HomeInterviewsHappy Mondays with the R&B/soul rock trio, Bryan Hansen Band

Happy Mondays with the R&B/soul rock trio, Bryan Hansen Band

Bryan Hansen Band’s R&B, jazz and funk-fueled rock tunes never fail to get show-goers dancing and losing themselves in the music. This Edison-based trio consists of Bryan Hansen on guitar and lead vocals, Will Blakey on bass and backing vocals and C’wan Merritt on drums. From Hansen’s soulful vocals that deliver relevant, sincere lyrics and his rock/blues guitar elements to Blakey’s grooving bass lines and Merritt’s talent for laying down a tight pocket drum line, each member brings their own style to the band. Together, they put on an energetic live show featuring songs that are, as they say, “pure smooth R&B sexiness.”

The Pop Break had the opportunity to interview the Bryan Hansen Band all about the sounds that each of them bring to their music, their mantra that drives them, and everything you need to know about their upcoming second album, Gas Money.

Where’s home base for the Bryan Hansen Band: We are an NJ-based band, and currently based out of Edison, which is where Bryan Hansen is from. Will Blakey is from Hillside, and C’wan Merritt is from Newark.

Where are some of your favorite places to perform? What is it about these places that you like so much: Some of our absolute favorite places to play are Dragonfly Music & Coffee Cafe in Somerville, as we really got to develop our sound and style as a band there. It’s such a warm and nurturing environment to musicians, with its own built-in following, that we had the chance to really come into our own as a band there. We also used to enjoy places such as the Court Tavern and Cava Winery. Unfortunately Cava closed down this year though. We have played at many venues across the Tri-State area, but ultimately, Dragonfly is our favorite. We consider that our home base.

How do the genres of funk, rock, soul and R&B influence your music? How do elements of these genres come out in your songs: We find that we are heavily influenced by all of those genres pretty evenly. Bryan has a background style based in rock, blues and soul. C’wan is very much soul and R&B, and Will is rock and funk. When we combine these elements through each member of the band, you get elements of each of those styles in our music. C’wan will definitely lay down a tight pocket drum line reminiscent of old school R&B, or Motown. Bryan will bring a nice rock/blues Riff to the mix. His vocals are all soul.

In fact, we’ve met & performed for Lenny Green of WBLS twice, and he’s even interviewed us on the radio twice before. He called Bryan “Blue Eyed Soul” every time he see’s him. Finally, Will gives you those funk elements, usually with percussive slap, or grooving bass lines. He is very heavily influenced by bass players such as Flea and Victor Wooten. We are also frequently told that there are elements of jazz in our music. We were once classified as “Jazz-Pop” in an article that was written about our last album.

I like that you have a mantra that helps you push through long recording sessions and practices. What does “Make It Do What It Do” mean to you and how would you explain this expression: That phrase is something that C’wan starting using one day. We find that it definitely pushes us through those moments within the studio, and even beyond. When we’re tired, beat down, frustrated, disappointed, or even sick, all it takes is one of us to say it, and Boom! We’re ready to rock. That expression motivates and drives us so much. It reminds us that we do all of this because we love it, and no matter what, the show must go on! We’re a very energetic live band, and people expect that from us. We can’t let outside forces change that. We give 1000% in everything we do.

From your previous album When You Stop Pulling Back to your upcoming second album, how has your music evolved over the past couple of years: This album will show an evolution in the “drive” element. In the past Bryan would write the music, and Will and C’wan would just contribute their own parts. This album, Will also wrote a lot of the music. So you get that “drive” that Will kept putting emphasis on in this album. The drive is that “push” element in a song. Where it’s always pushing you forward, making you want to dance, tap your foot, bob your head, and sing along. We don’t let up on this album!

C’wan said that this album is “gonna slap people right in the lips.” (haha) A good example will be the last track on the album, which is actually more of a house music song. Will wrote the music, Bryan wrote the lyrics, but C’wan (who loves house music) actually rearranged Will’s original vision for the song, and we all just absolutely loved it so much that we went back into the studio and re-recorded it C’wan’s way.

How has the recording process been going with your second album: The process is going great. We’re done with the bed tracks, and most overdubs. We’re currently in the process of ironing out the horn parts, and additional instrumentation. We’re actually going to be in the studio this coming Wednesday to put the finishing touches on our first single so we can get that out to you all.

Do you think there’s any particular song that captures what the upcoming album is all about? If so, what song is it and how does it convey the main message of the album: Definitely going to be our first single. It’s a song called “Diamonds.” This song is a true example of how we work together as a band to make something magical happen. Will wrote the melody that drives the song, but had no true vision for it. Bryan had the vision for the song and asked Will to demo it. Will sent Bryan a basic repetitive version of the demo (just bass & a generic drum loop), and when they met up a week later, Bryan had added a sweet guitar part and some soulful lyrics. Bryan actually sings the whole song in falsetto. Once C’wan added his drum line, we all couldn’t stop smiling. There’s just that moment when your hair stands up, and you just know – that’s it – we’ve got it. Our first single for this album was born from a riff that went nowhere, and together we made it into pure magic. We can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

What else can you tell listeners regarding the upcoming album—any idea on a title or how many tracks will be on it? Do you have an expected release date? What should fans expect to hear on the album: Absolutely. The new album will have 8 tracks, and it will be titled Gas Money, which is a tribute to our brother in music, Hank Rosenthal, who unfortunately passed away in September. Hank didn’t drive, so we would often have to pick him up and drop him off for our gigs, but he would always say that he had “gas money” for us. He even used to carry around an empty gas canister that said gas money on it (lol!). Expect to hear the Bryan Hansen Band you already know, and to hear us grow and change. The music will be funkier, and yet so soulful. There’s a song that Bryan wrote on the album called “Lilac.” It is pure smooth R&B sexiness. Yes, we said the song is sexy.

As far as songwriting goes, what inspires you to create music: We are pretty random. Like any musician will tell you, we don’t sit down with the goal of writing music, it just happens. Inspiration can come from anywhere: personal experiences, a friend’s experiences, or whatever is going on in the world today. Bryan actually wrote a set of lyrics in one of the new album songs that makes a statement about our current political situation in the world, and it quickly makes a point by stating “Doesn’t matter if you’re Left (wing), Right (wing), Blue (Democrat), Red (Republican), Black, White, wound tight. What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?”

How would you describe what the energy is like on stage for you guys during performances: ELECTRIC!!! If you have seen us live before, you know. We are all over the place. We groove, we rock, we have a blast performing. We’re not a band who stands on stage & “plays” their music—we PERFORM it. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter what kind of day you had, we want to make you smile, dance, and forget about whatever was burdening you. Even if our style of music isn’t your thing, our energy is infectious, so one way or another you’re coming along this musical journey with us. Even if only for a little while.

Currently, what is your favorite song to perform live? What is it about that song that makes it so enjoyable to play: That’s a tough one. We don’t have any ONE favorite song. We can state two for the sake of argument though. “Parallel” from Bryan’s solo album (Brothers Among Wolves), & “Sweet Ambition” from our first band album (When You Stop Pulling Back). Both of them have a natural energy, and groove that always gets people. They are definitely crowd favorites, and we feed into that energy, and give it back tenfold. And we get to rock, groove, and be all over the place performing them.

What has creating and performing music taught you about life? What do you love most about music: Life and music are the same. They both have an energy, a flow to them. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but so long as you keep trying, you can never truly fail at either. What we love most about music is that it is truly a universal language. Doesn’t matter your age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion. We all love music; it makes us all feel good. And it will always unite us. When you go to a concert to hear the band you love performing their songs live, you don’t care about the background of the person standing next to you. In that moment, you both just love the music. You find yourself singing along and dancing with the person, never once caring about their background. Music breaks down barriers, lowers inhibitions, and allows us to be, what we feel, are our truest selves.

What’s in store for the Bryan Hansen Band for the rest 2018: Our new album and more shows—we’re working on touring the West Coast, and if we’re lucky, even out of the country. We’ll also be doing music videos for each single, which is something we’ve never done. So there’s a lot of big things for us in 2018! We hope more people will take the time to listen to our music, attend our shows, and follow us on social media so that they can grow with us. We’re blessed to be brothers in music, and looking forward to a prosperous year & beyond!

All photos courtesy of the band.


Laura Curry
Laura Curry
Laura Curry is a Rutgers University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Interviewing bands and writing about music is her passion. She is a frequent concert-goer, whether they’re happening in New Brunswick basements, Asbury Park venues, concert halls in NYC and anywhere in between. Alternative rock is her go-to genre (i.e. Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant, Foals, The Maine and lots more). When she isn’t writing for The Pop Break, she works at the North Brunswick Public Library, which offers plenty of Fantasy/Adventure novels to quench her love of reading. Additionally, she takes on creative projects from dream catchers and scrapbooks to paintings and jewelry making. She’s always happy to talk about her furry Maine Coon cat Austen and his knack for playing fetch and hide and seek. Just try not to ask about her next career move, because trust me, she’s working on it.

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