course where does one look for all sorts of talent these days?
MB: On the internet. And that’s where I found Esther O’Connor. Had never met her, just heard her singing. She lives in Scotland, and is in a band called Ashton Lane. They’re a really hot band, in Scotland, and their videos were getting like 100,000 views. Their style is is…um…think of…oh, who is that band with a girl singer?
MC: Partridge family?
MB: This century.
MB: Lady Antebellum!
MC: Right. So you emailed Esther.
MB: And asked if she would sing the song for me. She said yes, but the rough part, and it was my bad…I’d sent it to her in the wrong key. It was too high. But she sang through it anyway, and did an incredible job. Her voice is just beautiful.
MC: There was no way for you to rerecord it to match her range?
MB: It was too large a production. When you listen to it, you’ll hear the strings, the orchestration, the bells…Santa. It was a lot of work to get what I already had, much less do it all over again, and way too costly. She was a trooper, and even though she was pregnant, she sang it in the key I needed, and sent her part back to me. And then I sat for hours upon hours in the DNA Music Lab Studios with Mark Whitcomb, here in Madison, and took my old vocal, and mixed her new vocal, making it a duet. Esther and I were never in the same room together.
MC: And you can find it everywhere on line?
MB: Everywhere. All on-line music sources.
MC: There’s a music video version on youtube, and linked to your website. It looks like it was quite a production.
MB: My nieces, Jamie and Jessie Brandmeier, my brother Jimmy’s kids, were the ‘brainchildren’ behind it. My girls acted in it, along with their cousins Ty and Josie.
MC: And the cover art of “Your Christmas Scene?”
MB: When I think of Christmas, along with everything else, I think of kids drawing pictures of their vision of a holiday setting. I wanted it to have that feel. So I had my three daughters help. Rachel, my oldest, drew the Santa going across the silhouette of the moon, and my twins Annalisa and Isabella, who turned 12 last month, did the trees, and I filled in the spaces. So it was a true family work of art (laugh).
Purchase and download Michael’s “Your Christmas Scene,” and add it to your holiday mix. You won’t regret it, because it truly is a wonderful Christmas song.