Dennen’s tour emphasizes new tunes

Folk-pop singer’s set will also feature some fan favorites




If you go

What: Brett Dennen, in concert.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 15.

Where: McMenamins Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside St., Portland.

Cost: $25 through Cascade Tickets, 800-514-3849 or http://cascadetic...

Information: 503-225-0047 or http://mcmenamins...

Brett Dennen knows he’s taking a chance by heavily featuring songs from “Loverboy” on his current tour.

The album was released May 3, so fans may not be enthusiastic about still-unfamiliar tunes as he takes the stage.

“They want to hear their favorite songs from previous albums,” Dennen said. “I want to win people over with the new songs.”

To balance those competing interests, he’ll include fan favorites from previous albums, but Dennen still plans to focus primarily on music from “Loverboy.”

As he put the new album together, he kept the audience in mind throughout, and he hopes that will lessen the blow for fans disappointed to learn they will hear mostly unfamiliar tunes.

“Every song that I wrote was with the intention of how it’s going to go over on stage,” Dennen said. “Is it going to make people dance? Is it going to make people smile? Is it something everybody can relate to? It’s the first time I’ve been that premeditated.”

With his last album, “Hope for the Hopeless, Dennen took a very different approach — writing dozens of songs, then choosing the music that finally reached the CD based on how each fit together with the others.

“They all came from different places,” he said. “They were parked in my psyche, different avenues of my musical interests. They came from all over the place.”

With “Loverboy,” by contrast, one song written early in the creative process helped shape the rest of the album. That tune, “Dancing at a Funeral,” led him to focus on the grooves and upbeat pop that defines the recording.

A native of northern California, Dennen’s first two albums, a 2005 self-titled release and 2006’s “So Much More,” were stripped back, nearly solo works, which spurred reviewers to tag Dennen as a folk artist. That helped him get gigs in folk-oriented venues and build a grass-roots following.

But with “Hope for the Hopeless,” Dennen wanted to flesh out his sound and try to connect with fans beyond the folk base he had established — and perhaps even gain radio play in formats like adult contemporary and pop. He didn’t get a big radio hit, but he did expand his audience as he ventured into plugged-in pop sounds.

With “Loverboy,” he wants to further expand his reputation beyond what people consider folk.

“I love folk music and I love being considered a folk artist,” Dennen said. But he worries that the label will scare away some people who might like his music even if they don’t like the “folk” label.

“Loverboy” is a successful attempt to go beyond the folk stereotypes.

Songs like “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog),” “Surprise, Surprise” and “Sydney (I’ll Come Running)” all boast happy, effortless melodies that would fit in with the music of pop acts John Mayer or Train. On “Dancing at a Funeral,” Dennen accents his sound with world beat rhythms, while the ballad “Frozen in Slow Motion” has more of a soul or Motown feel.

“Loverboy” is fuller and more danceable than “Hope for the Hopeless,” but it has the same pop focus that characterized that previous album.

“I’m not trying to chart new territory musically,” Dennen said, agreeing that “Loverboy” retains many of the charms of its predecessor. “I’m not trying to be on any of the cutting edge of anything. ...I’m just trying to do it better and better and I’m trying to do it in a way that more and more people can enjoy it with me.”