“I’ve invested everything I have into the music,” says Brandon Decker. “Energetically, emotionally, financially, everything has gone back into my art and growing as an artist.”
It’s with a wry wink at his bank account, then, that Decker named his new career-spanning album Into The Red. Primarily comprising tracks from the six studio records he’s released under the name decker. since 2009, Into The Red offers a bird’s eye view of Decker’s remarkable journey as a fearless songwriter and relentless performer. The collection reveals him to be a craftsman of the highest caliber, one who’s carved a bittersweet catalog of heartrending gems out of the unforgiving stone that is a lifetime spent pursuing dreams. He writes what The Dallas Morning News has described as “dramatic, emotionally enveloping songs,” which is to say that his music transports you, grabs you by the collar and takes you on a journey.
“Everything about what we do as artists needs to be about an experience, about making people feel and think,” he explains. “The reason to perform is to inspire.”
For Decker, inspiration most often comes from the natural beauty that surrounds him in his adopted hometown of Sedona, Arizona. Into The Red‘s title also serves as a not-so-subtle tip of the cap to his fascination with the area’s distinctive geology.
“Sedona is this red rock land that looks like Mars,” says Decker. “I grew up in the Midwest and I’ve been all over the place, but Sedona is the first place that really felt like home. I don’t think I’ve ever really written a song outside of Sedona. It’s this fertile little embryo for creation.”
When Decker first moved to the small desert town roughly eight years ago, he had little more than ambition to his name. Working by himself in a makeshift bedroom studio, he recorded his 2009 debut, Long Days, on a shoestring budget. He followed it up with critically acclaimed album after critically acclaimed album, writing and recording at the extraordinary clip of nearly a record-per-year. As Decker’s songwriting progressed, so did decker.’s lineup, and the project grew to encompass additional musicians, bolder arrangements, and more sophisticated recording techniques as it garnered love from press and radio around the country.
Magnet raved that Decker’s music “bursts with emotion at every edge,” while Seattle NPR affiliate KEXP said his brand of “fevered guitar licks, crashing drums, and bluesy storytelling…gives Jack White a run for his money,” and The Phoenix New Times fell for his “fiery passion,” adding that decker. has “a vision unlike any other band these days.” Critics were quick to pick up on the influence of the desert in the music, with No Depression hailing Decker’s ability to blend “dark mystic lyrics and off-kilter attitude with taut musicianship and psychedelic romanticism,” and The San Francisco Bay Guardian dubbing his songs “dusty, moody, lonely, and super atmospheric.”
There’s nothing particularly mysterious about Into The Red album opener “Matchstick Man,” though. It’s a brand new, driving rocker with a searing message about the troubled times we find ourselves living in today. In the best tradition of 70’s Neil Young (who famously traveled “out of the blue and into the black”), “Matchstick Man” is a protest song that holds nothing back. It also serves as a declaration of artistic intent for Into The Red, announcing from the outset that this isn’t simply a Best-Of collection, but rather a vital, timely album populated by a cast of distinctly modern, relevant characters.
On the fingerpicked, darkly orchestrated “Patsy” (from the 2015 album of the same title), Decker crafts a portrait of the down-and-out everyman, while 2013’s psychedelic “Shadow Days” grapples with the darkness of addiction and the dissolution of a relationship, and the biting doo-wop of “O.D.B.” faces off against the naysayers who whisper behind backs. The production on the collection varies wildly—from the hip-hop drum loops of the minimalist “In The Same Boat” to the ornate, horn and string-band grandeur of “Sun, Shine In”—but Decker’s indelible voice and singular perspective tie it all together. His uniquely crooked vision colors everything he touches, and it enables him to put his own unique stamp on a cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” which is mashed up here with The Doors’ “5 To 1” in a brand new recording.
“I was a big Doors fan as a kid, but I spent twenty years away from them,” says Decker. “Now I’ve come back with a different appreciation. I feel like everything those guys were about during their time was their own kind of resistance, and that felt like a pertinent thing for us to tap into right now in the Trump era.”
Into The Red also includes a pair of tracks from decker.’s most recent studio release, 2016’s Snake River Blues, which Blurt called “borderline brilliant” in a five-star review. The two tracks demonstrate both sides of Decker’s songwriting instincts, with “The Phantom” stretching out into a sweeping, six-minute, multi-part epic, and the pulse-pounding “Holy Ghost” clocking in at a taught, punchy, three minutes as it revels in the kind of frantic desperation that can only come from a lifetime spent in transit.
Snake River Blues is also the title of the new decker. documentary directed by Matty Steinkamp and due out later this year. Capturing everything from the making of the album to a whirlwind tour of the West to a month-long residency in NYC to mark the record’s release, the film chronicles a year in the life of decker. and offers an unvarnished look at the setbacks and triumphs of life as an independent musician.
“Matty came to me and said I want to make a film about what you’re doing because I believe in you,” remembers Decker. “He just embedded with us for the better part of that year. It was strange because, you know, it’s one thing when you make a music video and you’re playing in front of the camera, but to have the cameras around you all the time was a new experience.”
The result is a raw, honest film that, in conjunction with Into The Red, provides a deeper understanding not only of Brandon Decker the artist, but also Brandon Decker the man, the dreamer who took a job digging trenches in the Arizona summer with a pickaxe and a shovel in order to finance his studio time, the single father who pushes himself to the brink in order to balance the responsibilities of family and career, the inexorable touring machine who managed to perform a staggering twenty shows in twenty-three days in New York city alone.
“There’s been a million opportunities to surrender,” reflects Decker. “The biggest takeaway I have looking back on the past near-decade is that I’m just proud and honored that I’m still in the game. I always liked that line in Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ where he’s talking about the workers in song. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I’ve continued to do the work and develop as a person and an artist and a songwriter.”
By those measures, Brandon Decker is a very rich man indeed.