New Straits Times

Music in his genes

Singer-songwriter Brendan De Cruz is always challengin­g his limits, writes Dennis Chua


PASSIONATE and persistent are two words that best describe singer-songwriter Brendan James De Cruz. The seemingly-reserved 29-year-old from Petaling Jaya is a powerhouse once he gets on stage, singing and strumming his guitar. While pursuing a filmmaking course(he is a movie buff), Brendan was quick to realise that music was his one true love.

Leaving his daytime job as a videograph­er to become a full-time musician late last year, he did not regret his decision.

“Music is in my genes. My late father and elder brother were outstandin­g musicians and I literally grew up in their concerts, even singing in the latter’s fivepiece band,” he said in a recent interview.

Brendan is the son of the late journalist and musician Errol De Cruz who had worked in The Malay Mail and New Straits Times.

An Elvis, Johnny Cash and Rolling Stones fan, he was a regular spectator at the gigs of his father’s band, The Drifting Cowboys, around the country.

Brendan was also the vocalist of his elder brother Christophe­r’s band, Shoelace Untied, during his days at Catholic High School, Petaling Jaya.“We played as a band for three years, at birthday parties, family reunions and weddings.

“As a child, I told my father that I would love to follow his footsteps, and while he gave me the nod, I had to graduate with at least a diploma.”

After secondary school, Brendan pursued a diploma in film, audio engineerin­g and 3D animation at a private college in Section 19, Petaling Jaya.

Graduating in 2009, he subsequent­ly became a videograph­er for various companies, most notably YTL Corporatio­n.

“At one stage of my diploma course, I did think of becoming an independen­t filmmaker. However, I eventually decided that my film skills would be put to better use making music videos for myself and other musicians.”

For four years after graduation, Brendan performed in open mics around the country. “I was mostly based in KL and PJ, but I also visited George Town and Johor Baru, where the independen­t music scenes are pretty lively,” he said, adding that he learnt to play the guitar from his father and brother during his schooldays.

“I learnt to pen my own songs in school. Most of my themes involved personal experience­s, travelling and meeting interestin­g people.”

Citing Damien Rice as one of his major musical influences today, Brendan is most at home with folk-pop.

“Fusion between genres is enriching because new sounds are created, and I love to think out of the box when it comes to music,” he said, adding that he also enjoyed playing golden oldies by Johnny Cash (his father’s favourite singer), and Kris Kristoffer­son.

Brendan had his big break when he won second prize in radio station Red FM’s contest YouTube To YouLive in 2012.He then had his first major concert, Urbanscape­s, in Genting Highlands two years later.‘I finally struck gold bagging Fly FM’s Artiste Of The Month for September 2016.”

Brendan is currently promoting his second EP, Black, which was released in August 2017. Comprising four songs, it is a milestone for him because it marks his first Bahasa Malaysia number, Jatuh.“Jatuh is a personal story about falling out with some childhood friends. It’s pretty sad but I believe time will heal.” His first EP, Even So, was released in September 2016. Containing seven songs which he wrote and composed, it earned him a top spot on radio station Hitz’s MET Chart Show last year.“My lucky number was titled I Don’t Want To Need You, about avoiding toxic and pessimisti­c people.”

As for the title track, it was Brendan’s tribute to his father, who died at 59 in 2013.“It’s unfortunat­e that he didn’t get to see my singing career take off. Neverthele­ss, my mother and siblings are supportive of me, and that’s a sign that he is, too.”

Brendan, who has performed more than 200 gigs to date, roped in reputable mas- tering engineer from the United Kingdom, Peter Maher, to help in Black.

“I’m so glad I got hold of him. He’s worked with some major singers and groups — U2, Rolling Stones and Lana Del Rey.”Brendan will soon collaborat­e with the band Nadir for a rock song that incorporat­es traditiona­l music.

“I’m good friends with its leader Ashvin Gobinath, and he’s agreed to be my producer. We’ll work on it later this month and we expect to release it in October.”

Brendan recently performed at the Sime Darby Foundation Arts Festival 2018 at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPaC).

“It was my first appearance there, and I met many fresh talents. I may collaborat­e with them in the future.” Brendan’s longterm plan is to perform overseas, preferably in internatio­nal music festivals.

“I’m not in a hurry to do this, but I’ll grab it if given a chance.” He said that fans can check out his latest projects on his YouTube channel­esdecruz

“Music always makes my day. As long as I play or listen to it, I’m on top of the world.”

Fusion between genres is enriching for me, because new sounds are created, and I love to think out of the box when it comes to music.

Brendan De Cruz

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