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The Scouting Report

Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report 2024: Molly Brandt

Molly Brandt
Molly BrandtPhoto: Madalyn Rowell, Graphic: Natalia Toledo | MPR

by Youa Vang

April 10, 2024

For Minnesota Music Month, The Current polled the local music industry for April’s edition of The Scouting Report. More than 90 people filled out this year’s Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report ballot, and 253 unique artists were chosen overall. The top 10 artists — well, 11 because of a tie — who received the most support include Molly Brandt.

The romance of being in a new city can spark creativity in ways that will change you forever. When Molly Brandt arrived in the Twin Cities in late 2018, she found that romance — but also struggles.

Prior to her move, Brandt was in Des Moines, Iowa, performing in a jazz cover band and working for non-profits as an advocate for musicians. At 22 years old, she decided she needed a change. With no concrete plans set, she eventually relocated to Minneapolis, Brandt stayed with friends and found odd jobs, eventually landing at the Mixed Blood Theater.

“I was suffering with mental health issues and addiction and not taking care of myself,” she says. “I was living in this tiny house with two other roommates, and there was a mouse problem. I was just trying to survive. I had never written songs before, and I was so scared to do it with other people listening. It was a really vulnerable moment for me, but I just wasn't ready to open up like that. I was working three jobs, so I moved out into a tiny apartment by myself.”

When the pandemic hit, she lost her job. With a lot of her time freed up, Brandt spent a lot of time writing, finally sharing with a neighbor. Jazz was starting to feel like pushing a square peg into a round hole, so she leaned into composing Americana-style songs influenced by artists like Margo Price and Nikki Lane – but with her own voice. The work, along with the community she was immersing herself in, felt authentic. It felt like what she had been chasing all along.

“I am not only coming to a point in my songwriting where I am not copying other people’s work, but I’m also not afraid to add my own spin,” she says. “I always say I’m continuing the tradition of Americana music. I was speaking with my partner Eric [Carranza] the other day about this. We really don't want to release our music and not have anyone care about it or just have it reach only our immediate social media following. We can’t make a living that way. I want to be able to sustain a decent lifestyle while having the resources to tour and record music to make the art the best it can be. I want to maintain a high caliber and high quality of my work.”

For Brandt, the silver lining of the pandemic’s many hardships was the gift of time. “I'm 29 now, and I do feel a lot wiser,” she says. “I have a lot more life experiences and stories. I also have knowledge about the world that lends itself to my songwriting. I don't know what I would have written about back then, but now I know that this was the right time for me to start writing about it. I'm just scratching the surface of painful experiences.”

Some of those experiences inspired Surrender to the Night, Brandt’s full-length debut album. The alt-country, folk, and rock collection features 10 originals — ranging from the heavy-hitting “Propane & Cigarettes” to the sweet “Bluff Country Paradise” — and a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Minneapolis.”

 One track on Brandt’s upcoming album, currently slated for a fall release, centers around regrets of past abuse while living in Iowa. One subject she is not yet ready to cover is the death of her mother a little more a year ago. She says the pain is still too fresh. But what if you haven’t experienced enough pain in your life to write about it?

“You can make up a story and write about something else,” she says. I just find creative topics to write about, because sometimes my life isn't dramatic, which is great. I think not living in negative spaces all of the time makes you a better person and sustainable as an artist. Even if I am not in constant pain, I still have that spark and that light that I can use to create and communicate with the universe to create the work I want to be creating.”

Molly Brandt will be on the Rhinestone Teardrops Tour with Reilly Downes during May, including a performance at Green Room in Minneapolis on May 24.

Related: Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report 2024: The top 11 new local artists

Minnesota Music Month Scouting Report 2024: The complete ballots

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.