Word Label Group
Release Date: September 7th 2018
Reviewed by: Jonathan Andre
- Wherever I Go
- How Do You Love Me
- Up Again
- Speak to Me
- Going Together
- The Way
- It Would Have Been Enough
Dan Bremnes. What does this artist have in common with others like Hawk Nelson, Love & the Outcome, The City Harmonic, Matt Maher, Tim Neufeld, Starfield, Relient K, Manafest, Marc Martel, downhere and Amanda Cook? Yes, you guessed it, Dan is Canadian. And yes, good quality artists can come from outside the U S of A. No seriously, there is a whole different talent outside the U.S. and Dan here from Canada has delivered such quality in his debut album that he released in 2015 titled Where the Light Is when he signed to Sparrow Records (the album featuring his chart-topping hit single ‘Beautiful’). Fast forward three years or so and we see Dan sign to another major CCM label, Word Records, and with another project, this time a 7 song EP titled Wherever I Go. Featuring songs that have been released as singles throughout the year, from ‘Going Together’ and ‘Up Again’ to ‘How You Love Me’ and ‘Wherever I Go’, the title track, this little offering by Dan is enough to whet our own appetites and to keep us intrigued and excited to what Dan may have in store for us in the future, if and whenever he releases a full length album on Word Records (at a later undisclosed date…maybe). Nevertheless, despite the short nature of the track listing of the EP, Dan’s passion and fervent energy is very much present. Throughout much of this EP in general, Dan has delivered songs that have a positive message just like his songs from a few years ago, but also songs that can have more of a universal appeal, reminding us that a song doesn’t necessarily have to have the words ‘Jesus’ or ‘God’ there for Him to use it as He sees fit. In fact, I think it’s great that Dan’s songs of late are more ‘mainstream-y’, providing more of an uplifting alternative to whatever is currently on the radio right now. Yet, Dan still reminds us all that it is first and foremost God and the gospel, Christ and living the Christian life; ever the while expanding on his own musical horizons, one that has allowed him to release much of his songs on Wherever I Go, much of which can be impacting to those who love Christian music, mainstream music or both!
‘Going Together’, ‘How You Love Me’, ‘Up Again’ and ‘Wherever I Go’ are the 4 tracks that have been released to iTunes throughout the year prior to the EP release a few days ago, with all these four songs delivering a different musical style, while still conveying the heart and truth of what Dan himself is passionate about- the ability and vulnerability of doing life together and not alone, realising that this journey of life is meant to be discovered with the lens of awe and wonder rather than cynicism and uncertainty. ‘Going Together’, originally released last year November but re-released on iTunes in February of this year, at the heart, is a love song from Dan to his wife, reminding her of the adventure they are both on together which is marriage. It is a song that can be sung by couples, for couples, be a song that can help couples through difficult times, but maybe even more than that, it can be a reminder for people, not just couples, that the key of going through life is to go it together with the people we care about and love. It may not have to be spouses if we’re not married yet, it could be friends and family, but the takeaway message here is to not do life alone.
And while the song draws upon Dan’s own personal experience of being married to his wife for around a decade or so, the song itself is very much relatable to anyone who wants to be reminded and encouraged to travel on this journey of life together with loved ones. And yet, the song itself is a pure pop-CCM track standing at 2:56 in length…and that’s ok. Christian music is often criticised for not being artistic enough, or not being powerfully eloquent, or musically ingenious…and maybe some of such criticisms are valid, maybe some aren’t. Nevertheless, a song doesn’t have to be musically grandeur or lyrically sophisticated or profound for it to still impact and encourage- for we have artists like Jason Gray, Jars of Clay, Andrew Peterson, Nichole Nordeman, Steven Curtis Chapman and JJ Heller for lyrically impacting moments, within the CCM circle. No, Dan has to be himself, and ‘Going Together’ and his new EP is a result of his authenticity and passion to present these songs with much of his life experience attached to it as possible!
‘Up Again’ is another ‘pre-release’ song that ventured its way to iTunes also in February 2018, again another catchy super-pop melody that is only a tad below 3 minutes. Full of ‘ooohhhh’s and electronic percussion; ‘Up Again’ itself is a moment of motivation, that has this at-a-glance quasi-self-help song (of which it can be initially assumed from face value), remind us all to look deeper into a track before we make snap judgements. Which I did initially. Until I delved deeper within ‘Up Again’ and realised that this song is as much needed in a society like this than the newest worship song that is currently sung to death at church services right now. It is when I realised the emotional attachment this song has to Dan especially that I can appreciate a song like this more and more, and as Dan relays to us all, ‘…music can be a really up and down journey, and I lost my mom a few years ago in a car accident. And I remember sitting in the writing room and just started writing a letter of what I would tell my mom. You know, when you’re down, you want to talk to your mom, no matter how old you are. But unfortunately, I can’t. So I just remember being really honest with the guys in the room and explaining what happened and how I was feeling. So then we just started writing the lyrics. And in the song, there is a callback of what she would probably say to me: “Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. You can get up again.” And so for me, it was an emotional day writing that song. And it’s also encouraging because no matter how many times you fall, you can get up again…’ Knowing this track was kind of therapy for Dan in dealing with the loss of his mum, I am impressed at the universal reach of ‘Up Again’, and a poignancy that calls on each of us to get up again when the chips are down, when the odds are stacked against us and the devil is laughing in our faces. This is a song full of hope and positivity, and together with ‘Going Together’, Dan continues to press on to make music with an authentic atmosphere, straying away, just a little, from the cookie-cutter CCM that Where the Light Is was baked in in 2015, while still staying true to his acoustic/pop/CCM that has been is foundation throughout much of his music career.
‘Wherever I Go’, the title track, is a unique one by Dan, as this 2:59 length melody sparked what can only be described as an adventure and an experience that allowed Dan to travel many countries around the world. For Dan to film his music video of the track, he visited places like Iceland, Italy, Jordan, Dubai, Egypt, India and China, and even set out on an eight day trip, complete with a film crew to compile footage into a documentary, to accompany the song itself. What has resulted is a music video that I reckon ought to be a shoe-in for the Short Form Video of the Year at next year’s Dove Awards- it’s that ingenious and inspiring. Musically and lyrically we are reminded that God is with us wherever we go, though often a cliché lyric and message, is nevertheless a timely one as we need to be constantly reminded of His presence in our lives, especially in the moments we can’t ‘feel’ Him. The current radio single, ‘Wherever I Go’ ‘…which has 1.2M+ on-demand streams, is Top 20 at radio and climbing, and shows no sign of slowing as it is also a Top 10 researching record across the U.S…’ ‘How You Love Me’, track #2 and the follow-up promotional track after ‘Wherever I Go’, is a laid-back acoustically driven 3:26 song about how awe-inspiring and uncomprehending God’s love really is. The lyrical words that remind us ‘…how do You love me? How do You love me, love me like You do so well? How do You love me? How do You love me, love me like nobody else? It’s a crazy kind of mystery that I can’t understand but You’re showing me again and again how You love me…’ is a moment of realisation, when we figure out that God’s love is way more unconditional than we can ever know, and so, we are grateful and thankful for that. With the song also being recorded live in Sun Studios (a studio where the greats like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded once upon a time) and a music video being filmed as a result, ‘How You Love Me’ and ‘Wherever I Go’ both are standouts on this EP, and are some of my favourite Dan Bremnes songs…ever!
‘Speak to Me’, ‘The Way’ and ‘It Would Have Been Enough’ are the remaining songs on the EP, and while much of these 3 have more of a mellow subdued sound compared to the aforementioned four, the songs nevertheless still speak volumes to whomever hears it, and conveys the very best of what Dan and his music has to offer. ‘Speak to Me’ has a bit of a mowtown-gospel feel as we are met with a prayer of wanting the Lord to speak to us in a way so that we can definitely hear Him and know it is Him- because, if we’re honest, God always is speaking, and it is us that often aren’t hearing. This song brings it back to posturing our hearts towards Him with a moment of saying ‘Lord, yes, speak to me and I am listening, away from all the distractions that are before me!’. ‘The Way’ (no, not ‘The Way’ by Tim Hughes from a few years ago, but rather a new recorded song of the same name!), is yet another song that is created into a music video, as Dan strips the song down with just acoustics an a light percussion presence, to allow a song like ‘The Way’ to shine- shine a message that God has a way for us to be made more like Him, and whether it is done through trials or triumph, we don’t know and maybe, that isn’t the point. Trials in our life is not evidence enough to say God doesn’t exist, but rather, it is during these times, of which God doesn’t create but use nonetheless, that we can discover things about us and about the Lord we may not have discovered had this trial may not have happened originally.
As Dan puts it, ‘…the past few years have had their share of ups and downs and it’s easy to think when things are going well that I’m being rewarded, or when they fall apart I’m being punished. Both are wrong. I’m learning that sometimes grace means getting what I don’t deserve, but sometimes it means I don’t get what I think I deserve… Both are gifts. Both shape us into the people we’re called to be. Pain and joy aren’t the point or a permanent destination, they are the great ushers into the future transformed self…’ ‘It Would Have Been Enough’ ends the EP is acoustic style as Dan uses this track to present the gospel inside 3 and a half minutes, as we realise all the things that God did to bring us back to Him, from the fall to sending Jesus down to us, to Him dying and rising again, all these things along the way, at any point, would’ve been enough for us to come home to Him (hopefully), yet God still pursued us to the point of even coming as a human and surrendering to death on a cross, humbling Himself even to the point of suffering and ridicule, for us, for people who may or may not call Him Saviour and come into His kingdom when all is said and done. That is true love right there, and Dan maybe even saves his most meaningful song as an EP ender. Well done Dan for such a song that is full of lyrical ingenuity, and a hopeful game-changer in people’s lives whenever they hear it in the upcoming months ahead!
So there you have it, Dan Bremnes on a new label, and with a new EP a few years later. No seriously, check out his music, especially the songs ‘Beautiful’ and ‘Where the Light Is’ of a few years ago, and then hear these new songs that are from an album that is a unique and different, though still very valid, chapter that the Lord has continued to place Dan upon. While the songs are on a holistic view much more universal in nature and message (except for the last song that is very much gospel in song!), that doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t use it any less. Dan continues to be faithful to his God and family, and this EP is a testament to that. Dan continues to impress, and is a must listen if you love acoustic-folk-CCM, Canadian artists, or both. Well done Dan for such powerful songs, can’t wait to a full length album…maybe next year?
3 songs to listen to: Up Again, How Do You Love Me, The Way
RIYL: Matthew West, Tim Neufeld, Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real