Brett Dennen talks A's, music video
Singer-songwriter Brett Dennen says while growing up in Northern California, households in his neighborhood were divided by color: the orange and black of the San Francisco Giants or the green and gold of the Oakland A's.
"I don't know if most A's fans want to admit this, but the Giants were the popular, high-class team and the A's were the working-class, underdog team," Dennen said. "That's why I still love them today."
The A's organization is aware of that love.
"Around the time we were thinking of shooting my next music video, my manager got an email from the A's saying they knew I was a big fan and wanted to invited me to sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame'," Dennen said. "That's always been a dream of mine."
At an April game versus the Texas Rangers, Dennen lived out his childhood dream and, during the seventh-inning stretch, led a sing-along at the Coliseum. He also spent a couple of hours before the game shooting the video for "Comeback Kid, (That's My Dog!)" a sports-inspired song on his latest album, "Loverboy."
Page 2 caught up with Dennen at his home in Santa Monica to talk baseball and life on the road.
You said that now, as an adult, you love the underdog nature of the A's. But what drew you to them as a kid?
"I didn't know much about baseball, but I would beg my dad to take me to Giants games because I saw people wearing their hats. It seemed like everyone rooted for the Giants. I grew up in a town called Oakdale, which was about two hours from San Francisco. But it was 20 minutes from a little town called Modesto. The A's had a farm team there called the Modesto A's and my dad realized he could take me to games that were 20 minutes away and only cost $5. So really I was a Modesto A's fan before I was an Oakland A's fan."
Do you have a favorite memory from a game?
"There is one very special moment and it goes back to my 10th birthday. Oct. 28, 1989. Back then the World Series was usually over by the second week of October. But because of the earthquake in San Francisco, the games were delayed and the series extended into my birthday. The A's ended up winning the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. On my birthday. It was the coolest birthday ever."
Who was your favorite player back then?
"Rickey Henderson. He's the 'Man of Steal.' He could do everything: hit home runs, steal bases, dazzle you with amazing catches in the outfield. He was our leadoff man. He had his signature thing where he would catch the ball and hit his hip with his glove. And he had this signature home run trot. He was always my favorite."
The A's offered you the opportunity to sing 'Take Me Out' or the national anthem. How'd you choose?
"I've always been afraid of singing the national anthem because I think it is the most difficult song in the English language to sing. 'Take Me Out' is more my style. It's a sing-along, shout at the top-of-your-lungs kinda song. Other teams have asked me to sing it, but I always turned them down because I knew someday I would get to sing it for the A's. I always wanted to be recognized as an A's fan and let the world know that's my team. So getting to sing and be a part of the team, that's a lifelong dream come true."
When did you shoot the video?
"The A's let us come to the park early and fool around and go behind the scenes. The video starts with the A's and I think, even if you don't know the team, you get the picture of what they're like. They may not be as glamorous as the other teams, but they're hardworking and successful."
Did they give you good seats for the game?
"They let us sit on the diamond level behind home plate and gave us food and drinks. It was so cool. They played my music during the game and an interviewer came down to my seat and interviewed me on the JumboTron. My mom is a huge A's fan and was sitting next to me. She was overwhelmed with how kindly they treated her. She said she felt like a movie star."
Did the A's win?
"No. But that's OK. That's baseball. Wins matter, but the season is what really matters. Baseball is a long grind. You win some and you lose some."
Is the life of a touring musician similar?
"It's very similar. You have fans rooting for you and sometimes you're trying to win them over. You have good nights and bad nights. But in music, you never have to play for an opposing team's fans. I've never walked out, done what I do best and been booed for it. That would be tough."
Was there a particular team or story that inspired 'Comeback Kid'?
"I was thinking about a slugger in a slump or a boxer who is getting older and has to train hard to stay on top. But I didn't want it to be only about sports. I didn't think people would be interested. You have to be a really good writer to tell a sports story anyone can relate to. So I made it personal. The chorus is about anyone, but the verses are about loss and grief and getting older and not being able to live up to the praise and accomplishments you had when you were younger. It's about trying to stay relevant and get back to that feeling you had when you were younger and had people rooting for you. Anyone can relate to that."
Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. To read more about Dennen, check out his website.