PHOTO CREDIT: Vladimir Weinstein
Dru Cutler discusses his latest album, his songwriting residencies and his video screenings for his latest single “Brain Place”
By Emily May
New York musician Dru Cutler recently released his latest record, “Bring Closer The Distance”, on which he told more personal stories and tried to reach out to the people who have been in his life. A multi-talented singer-songwriter, he has been described as “Ryan Adams meets Pink Floyd” and his music has been described as “both delicate and intense, offering the weight of indie rock alongside a much softer and acoustic ambiance”. Originally from Tampa, FL, Cutler now calls Brooklyn home. After moving to Brooklyn, Cutler co-founded a collective music space with 5 roommates called Unit J that has blossomed into a thriving musical community and has hosted showcases for Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, Sofar Sounds, Red Gorilla Music Festival and the Florida Music Festival. Cutler recently filmed a video for his song “Brain Place”, a song about longing for an authentic connection in an increasingly digital world. He had a video screening and live performance at Rockwood Music Hall on September the 13th and will host another screening and performance at Unit J on September the 15th. Cutler has also hosted two songwriting residencies in NY and has another one planned for the fall. You can stay up-to-date on his upcoming songwriting residency and all upcoming news and tour dates and can stream and purchase his music via the following links. You can check out “Brain Place” below.
Amazon Music- https://www.amazon.com/Bring-Closer-Distance-Dru-Cutler/dp/B079ZN4QSP
You will be releasing a new video on the 15th for your latest single “Brain Place”, a song you describe as being about longing for an authentic connection in an increasingly digital world.
The world can be an overwhelming nightmare. Just this morning, I received multiple calls from automated, fake numbers, asking for my support in the local election. Then I was followed up with a similar digital advertisement on social media. It’s scary. We all need a place, a sacred place, to decompress. Get away from it all. I call it the brain place.
What can you tell me about the making of the video? How did you meet and come to work with the director Jess Newman and producer Kaela Hill? Did you already have an idea of how you wanted the video to look or was it a collaborative effort?
Jesse Newman and I went to college in FL together. This will be the third music video we’ve collaborated on in the past 10yrs. We’re quite close.
It was my first time working with Kaela Hill, who’s an amazing art director, and suggested the futuristic look and feel of the video. We planned everything, including the color of the flowers on the dinner table.
Jesse and Kaela approached with a simple idea “what will the future be like if we don’t distance ourselves from our personal technology? Where will we end up?” I thought it was an interesting, and relevant question.
You are having a video screening and live performance on September 13th at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC. What can people expect from the evening and what are you looking forward to the most?
Rockwood (Stage 3) is a comfy listening room with a lovely grand piano. You’ll get a front row seat to the premiere of the video, plus an intimate concert with me and my incredibly talented Heart & Hand Band. I’ll tell the stories behind the songs, including a few tunes that have never before been played live.
You are having a second screening and performance on September 15th at Unit J. What prompted you to have two separate screenings and performances? I imagine this one will have a much more intimate feel!
New Yorkers are lazy. They don’t wanna travel across the bridge, so I’m hosting two shows. Unit J is my loft space and living room. Over the past six years, we converted it into a live music venue. It will be a rocking party with a screening of “Brain Place” followed by a full set of music with the Heart & hand Band. At some point, my dog Lucy will probably make an appearance on the stage.
You have mentioned having to invite audiences into your show and into the energy of it or they will stare at their phones all night. Do you feel that it is getting increasingly harder for a band to engage their audience in the age of smartphones and social media?
People expect entertainment everywhere. The engagement bar is annoyingly high now. It’s like, hey dude, sometimes you’re just waiting in line at the bank. Ya know? That’s your life at the moment. Just wasting the seconds away like the rest of us. Some parts of life simply aren’t interesting. Deal with it.
Sometimes I invite the audience into the show along with their technology. I’ll have an audience member come on stage and I’ll improvise a song based on their text messages. That usually keeps them entertained for about five minutes.
In July you hosted a songwriter residency at Niagara Bar in NYC, which had a new line up of songwriters each week who played songs influenced by a creative theme. You are also hosting one this month at Coney Island Baby in NYC! What have the responses been like and what have the experiences been like as a whole? Do you have any songwriting residencies planned going forward?
I was fascinated by the idea of a “solo songwriter” series. It seemed to buck the trend of incorporating a ton of technology and laptop backing tracks into a musician’s set, and I found that intriguing. The idea was: What can you do with your voice and your instrument? Ya know? It turns out you can do a hell of a lot.
I couldn’t find that type of “solo songwriter” event anywhere, so I just made it myself. I’m planning on hosting another one in the Fall.
You also released a video recently for “Familiar”, which was filmed in your loft. Since the song plays around with the idea of nostalgia, did that cause you to seek out the intimate setting of your loft? How did you come to work with director Jaclyn Gramigna? What was it like to have the video nominated for Best Music Video at the Palm Beach International Film Festival?
“Familiar” incorporated actual clips taken from real moments in my life. I submitted hours of iPhone videos dating back almost 10 years and they edited them into a story. Jaclyn was inspirational and thoughtful throughout the whole process. She submitted the video to the Palm Beach International Film Fest and we got accepted! I planned a tour down there (FL is my home state) and we got to watch in the screening room.
Unit J has a showcase every year at Northside Festival in Brooklyn. What were some highlights from this year’s showcase and from the festival in general?
This year, we packed two stages with twenty acts from Brooklyn and beyond. Every thirty minutes, a new act would rock in a different room, so the energy was always elevated. I remember at one point, looking out at a room full of smiling, sweaty folks just dancing and having a great time. The lights were flashing, the drinks were flowing and the bands were stemming. The feedback from the venue and the crowd was killer.