With smoldering good looks, model and musician Braeden Wright’s appeal is irrefutable. Hailing from Edmonton, Canada he was discovered at a concert after earning a degree in political science. Intent on pursing a career in music, fate would have other plans for the pulchritudinous youth. After a successful modeling career, Braeden could no longer resist the pull to pursue his passion for music. I chatted with him about his new LP What Once Was Gold (The Demo Sessions).
Tell us about your childhood in Alberta.
Alberta is an incredible place to grow up. I really do love Canada so much, and growing up there shaped a massive part of who I am. The people are diverse, open, and loving, and the long winters give you a lot of time to think. I spent so much time going for quiet walks in the snow, staring at the stars, and thinking about many of life’s big questions. I don’t think I’d be the same without growing up in that environment, especially without having been exposed to so many different cultures and people so openly as a child. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.
Tell us about how you were discovered.
I was discovered at a music festival in my hometown of Edmonton, Canada. I had gone out to see Chromeo and Broken Social Scene with my best friends, and during the show three separate scouts came up to me to give me their card. The agency was Mode Models (also home to the likes of Meghan Collison, Heather Marks, Simon Nessman, and Chad White), and they were pretty persuasive about having me come in. At the time, I was a bit shocked they had even approached me, but having three of them come up to me separately made me feel like giving it some serious thought. So I went in a couple of weeks later, had some photos taken, and before I knew it I was in New York at the head office for Calvin Klein, casting for their exclusive in Milan. The rest is history.
Modeling derailed your music career, at least temporarily. What convinced you to pursue music again?
I think derailed is maybe too strong of a word. Modeling is something that actually helped my music career quite a bit. Even when I wasn’t directly pursuing it, it was always in the back of my mind. Modeling gave me the opportunity to travel the world and evolve into the person I am now, and I don’t think who I was before any of this would have been truly ready to be a successful artist or musician. I am incredibly grateful for everything going exactly the way it went. I had always planned on getting back into music eventually, and finally I reached a point where I realized I was established enough in my modeling career that I could handle pursuing both passions. I had already accomplished so many of my own personal goals in modeling—walking exclusive for Calvin Klein, working for Versace, Tom Ford, and Ralph Lauren…it just felt like it was time to show more of who I am and expose a side of myself I had held in and worked to grow for so long behind the scenes. Then, after a really difficult breakup and a fresh move to Los Angeles from New York, everything just lined up right. I had an opportunity to finally just sit down and record and write. There was so much bottled inside that once I finally started, I just couldn’t stop.
Can you talk about the role music has played in your life.
Music has always been everything to me. Even at a young age, I felt this intrinsic need to play music—to sing along to whatever was playing or tap out the beat. Sometimes I have no control over it—it’s compulsive. I also have synesthesia and have strange relationships to sounds in my mind in ways that maybe some people don’t. I have a visceral connection to music that’s shaped my life in ways I wasn’t necessarily even aware of. It’s drawn me to places and things in life because that connection is so strong. It’s shaped my identity. My personal style was very much influenced by Britrock and what artists I loved were wearing. It influenced the people I gravitated toward, the things I tended to consume, and how I spent my time. I was always more content to lay in my room listening to an album on my bed than to go see a movie, or to just play guitar, or to write. Music has become my escape/catharsis when I need it. I’ve always been a massive music listener, but with writing, it’s an outlet. It’s a place for me to express myself and to create…to think and learn and grow in life, along with the music. I love writing, and I am always happiest when I am just singing. Even at young age, that always felt like the only thing I wanted to do, so when you finally get to do it, you feel the most like your true self. There is a huge energy behind that. So being able to find that and finally do it is what I think everyone dreams of in life—getting out and doing that one thing that they know is their thing, whatever the fuck it is. I am just grateful to feel like I know on that very deep level who I am and to live everyday trying to be my authentic self in the brightest way possible.
What were the influences and inspiration behind the making of What Once Was Gold (The Demo Sessions)?
Musically, I have always been influenced by ‘90s Britrock and post-Britrock. Bands like Oasis, Coldplay, The Killers, U2, Arcade Fire, and Ryan Adams have been huge for me, as well as the multitude of artists that either influenced their sound or were influenced by it: The Beatles on one end or Bon Iver on the other. At the same time, I have always loved pop music. Everything Max Martin has touched just hits me. The melodies and the song structures are so addictive. I love music that connects deeply in some way, either from the authenticity in its emotion or simply because it has a sound or melody that takes you somewhere else. I am also very influenced by ambient and sound design—people like Jon Hopkins and the legendary Brian Eno. So a lot of what you hear has bits of all of that, and I felt like each individual song has its own influences. It’s an album that has a spoken word electro-acoustic interlude on the one hand and a pop song on the other. It’s not all the same. But I wanted to try my best to tell a cohesive story, using all of the ways that felt natural to me. That story was about the heartache I was going through over a lost love and the eventual recovery. I think you will hear the arc in the record. There’s the hope to fix things, realization of the loss, and finding your way back. “Hold On to Your Love”—the final song—is all about the lessons learned and returning to the hope that one day that person, whatever shape she happens to take, and that love might still be there. It’s all very much reflective of what I was going through at the time—heart on its sleeve. I hope that comes across. I feel like it’s something that many people can relate to.
How do you think having autonomy shaped the sound of the album?
When you are writing something completely on your own—in control of every sound, every note, and every pronunciation of every line—it gives you the ability to create something very organic. Even if you make a mistake, maybe that mistake is meant to be there. At the same time, it can do your head in trying to get it right. You live with this thing over and over as it grows every day, and pieces get cut and regrow into something else. It definitely helped that I didn’t have some sort of box to fit into—I just wrote whatever was coming out that I couldn’t hold in. So every single song has truth to it. I wasn’t trying to create anything for the sake of making it to fit into a label demand or request of someone else. It was all a passion project. At the same time, I am my own biggest critic, so I was incredibly hard on myself at every step and every stage. Not having anyone there to tell me something was great when maybe it wasn’t really pushed me to try and get things as best as they could be with the tools and abilities I had while working alone in just a home demo studio. There was never any phoning it in, and there isn’t anything on there that didn’t have meaning to me. It all felt like it absolutely had to be there or it just wasn’t finished. The style and sounds were free to be whatever I envisioned. I think the fact that I had no one telling me what to do made me really try my best to make something real and something meaningful to me, and I think that was the guiding force that shaped the songs and spirit of everything in the end.
Thematically, how would you describe the sonic landscape of the album?
I mean, I have so many influences from alternative rock: Dreampop, Shoegaze, Stadium Rock…There are many sonic landscapes that have been absorbed into my own choices of instruments and sound textures and even how I play them based on the atmosphere I’m trying to create. The Edge is a huge, huge hero of mine. Same with Nick McCabe from The Verve. I love the blend of acoustic and electronic, so there is a lot of that. There is also a lot of reverb, a lot of tape delay, a lot of Waves plugins from Abbey Road to give tape saturation or a spring reverb, that kind of thing. I like to make sounds that are somewhere between dreamy, rock ‘n’ roll, and pop at the same time. I wasn’t afraid to use any instrument. On “Lover…” I bought and learned how to play harmonica the day I recorded the take. I knew what the melody was and I knew in my head it had to be a harmonica, so I just did it. Same with ”Hold on to Your Love”— there are acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, and ukulele parts played on top of each other to create a kind of folk/surf sound. There’s a band called The Thrills that I loved, whose album “Teenager” had a ton of mandolin and ukulele. And the sound I had in my head was exactly what you hear. I knew the only way for it to be right was to go out and buy the instruments myself and just learn to play them that day. If you have a good ear, they aren’t too different from guitar. I just made up the chords myself and did my own tunings a little bit, and it turned out to be just what I was looking for. The sound that I ended up with in that song makes me so happy because everyone asks what instrument it is. No one can quite tell, but at the same time, they describe the feeling of the sound exactly as I wanted them to feel it. I like that bit of mystery in blended sound textures like that. It’s one of the few ways left in songwriting that you can still be quite experimental, and that makes it such an adventure.
Creating music is such a catharsis. How did you feel once you completed the album?
When I finally finished this album, honestly it felt like a huge part of the search for myself had finally been completed. I had felt my whole life that I was this musician who could make this album… And yet I had never done it. I had nothing to show for what I had going on inside. So in that sense it was beyond satisfying. When I first played the whole finished thing for myself, that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Even if it didn’t have massive success or didn’t have a ton of fans, I just knew that I had finally done something that I had always desperately wanted to. That deep part of me that I held close to my identity was finally real. I could finally feel like who I was on the inside matched on the outside. At the same time, a lot of this album was written at a really sad and dark time for me, through a lot of heartbreak. Finishing this album was kind of like sealing up all of those emotions into this kind of goodbye love letter. That part of my life was over. I could move on. And I felt so fucking excited just for the present moment and whatever comes next. Between both of those things, it felt like such rebirth for me. I could finally breathe and be excited for who I am now—not what once was.
What can we expect from you next?
Between traveling and modeling, you can expect me to start playing this album live in and around Los Angeles soon. I am also still writing and working on new stuff. You can expect new covers on my social media and possibly some new singles in the future. I am also working on a music video for one of the tracks on the album, so I’m really excited about that. We’ll just have to see what the universe has in store for me next. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it.