The name Brandon Bee is synonymous with excellence, originality and innovation on both the artist and production side of the coin. In terms of his own work, the singer/songwriter/worship leader earned endless critical acclaim for 2009’s anthemic long player, This Is The Revolution (Save the City Records), followed by a showcasing of his stripped down and introspective side with the following year’s Surrendered EP. As a producer, the Seattle-bred Bee has worked with the diverse likes of Grammy Award nominee/Dove Award winner Stacie Orrico and Juno Award nominee/Island Award winner Matthew James; pop/rock favorites like Amber Pacific, Jaime Jamgochian and Lanae Hale; plus newcomers like Benjiman, 2009 Immerse winner Jake Brothers and indie folk-pop rising star Beth Whitney. Bee most recently produced Circleslide's exciting 2011 CD, Echoes of the Light.
“As a producer, I’m constantly pushing artists to stretch themselves and that carries over to me stretching myself whenever I’m creating for one of my own projects in the studio,” relates Bee of a trend that’s apparent throughout his sterling sophomore CD Inside These Walls (Save the City Records). “I’m always making sure no two songs sound exactly the same and I gain inspiration in constantly being around an artistic community bringing something fresh to the table.”
While it was only natural for Bee to pick up the primary production reigns throughout Inside These Walls, he also teamed with an all-star list of collaborators, including co-writes with Scott Krippayne (Jordin Sparks’ “This Is My Now”), Carl Cartee (“Glorious Impossible”) and Gabe Martinez (frontman for fellow Save the City artist Circleslide). Together, the team sought to shape a soundtrack to Bee’s observations and vast personal growth throughout a two-year tour in support of his debut disc.
“After being on the road for a few years, you start seeing needs, and though you can’t necessarily fill all of them, you start to realize there’s a lot of really great Christian people out there, but most of us don’t completely ‘get it’ all the time,” he muses. “We go through seasons where we live the life and seasons where we don’t, so thank God we are saved by grace. Realizing that many of us are going through the same types of things, I decided to make a record about my journey.”
Much of the groundwork for Bee’s personal history and testimony comes from his teen years, which were spent alongside his traveling minister parents on the road. However, like many pastor’s kids, he went through a season of questioning during his formative years, which were accompanied by feelings of distance and rejection from the church.
“It took three or four years to really navigate through that, but I came back a lot stronger and a lot more deeply rooted in the Word and what Jesus wants for me and us as Christians in general,” assures Bee of his growing pains. “After those years of fighting with myself, I eventually came to my senses and that realization is really summed up in the title cut. It’s a very metaphoric song that explains my journey, and the rest of the record is deeply connected to that song. Sometimes there are praises and sometimes there are questions, especially while I’m trying to balance life on the road with a family of seven” (Bee and his wife Leanne have five children).
On a worshipful note, tracks like “Majesty Reigns,” “The Everlasting Song” and “Bring Me To Life” have a congregational appeal wrapped around ethereal arrangements that could easily fit alongside the cannons of Hillsong United, Integrity or Vineyard. Cuts like “Helpless” and “Bones” have a more pensive spirit, with grittier musical accompaniment laying the groundwork for listeners to reflect in the midst of rocking out.
Bee’s songwriting has been compared to several CCM notables, starting with Jon Foreman and Sufjan Stevens when it comes to faith-driven songs that leave the messages open to interpretation. And in the vertical vein, the praise leader’s writing is evocative of Paul Baloche or Brenton Brown, very praise-centered and congregational. No matter what their style, Bee’s songs are always autobiographically inspired.
A run though of the musical influences on Inside These Walls can’t be complete without a mention of The Beatles and Queen or more recent groundbreakers like Kings of Leon, The Swell Season and Coldplay (particularly its colossal Viva La Vida album). But upon closer examination, there’s also an acoustic rock/piano pop undercurrent reminiscent of late gospel greats Larry Norman and Keith Green, demonstrating yet another layer of Bee’s diversity. Yet even more important than these creative strides is his desire for the disc to connect with audiences from all walks of life.
In fact, listeners who pay close attention are certain to note the devotional nature of Inside These Walls, which besides chronicling the many seasons of Bee’s life provides a series of life-lessons and morsels of daily encouragement. Fans can even look forward to a video devotional coming from the singer/songwriter himself in late 2011, which is sure to be an ideal bookend to the musical experience.
“Everybody needs to be reminded we’re all sinners and we all need a savior,” he says matter of factly. “My goal with Inside These Walls is that people will look at it as a devotional. For me personally, the process has allowed me to learn more about myself and why I need God, though my hope is that people see less of me and examine more within their own life. Even though my stuff may look a little different from theirs, we’re all going through this walk together.”