IF YOU GO
What: Brett Dennen featuring Ben Sollee.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.
Admission: $18 in advance, $20 day of.
Venue website: www.track29.co.
Even when he's trying to break your heart, Brett Dennen wants you to feel good.
In an intro to his fourth album, "Loverboy," released April 12, Dennen writes: "This album is about having fun and letting go, even if it hurts."
After years of being described as a mellow folk singer/songwriter, the California-based artist decided it was time to make people dance. Despite this new direction, however, Dennen said he wasn't ready to sacrifice his intensely personal, socially conscious songs for the sake of a groove.
"Loverboy" represents a compromise between the need to move people and to get them to move, Dennen said during a phone interview earlier this month before he set out on an extensive national tour in support of the album.
"I still talk about a lot of the same things; it's very personal and about things I'd like to change about myself or about the world," he said. "It's still very sincere.
"Maybe I'm saying some of the same things that I've always said, but at least I have a chance to say them in a new way or a different way."
Wednesday, Dennen will see whether that hybrid approach was successful when he takes the stage at Track 29.
Dennen first developed his high-pitched, expressive vocals as a teen while working as a camp counselor in California. Around the campfire, he put his fledgling skills as a guitarist and mandolinist to the test while playing the music of folk artists from the '60s and '70s.
He began writing his own songs while serving as a guitarist in a band he formed with his cousin at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Once he discovered a knack for expressing himself with words, though, Dennen was hooked and was no longer content with being an instrumentalist.
On his own, Dennen began writing songs for a nonprofit he founded called the Mosaic Project. While working on an album for the organization, he also assembled material for a self-titled debut, which he released in 2004.
Since then, he has appeared on numerous late-night shows and has toured in support of artists such as Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz and Dave Matthews. His music has been used by numerous TV series, including "House," "Scrubs" and "Parenthood."
Despite his success, Dennen said he has only ever been interested in remaining true to himself.
"I'd rather just do what I do and not be worried if it's going to be massively successful or not," he said. "If it catches on, that's great. If it doesn't, that's fine. At the end of the day, I did what I want to do."
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...