Hi Ranzel, welcome back to VENTS! How have you been?
So good, so good… I just got back from an inspirational trip to Costa Rica, where I played with the G-String Cowboys’ singer-songwriter Ken Nickell. Who plays barefoot live and has nice original songs. We spent two days perched high above the Pacific at his place near Ojochal, trading songs back-n-forth and talking music. Met him playing at the Bamboo Room Restaurant & Bar, where he came in passing out free brownies. Lots of adventure going and I keep meeting the neatest people in the world.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “What A Pretty Day”?
It was an absolute blast recording that song. My film buddy Andrew Saldana stopped by the day percussionist Norm Bergeron was hitting the slate tiles in the coffee table with a small mallet. I said, “Mic it up! That’s going in the song.” We captured Norm picking the best tiles and moving them to play, with the rest of us laughing at the cool sound. Then Becca stole the show with her great vocal performance, starting with: “Here we go boys!”
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
I kept hearing myself saying, “What a pretty day.” You don’t always listen when you’re talking to yourself, but then I’d say it again. Till it finally hit me… I should write the song. Had been playing a cool jazzy tune that fit it perfectly. So I just kept it simple, not too many words. Going for groove over cognitive message.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
I’ve got a short vignette video showing the backstory of the tiles posted on YouTube. But I would LOVE to see a good full-length video. My original thought was to offer a competition. Let everybody submit dance videos featuring their interpretations. I’d like to shoot some kids spoofing the song with mics, like they’re singing it live on stage.
The single comes off your new album Texas Sagebrush – what’s the story behind the title?
Sagebrush is the middle album of my 3-album Texas Series trilogy. It features colorful, abstract play-on-words art showing a “sage” of a character’s whiskers against the soft chin of a pretty woman’s face. The definition of sage? “A sage practices sagehood, which is linked to self-cultivation and the striving for balance, harmoniousness, and human perfection. A sage’s thinking is concerned with the relationship of himself with other human beings, and the relationship of human beings with the greater order of all things.” The album title hints at this while the cover art offers a lighter-side take.
How was the recording and writing process?
I like to include live cuts that can’t be duplicated. Catching the cuts where everybody’s feet lift off the ground is the goal. The songwriting ranges from The Fair Grass I wrote when I was fifteen camping in the woods, to Peace of Mind that sounds like an anthem for graduating college students, to Trouble & Pain that took 30-years to finish writing; to Private Miracle’s fairy tale kind of magical innocent love.
What made you want to seek a more rock direction rather than Country as you did last time?
One review of the album referred to how it sounds like it should be a soundtrack to a movie. I’m being careful to put the right blend of songs together on all three albums in the series. Texas Sagebrush starts and ends with Texas Roots music, just like Texas Paintbrush did and Texas Cactus will. Between the bookend roots songs, I take the listener on a journey with emotive licks and lyrics, stretching their horizons with both gentleness and intensity. Can’t leave Rock out of the Texas Music experience. Goes with the territory.
What aspect of Texas did you get to explore on this record?
I’d say I got to explore sharing a subtle inference to the history of my Texas life and lifestyle, from teenager to the young-spirited freestyle Frisbee guy, guitarist, singer-songwriter persona of today. Texas Roots is broad enough to include aspects of Americana and Singer-Songwriter, and that blend is what you get with my music.
How do you go about choosing what those aspects of the state are on each installment?
I choose the different “aspects” of Texas by living them. I’m not the kind to sit down and write songs about things I haven’t lived. That’s not authentic. I hate music like that. The more you don’t sit around talking about things you could do, the more you don’t sit inside staring at some screen on a computer, TV or smart phone… The more you live life to the fullest, the more you have to write from to share with others. My exploring, wandering path keeps me discovering new things about Texas and the rest of the world.
Any plans to hit the road?
Definitely, but not like people may expect. I’ve been in a constant wandering all summer and only stopped recently to start recording the last album in the series: Texas Cactus. Planning to go back to Central America around Thanksgiving and who knows where else between now and then. Playing wherever I go!
What else is happening next in Ranzel X Kendrick’s world?
I’m in preproduction on my fun “Happy Birthday 2u” song. I’ve never recorded it, and it is the best birthday song you never heard. It’s fun from beginning to end. After I played it for one older gentleman’s 100th birthday, he said he wanted me to play it at every birthdays he has left!
When I spoke with VENTS last, I said I wouldn’t be going to Russia or China any time soon. Then, lo and behold, I ended up in Moscow recording a song I wrote about PTSD at the famous Mosfilm Studios. I’m working with the brilliant composer-arranger Russian Artem Vassiliev, who did all the music for the Sochi Olympics. Creating a powerful song that speaks to the hope of victory for those suffering from PTSD, and their families and friends.