|Where did the concept come from to record and release songs from your iPhone? Originally it was a 5-track EP on Kickstarter released in hopes of raising money for an album.
I began co-writing in Nashville with other writers and friends and when we were done, we would record memos on our iPhones so that we wouldn't forget how the song went. I was really impressed with the quality of the recordings, and I had the idea of releasing songs that I recorded with my iPhone. I started to look into options for recording a new record, and came to realize that I didn't have the budget to record the album that I wanted - so I released the iPhone Sessions EP as a means to raise money and fund the making of a new record.
How did it end up ballooning into an 11-track compilation, "Hope, Vol. 1", featuring your fellow Nashville recording artists?
The iPhone Sessions EP received such a good response that I didn't want to stop there - I wanted to do something more. I had really been convicted by the way that I felt homeless were being treated in our community and I wanted to do something about it, but I didn't know how. I volunteered with my friend Adam Agin (of Neulore) and served the homeless with a charity called People Loving Nashville (one of the charities that the iPhone Sessions: HOPE VOL. 1 is benefiting), but I left wanting to do more. I considered the idea of doing a benefit show, but later bridged the gap between wanting to do another iPhone Sessions project and benefiting the homeless - I also particularly liked the idea of involving some of my friends and working together a community.
What is some of the feedback you've heard on your iPhone sessions EP and compilation? I have to admit, quality wise, I wasn't expecting much -- but the sound is surprisingly good.
Most everyone seems surprised by how good the songs actually sound - and then they are even more surprised to find out that all we used was Voice Memo.
How do people go about purchasing "Hope, Vol. 1", and what does the money go towards?
The iPhone Sessions: HOPE VOL. 1 can be purchased from http://www.iphonesessions.com through a "pay-what-you-want" platform called Noisetrade. It allows listeners to pay what they want for the music - meaning that anyone of any financial status can afford it. Every penny that we raise is going to People Loving Nashville and Nashville Rescue Mission which are both charities serving the homeless community in Nashville.
Has the homelessness problem in your hometown and the country as a whole been something on your radar for a while, or is this something you've learned more of recently?
It's always been something that I've noticed, but I don't know that it's been something I've felt a deep conviction to do something about until recently - which is sad to me. I feel that there are few organizations that are approaching the root of homelessness - instead we have government initiatives to hide and push the homeless out of town. I have a really strong desire to do something for the homeless in my community - something deeper than going to a homeless shelter and giving an hour of my time. That's why, I have put this project together, and that is why we are giving money to the two charities that we have chosen. Both charities are approaching the homeless community with respect and dignity and are exploring remedies to actually end homelessness. I think the iPhone Sessions: HOPE VOL. 1 is a testament that you can do something to better the world and your community with the resources you have. All we used were things that we already had - our iPhones and instruments.
I noticed the "Hope" sessions were titled, "Vol. 1" (I have eagle eyes...). Are there any plans for a "Vol. 2"?
There will be a VOL 2 in 2011, but there aren't any solidified plans yet - other than it will have a different line up of artists and will serve different charities.
For the record, the Kickstarter project I alluded to earlier was a success. How does it feel to have your fans come through for you like that?
These days, all you hear about is how the music business is in such bad shape, and how no one buys music, and how piracy is at an all time high. It feels overwhelming to have such supportive fans amidst such a strange time in the music business.
What are the prospects for another studio album now that you have the funding? It's been almost five years since your last LP, and nearly two since your last studio EP. I'm guessing you're itching to get back to the grind?
A new full length studio album is under way, but it's still in it's early stages. Right now, I'm doing some last minute writing, working on arrangements, and doing pre-prodcution work.
What should we expect of Justin Branam in 2011? Touring? Writing? Recording? Any different projects lined up?
You can expect a new full length album, some touring, plenty of writing, the iPhone Sessions: HOPE VOL. 2, and likely an off the wall project or two. If you would have asked me this question a year ago about 2010 though, my answer probably would have been completely off - so I imagine this year will hold as many surprises for me as anyone else. We'll see what happens.