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Meet Brenda Carsey

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brenda Carsey.

Brenda, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have been studying music and performing since the age of five, from choirs, orchestras, and marching bands to national anthem performances to rock, pop, folk, hip hop, and electronic groups (Feral Kizzy, Cesar Saez), stage shows (Cabaret Versatile), and solo projects (Brenda Carsey & the Awe, Side Show, eminent.ruth). I began in choir in pre-school to first grade, played clarinet in marching bands and wind symphonies from third grade to seventh grade, then switched back to choir and actively performed with competitive traveling choirs from eighth grade to twelfth grade and continued collegiately performing in choir and studying voice and music at large for the duration of my college experience at CSULB Bob Cole Conservatory of the Arts. My primary self-accompanying instruments are piano and guitar. I currently play out live solo, with a string section/backing vocalist, and/or as Brenda Carsey & the Awe, a full band consisting of 4 to 9 pieces depending on the show. I have been featured on 8 different albums that I can remember, but definitely more than that. 5 of those albums are mine. 2 are for Feral Kizzy. My first full-length studio album Solitary Refinement dropped July 16th 2017. The album features the Awe and was engineered and co-produced by Brian Frederick of Hybrid Studios and Stacks FX, who has worked with names like DJ Quik, Whiz Khalifa, Isabella Summers (the Machine of Florence + the Machine), and the Backstreet Boys on their 20th anniversary record. I successfully ran a big Kickstarter campaign to finance that album and that, coupled with a slew of other things, began the crazy journey I have been on for the last couple years.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has most definitely not been a smooth road along the way. I have dealt with people being extremely unreliable and not showing up, band members with drug issues, and harassment both verbally and physically from men in the industry. And those are the common occurrence struggles. I’d like to share 3 bigger struggles with you that definitely made me who I am today and brought me to where I am now.

From 2008 to 2011 I was in an abusive relationship with someone who did not understand or support my passion for music and live performances. I feel like that story is best saved for another interview perhaps, but that relationship filled me with a heaviness and lack of confidence for a few years to follow. On the bright side in a dark comedy way, there are songs on 3 of my albums that were inspired by my experience with that relationship.

In 2012 I was laid off of my first and only legit office job. I had worked for the company for 2 years. Then, without any notice whatsoever, I was laid off. At this time I was living solo. I lost my place due to not being able to afford it without my job. I put all of my stuff into storage and ended up living out of a suitcase for a year. During that year, I did a 2 week silent Vipassana mediation retreat, went on tour with my then band Feral Kizzy, went on tour with my own band who was at that time touring a guitar album I had released called “Lazy Daze”, and went on a long road trip with friends. Living out of a suitcase with no actual home or grounding at that time with so much coming up and so much happening was different for me, freeing in a way, and I did enjoy it all. Once all of those adventures came to an end, I found myself horribly depressed with no idea of what to do next in my life. I was living in the practice space my guitarist owned that we used for the band. There were no windows, there was no kitchen, there were fumes coming in from the auto body paint shop next door, I had bloody noses every single day, and there were mice. It was horrible. And I became more depressed. I was still performing and touring with Feral Kizzy all the time and was playing and touring solo too. But I was depressed behind it all. Staying in bed till 3pm in the dark, not changing my clothes. I mean, I was living in a rehearsal studio with access to so many instruments and gear and I hardly played music. It was bad. I had to think to myself, what am I doing with my life? What do I want with my life? I want to play music. OK so how are you going to do that? I don’t know, I feel stuck in Long Beach. The beautiful city that had given me so much and incubated my growth, who carved and molded me into who I was now feeling more like a tether holding me a back. I felt like I was stuck up on a long plateau with no way off. I wasn’t growing any more. Then I thought to myself, fuck I’m going to have to move to Los Angeles. (Side not, most people from Long Beach dislike LA in a deep way, and I was part of that.) But I knew all I wanted to do was music. I forced myself to get out of the rehearsal studio, couch surfed with friends around Long Beach, changing homes every half week, then finally found a place in LA in Historic Pilipino town, and moved. It was scary. I had no friends, no contacts, no job in LA, nothing but a home. For the first year of me living in LA, I drove to Long Beach three days a week to nanny and for Feral Kizzy rehearsal.

Since July of 2013, I have lived in the same crazy house with 5 other people, a rotating line up of people moving in and out. It has been a very difficult place to live. With my being dedicated to music, art, and events, I have not yet been able to have the amount of monthly income needed to move out into a better situation. I tell myself every day the things about this house I am thankful for — my room, a parking spot, the closeness to the neighborhoods I love and closeness to the freeways — but it is a constant battle of convincing myself things are OK. My landlord who lives with us has been slowly losing his health for years. I have multiple times now cleaned up poop he has drug across the floor without knowing it was stuck to his shoe, picked up his trash, taken him to the hospital, and more. I have dealt with crazy people crazily picking paint off of walls, hoarding and holding on to trash, leaving bloodied tampons out in the bathroom and finding them teaming with ants, private hairs not washed down the drain or cleaned off the toilet. I have dealt with people not cleaning their dishes nor throwing away their rotted food. I have dealt with people not being responsible for themselves, their actions, their choices, and how those choices effect other people. When all is said and done and I can move on and look back on this whole experience, I feel I can see its importance in my life of teaching me greater patience, compromise, and stepping up to offer service to those who are not able to help themselves. More importantly, it has deepened my connection and love for myself, my perspective, my choices and way of doing things. And in a less deep way, living in the house has motivated me to work hard and never be home which lead me to always being out, going to shows, playing shows, recording, traveling, and saying yes to any work that comes my way.

All of these struggles have helped to make me a hard-working, self-respecting, strong, and tenacious woman. I am able to deeply know myself, empathize and connect with others, and experience most anything that is thrown at me in a healthy way. There is always a lesson to be learned. Some sort of light to find in all the darkness.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Brenda Carsey – what should we know?
First and foremost, I am a musician. I am a vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. I play both solo and with a band of changing players and changing instrumentation. I play solo as myself, and when the band comes together, we perform as “Brenda Carsey & the Awe”. We deliver an engaging, energetic show, seamlessly mixing a unique blend of Alternative Soul, R&B, Progressive Rock, and Trip Hop. We have an unmistakable sound that is modern and unique while somehow simultaneously a retro call to music from the 1950’s, the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, and the 1990’s.

I have thus far played at heavy hitting music festival Lightning in a Bottle (2017), Feed LA Festival (2016), and Echo Park Rising Festival (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018)! I have toured the entire Western US from San Diego to Seattle, to Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and also Nashville and New York.  I have been lucky to bring my music to The Teragram Ballroom, The Bootleg Theater, The Moroccan Lounge, The Satellite, The Hotel Cafe, Harvard & Stone, Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, The Federal Bar, and The Lost Knight (to name a few).

Throughout my years of playing music, I got really tired of how some in-house bookers and many third party promoters treated musicians. I hated seeing so many musicians and artists give their power away to these venues, taking crap deals, not negotiating for themselves, paying to play, having basically no business sense whatsoever. I also got really tired of bookers slapping bands together on a bill without consideration to genre, scene, vibes, community… nothing. Most places and people book with an “every band for themselves” policy. Meaning the bands don’t promote or market together, the band only does their set time, thus their fans only come for their set then leave. This never made sense to me. This is not beneficial for the venue, the bands, the audience, the city at large.

So, for the past 6 years I have been curating and booking almost every show myself that my band plays. I do this to ensure a good turnout all night long and to create the energy and vibes I want at my shows. In 2015, I began booking shows in partnership with another local booker for other bands, shows that I wasn’t playing myself. I was good at it. I got a lot of compliments on how detailed I was, how much more I cared and showed support than other bookers these bands had worked with before. Between me booking shows for myself and for other bands too (not just locally but anywhere I went), I figured I should make a name for what I was doing. In 2016 Wonder & Awe Productions was born. Wonder & Awe Productions brings you thoughtfully curated event experiences from start to finish with a focus on inclusion, community, self-expression, and a deep passion for music and multi-media art forms. All walks of life are welcome to come together for moments of complete presence, joy, curiosity, wonder, and awe.

Wonder & Awe Productions is curated by music, art, and community enthusiast Brenda Carsey, who is also a musician and artist. There is a deep passion, attention to detail, and sincere love in the events Carsey curates. Events range from full band lineups with visual projection art and costuming to art shows to intimate house concerts to singer-songwriter focused open mics. Wonder & Awe Productions actively curates events throughout all of Los Angeles, CA and has also curated events in Long Beach, Sacramento, San Francisco, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and New York, NY. Wonder & Awe Productions has been bringing people together since 2016.

Besides booking great shows with great bands and great vibes, I think another thing I am very well known for in Los Angeles in the weekly musicians open mic I ran at The Lost Knight for over 2 years. (The venue recently closed earlier this year, which was a really big hit to the community). It gave so many singer songwriters a platform and chance to be heard with a pro stage, pro announcement, pro lighting, and pro sound (I audio engineered, emceed, ran, curated, booked a featured artists each week, and just about lost my brain every Tuesday night hahah). The event began in January 2016 with 6 performers and ended in March of 2018 with 80 people lining up through the venue for the chance to perform one song. But more importantly, this was the first stage for so many, this was home base. We became a large family. And now, so many of these fine folks are out performing, booking their own shows, traveling, crediting my open mic as the beginning and source for where they are now. For me, that is priceless. That event changed me too, for the better, in many ways.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Honesty, constant clear communication, attention to detail, punctuality, professionalism, practicing and playing often, a willingness to change, and definitely showing up for others.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Chris Camargo
Alexandra Herstik
Alex Madison
Tomas Urbano
Chris Camargo
Justin Higuchi
Mathew Tucciarone
Chris Camargo

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