Maria Inés Taracena // 9/3/16 MOUNTAIN HEART
It’s a humbling feeling to stand at the skirt of Sedona’s rust-red rocks. They’ve seen more than we ever will. The purity of the wind and the vibrant greens of the leaves in the trees—it creates this inexplicable warmth and comfort. No wonder Brandon Decker settled here.
These mountains keep him in the present, peacefully grounded even in the most wrathful days. And there have been many. He’s lived off his music for nearly a decade. His trajectory, summed up under the umbrella of decker., comes with celebrations, money woes and tour exhaustion. decker. has recorded six albums and performed at least 150 shows—statewide and nationally—every year since 2009. His life as a musician is a perfect balance of fulfillment and frustration. Brandon can work incessantly, but this 36-year-old knows when to pause and absorb the greatness.
It’s a Sunday evening and sunset is about an hour away. Brandon drives in his white mini tour van through a spiral road toward the Margs Draw Trailhead, no more than 20 minutes from his home. It’s one of his favorite hikes in Sedona. There are too many mountains to choose from. He is on top of one every single day.
Brandon is the type of guy who’ll hold your hand through the scary and slippery narrow edges. He could climb these rocks blindfolded but he’s patient if you’re slower and understands if you don’t want to reach the top because you’re afraid of heights. He’ll therapy your mind into doing it, though. Brandon is good at many things—motivation is one of them.
“It is really critical…having community again and taking care of each other,”he says, walking uphill through the red dirt paths. Cholla and nopal cacti stand in the surroundings. “I get a lot of that on the road. People putting me up in their house and feeding me.”
As we drive to the trail, Brandon listens to decker.’s latest piece of art, Snake River Blues. “I don’t always listen to my own music when I drive,” he jokes. He and band members Amber Johnson—keyboards and backup vocals—Andrew Bates—bass—and Nick Ramirez—drums—wrapped recording sessions in the spring. The album officially comes out September 23. During that entire month, Brandon, Amber and a couple of other decker. collaborators will present Snake River Blues to the world during a residency at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City, where the band will play a show every Wednesday. Majestic opportunity.
“(Musically) my specialty has always been to be authentic and non-pretentious. I am trying to be me, honest,” he says. He’s approaching the grand ending of the Margs Draw climb. The last push is to pull your weight onto a flat rock with a 180-degree view of Sedona. “Whatever we do as humans, we are a channel of our particular variety of compassion and love and experience and pain and darkness and light, the whole spectrum. Our little piece of the fragment of the universe.”
“I don’ feel like I am doing anything different on this record,” he continues. A sip of water from the tube coming out of his black hiking backpack. “I am definitely becoming better at being the channel of my music.”
Earlier today, the smell of palo santo hugged the inside of this Noam Chomsky admirer’s home. On his white walls there’s a collection of decker. album art and colorfully intricate posters of previous concerts. Brandon has a small shrine next to the front door to meditate and keep the negativity away. There’s a photo of his 5-year-old boy, Cohen. His little soul is the sun and Brandon’s life satellites around it.
About Cohen—he wants to be just like dad. During the last stretch of the walk back to the van, Brandon proudly talks about a story he made up for Cohen about a mouse named Franklin. Basically, the moral of the tale is that dads are awesome. Children should listen to their advice when it’s their turn to venture off. The bigger lesson is about taking care of people because “we are all in this together.”
“Once you have a child, it is different,” Brandon says. “I want to provide for him. I would say there is an authentic desperation in the record. That is OK. I am not embarrassed, everybody has got it somewhere.”