Arts & Entertainment

Off Track: raw talent

The term “raw talent” fits New York City singer-songwriter Jay Brannan to a “T.” He admits he knows little about the guitar, in fact he didn’t even know the names of the strings while writing most of his music. And yet, after just a few short years of open mic engagements and placement on the soundtrack of heralded indie film “Short Bus,” Brannan has been racing up the iTunes charts, with his new album goddamned breaking into the top 25 and now lingering in the top 100.

The reason for his success, despite his musical inexperience, is likely found in another definition of “raw.” Brannan seldom sensors himself on the album, shooting from the hip and leaving it to the listener to deal with the consequences. Already he’s fielded reviews on iTunes that bash him solely for his album title.

“I just don’t understand why there are certain words that you can or can’t say. What makes them dirty or bad?” He ponders. “I feel like if we talked about these things or these words then we can be more comfortable with them and that’s a healthy thing.”

The music is direct, with simple compositions leaving the waters clear and unmuddied for his lyrics, which touch on all manner of murky topics, such as chemical dependency, self-mutilation, flawed relationships and social and political injustice.

“I am as dark as it seems,” he says, ironically, while laughing. “Everyone uses humor as a coping mechanism to diffuse pain and anger. That’s sort of why I write, it’s a way for me to get this stuff off that’s been racing around in my head. Things like sadness and anger aren’t very socially acceptable emotions. If you don’t hide them to a certain extent, you get, I get a lot of criticism for it. But it’s weird how when you put them in a movie or put them in songs, people are a lot more comfortable around them in that form. But in real life people have a hard time handling it.”

Maybe the recent success will help adjust his mood, though there may be no need. After all, Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows has made a career out of depression despite walking through life with the world at his feet.