top of page

Brenda Carsey and Her Journey to "Cognizance"

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Los Angeles-based Brenda Carsey just released her much-anticipated album, Cognizance. Stef had the excellent opportunity to chat with Brenda about her writing, recording, and release journey to the final product, Cognizance!

Hey Brenda, it's so awesome to sit down and chat with you! We've been obsessed with "I'm Sorry" since we did our song review and the acoustic performance you did for our On The MIC YouTube Series. We were so excited about this record release, and it's finally here!

BC: Thank you so much for having me again to talk about the full album. It was fun recording such a stripped-down version of "I'm Sorry" for your On The MIC Series.

SJ: First of all, congratulations! This very cohesive body of work has been a joy to listen to.

BC: Thank you so much! It's a huge accomplishment, and I'm so grateful to finally share it with everyone!

SJ: The record title is Cognizance, how did you come up with this title, and what does it mean to you in context with the album?

BC: I chose "Cognizance" as the album title based on both the meaning of the word and the immense scope of sound and subject matter of the album. The word encapsulates the depth and meaning of the album and the perspective from which I wrote it. Cognizance is a state of being aware with knowledge gained from personal experience. It has a massive breadth of tones, textures, instruments, and genres. It covers a range of subjects, including family, love, public shootings, partying, fear, depression, isolation, the experience of being a woman in the music industry and life at large, finding new love, and more.

Photo Credits: Morgan Demeter

SJ: How would you describe the story of this record?

BC: This album is the best quality album I have created to date…I wanted to push myself sonically beyond anything I have ever created and reach into the depths of my soul to bring to life art with a message through music that keeps the mind guessing and the heart happy! Exploring community, love, fear, & awareness.

SJ: You wrote Cognizance from 2017-2019 with plans to record the record in 2020, but the COVID shutdown thwarted that process. What was it like having to stop the process right as you were ready to be full steam ahead? Was the time beneficial to be slightly removed from the topics of the tracks, or was it more frustrating that you had to stop at such an exciting time of the album process?

BC: It was absolutely heartbreaking to have everything halted so suddenly. I was riding a wave of momentum with my career at that time and had just ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign at the end of 2019 and was all set to go into the studio top of 2020. All I can say for certain is that the album would have most definitely been different had we been able to record in 2020. Not better, just different. The band members would have been different. And I was a different person then as well. A lot happened during that time. The end result of that passing of time and all of that change is the album of music everyone can now hear and enjoy. I am really happy with how it turned out and happy to be moving forward again.

SJ: What was that writing process like? Do you mainly write on one instrument? Do you write vocal melodies first and put music in after?

BC: I write every song differently. For some, the melody comes first; for some, the instrument comes first; some, the words come first; and sometimes, I sit down, and the instrument, melody, and words all pour out of me all at once. I am a true singer-songwriter in that all of my songs begin with the voice and an instrument. They are intertwined and support one another. Everything else comes after that. For this album, I composed and performed all of the lyrics, vocal melodies, vocal harmonies, piano parts, acoustic guitar parts, and organ and Rhodes parts. I also composed all of the string and horn parts on the album, and I had sheet music for the professional instrumentalists who came in to play those parts. The drums, bass, and electric guitar all had freedom and my trust to do whatever they wanted within reason and with what best would support the songs. There were a few songs I had specific things I wanted to be done, and those parts I would beatbox or sing, but mostly I hired and collaborated with amazing people I trust and who I know have great taste and intuition.

Photo Credits: Morgan Demeter

SJ: All of the tracks are so well structured. There are a lot of jazzy bits and soul on the album. What or who were your biggest influences for the record?

BC: There is no specific artist or band I was trying to emulate for this album, nor who specifically influenced this album of music. It's just me in the present moment with my songs, working with dope professionals I trust to collaborate and make something special and organic. The breadth and diversity of music in my mind and soul that has influenced me, even if I'm not actively aware of it, is huge. Which artists have influenced me as a young person first digesting music versus which artists have inspired me as I've aged are broadly different. Every song I've ever heard and every show I've ever seen are part of me and have helped mold and shape both myself and my art. For the purpose of this interview, I'll throw a few names out there so my fans and those reading this article can go and listen to these wonderful musicians' works. Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Radiohead, Zero 7, Air, Gorillaz, Bill Withers, Jurassic 5, Deltron 3030, Aesop Rock, Wu-Tang Clan, Queen, David Bowie, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Bob Marley, Alicia Keys, A-WA, Hiatus Kaiyote, Tinariwen, The Mars Volta. I'm gonna stop there, so I don't overwhelm people.

SJ: You recorded your album at Station House Studio in Los Angeles, CA, and were able to work with Grammy Award-winning engineer and mixer Mark Rains. He's worked with many notable talents like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Death Valley Girls, and Jaime Wyatt. What was it like working with such an accomplished extraordinaire like Rains?

BC: Mark was such a joy to work with. We really got along and pushed one another and taught one another a lot. He's a pro, he's a hoot, and he was able to keep up and work at the fast pace I like to work at (which only a few people can do). He was very chill energetically and made me feel comfortable in the studio.

SJ: You've said this record is "the best quality album [you] have created to date." What do you think sets this record apart from your others?

BC: One factor is maturity. The music is deep, dense, thoughtful, engaging, unique, and fun. Another factor is access. Access to a bigger budget to have access to better gear, better live room, better musicians, etc. You need good gear and good talent to make a truly great record.

Photo Credits: Morgan Demeter

SJ: Let's get into your release process! One of the most significant struggles for independent artists is funding their projects. You were able to fund your own journey by running a successful Indiegogo campaign, which is both incredible and very creative. It's a way to keep your independence while being able to afford your art. Can you tell us about how you found that platform and how you found your success there?

BC: It's honestly far too much to type and could be an entire interview all on its own. For the purpose of this interview, I will share that it was my second successful crowdfunding campaign. I learned a lot from the first one, and I also had help and guidance from friends who had run their own successful campaigns who I was lucky to get advice from. Clarity of vision, patience, planning, thoroughness, transparency, honesty, and professionalism are all extremely important.

SJ: I've become such a fan after your On The MIC performance and have loved watching your release strategy. You're really an expert in your branding. Through your reels, you've been able to take your fans and followers inside this process with you, from showing your photo shoots to watching your vinyl getting pressed and your t-shirts being printed. What was your favorite part of the process?

BC: Thank you so much; that's very sweet. It's all been so much! So much research, learning, planning, and work. But I'm grateful to be able to do it all. My favorite part of the whole process is making music! Being in the studio making the record, jamming, singing my ass off, mixing, and all, and then performing the album live on stage with a great band at a great venue with great sound. It's my art. It's what I do. It's why I'm alive and what makes me the happiest.

SJ: What's next in the Cognizance album cycle?! Tour, more live shows, a music video?!

BC: I will definitely be touring the album this year. I lost a job at the top of this year, so I, unfortunately, have to push back tour stuff until I figure out some financial things on my end, but it will indeed happen! Anyone out there that wants to collaborate on a show have me tour their town, host a house concert with me at their home, shoot me a holler! In the meantime, I'm always playing live locally. I have released two music videos for the album so far, and I have a third on the way. Stay tuned!

SJ: It's been so great to sit and chat about this incredible record, Cognizance! Thank you so much, and we can't wait to hear what's next!

BC: Thank you so much for having me and for your thoughtful questions!

LONG STORY SHORT: This album is incredibly well written and produced. Go stream Cognizance!


Stream Cognizance music below!


Songwriting - Brenda Carsey

Production - Brenda Carsey

Composed - Brenda Carsey

Drums - Kyle Crane

Bass - Nick Campbell

Guitar - Michael Day

Violin - Rebecca Schlappich Charles

Cello - Jean-Paul Barjon

Trombone - Jonah Levine

Trumpet - Leider Chapotin

Alto Saxophone - David Otis

Recorded - Mark Rains of Station House Studios

Final Track - @ Moosecat Recording

Mixing, Digital Mastering - Jett Gallindo of The Bakery Mastering

Co-Mixed: Brenda Carsey

Vinyl Mastering, Laquer Cutting - Peter Hewitt-Dutton


bottom of page