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 creative conversations

INTRODUCING

BRENNAN PEIRSON

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

Brennan Peirson Elliot, also known just as Brennan Peirson or Forget Brennan, is a worldwide cinematographer, director, photographer, music producer & music writer. He also writes poetry, makes and sells clothing and spends his life on the road.

Learn all about his inspirations, music and incredible lifestyle. 

This interview was recorded over the phone during Brennan's drive through the mountains from Chambersburg to Pittsburgh - we are so grateful for his time

and hope you enjoy reading it!

- by Bethia Santi Bridges, for Wild City Portsmouth

BACKGROUND

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I grew up in the small town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania which I’m currently leaving right now. It’s a very typical farm town, conservative, suburban y'know, but I am very blessed to have grown up there. As far as nature goes, my dad instilled my love for it. He actually wrote a book called 'Making meaning in your life through the outdoors’. His name is G Warren Elliot if you wanna look it up. It’s a series of memoirs, poems and

recipes all about different memories in his life, and theres a story in there about me when he took me fishing in the Chesapeake bay and I caught my first striper fish. We would always go to the nearby streams, go wading in the Susquehanna River, catching fish. We have a cabin near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where we love to go to. Every time I come home, I always ask if we can go up to the cabin, chop some wood, go for a hike up to the mountains. And I love to just stop and sit and appreciate those moments. One of the most important things to me is to try and be present in those moments and the outdoors. Nature is the perfect place to do that. Chambersburg, Pennsylvania – as much as I don’t necessarily agree with some of the beliefs of the people here, it is an absolutely beautiful place. Right now I’m driving past the greenest fields, everything is blooming right now – the cherry blossoms, the colours are so rich. I’m very blessed to have grown up in a place like this. 

(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

QUESTION ONE

As a person with many creative outlets from photography, music, poetry, travel, art - how do you balance each aspect? Where do you find time to learn and give enough of yourself to each of them?

I always wanted to do music and always knew I was going to be a musician. Then out of necessity for this content driven world that we live in, I got a camera. One of the first music videos I ever shot was down by one of my favourite streams in Wilson College, Chambersburg. My friend Brad had the camera, who I actually learned everything from. He put the camera in my hand for the first time and ever since then I just fell in love with those images that you can create, with the blurry backgrounds and super high quality. Bradley is a very accomplished musican, multitalented person and he pretty much taught me everything I knew about photography and videogropahy over facebook chat. He goes by the name 'Gengarcade' on Instagram, definitely look him up. I always joke that I kind of had an 18 credit college course or whatever on photography and videography just through my friend Brad. I used to go out and shoot and come back and ask him why did this do this, how do I do that, how do I export this etc. and he taught me everything - all the little tricks of the trade. Since then I have learned so much through youtube, about both photography and videography, and of course through trial and error.

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

In terms of music production, it’s pretty much the same – I just download the software and go for it. 

With poetry, that one I don’t know man – I never took any lessons on that. I went to college for music therapy and classical guitar perfomance so that’s where a lot of the music stuff comes from. And as far as making clothes, I just wanted to make some extra money. That ones not really that hard, anyone can do that. Travelling – same thing. You’ve just gotta take risks. You’ve just gotta put yourself out there and just say I want to go to this place, so I’m going to make enough money to go to this place and then I’m going to spend the money on going there. A lot of people ask me, ‘what’s your secret to travelling’ and I’m just like… make money and spend it on travelling. That’s literally all you have to do. It’s quite easy when you think about it like that.

 

Do you find that you have a backlog of ideas that you don’t have time to bring to life?

 

Absolutely, I have a huge notes file on my phone with so many different ideas and things I want to accomplish. And, I have so much music that I need to put out, but it doesn’t ever stress me out. I just crack open the notes file and say what am I gonna do today or what am I going to work on now. You gotta just take it one day at a time. My big thing is just don’t recycle your past and don’t be apprehensive of the future. Try to stay present. 'Cause recycling your past just creates depression and being apprehensive of the future creates anxiety, so if you just try to stay present and keep working through day by day, try to trust yourself and let love guide you then you’re going to do just fine. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

QUESTION TWO

What’s your experience of creative risk taking? Why saying yes has helped you to gain opportunities? 

In the creative realm, and through travelling, I have multiple music videos out on youtube (Forget Brennan) – and theres many different music videos that are just travel videos where I literally say, ok I'm gonna make this song, then I'm gonna go somewhere in the world and shoot this video for this song. My first one is a cross country trip when I first moved to LA. I also have one in Hawaii, one in Maui, one in Bali, one in Ireland, and I’m about to put one out soon from French Polynesia. I’ve also got one that I shot in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil when I went for Carnival that I haven’t edited yet. It might never see the light of day, but again its another thing on the project list. You don’t know when or how it’s going to happen – a lot of the time, I don’t know how long I'm going to be in the same place for or whats going to happen so theres definitely a risk there. Its just all about trying new stuff and again, a lot of that comes from me just looking up shit on youtube and other people doing things! So much inspiration comes from the world around me and other artists that I listen to, books that I read and the philosophers that I study. When they give you ideas it inspires you to do other things versus doing the same thing you’ve always done. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

So what comes first, the video or the music? 

Most of times, the music. But then the music doesn’t really dictate where I go or what I do. Its just kind of a rolling combination or whatever happens! I’m not really sure how to put it!

(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

QUESTION THREE

You’ve worked with a portfolio of successful artists, particularly in the music industry.

What are some of your favourite projects and why?

All the things I've done with Mod Sun, all the music videos we’ve done, I'm very proud of. I love him to death. He’s one of my best friends and has inspired me in so many different ways. Talking about nature, one of our most viewed videos is one that I shot completely handheld, no direction. It was for a song called happy BB - we just went to a forest near his house in Minnesota, took my camera and just did our thing. Just played the song and shot a video and I think it has a few million views. It was just impromptu, in the woods with a good lens/camera. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

(Credit: Mod Sun / Brennan Peirson)

So did you guys meet organically or did he find you because you filmed or did you find him through his music? 

 

We actually met through Mac Miller, and Mac is another person that.. well if it weren’t for Mac co-signing my friend Choo Jackson, I would have never met Mod. I owe a lot of my success and a lot of what I do to Mac Miller and Choo Jackson. The first time I ever went to LA, I was able to go to Mac's house and crash there - and that ultimately led me to a show at Slippery Rock University where I first met Mod Sun, then I went on a small tour where I first met Cisco Adler (Cisco and Shwayze) - he's another person whos been very instrumental to my life. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

We drove my mums minivan across the country the whole way to St. Louis, and that’s where I first really met Mod. I mean, I’d met him before at Slippery Rock University but he was opening up for Mac and it was a very quick meeting. Then we ended up going on tour with Cisco Shwayze, Mod Sun, The Come Up Boys, Choo Jackson, and that was probably in 2011 maybe? That’s when I first noticed how much of an eccentric and inspirational human being Mod was. We didn’t talk much for the next coming years cause I was still in college. 

 

Here's a tip for anyone reading this - do stuff for free at first. Cause that’s how I really got connected with Mod, I went over to his house for the Free Love video shoot. I was invited by this guy Medford (shout out Medford!) who used to be the manager at the Roxy Theatre which is owned by Cisco’s family, and I just shot a video for free. Then, I showed him and his team and they just freaked and they were like 'oh my god this is so good, we would love to work with you - can we use this footage for the music video?' And if you look at the Free Love music video, there is still a lot of my footage throughout that video, even though its directed by Jakob Owens. That would never have happened had I not taken that creative risk to just go over there with my camera, shoot and edit it for free, then send it to them for free with no expectation of anything coming from it. 

 

It’s really interesting you say that because you hear so much from other creatives and teachers saying never to work for free and that it devalues your skill, but I’ve always been under the impression that there’s definitely a balance, what do you think?

 

Absolutely there is a balance when you should work for free and when you should know your worth. Having said that, if you don’t have a portfolio yet and are trying to make connections, you need to put yourself out there and show people what you can do. It's like the drug dealer mentality – the first hits for free because you want to get them to come back. A lot of the time with my photography clients, I will give them a deal for their first one, knowing that if they come back I’ll hit them with my regular rates. Luckily now, I’ve developed quite the portfolio, and the amount of connections that I have, so I don’t really have to do that anymore but at first.. I mean, especially in L.A, you could throw a stone and hit a photographer better than yourself, a musician better than yourself, an actor, actress, artist better than yourself. But that doesn’t matter. Everybody is talented, talent is a dime a dozen, but not everyone has work ethic - or the ability to look someone in the eyes, shake their hand, not burn bridges or be some egotistical asshole? You know, you just got to get the job done and be a good person while you’re doing it!

 

Yeah, that's a good way of thinking, and we really appreciate you giving your time to speak to us. You have less time than most people and are still humble enough to do that so thank you!

 

Oh sure, I mean, I'm by no means famous - I’m a very confident dude, but I’m very humbled by the life I lead and every day I wake up and I say things that I’m grateful for and every night before I go to bed. Gratitude and appreciation are the only keys to true happiness in life - not money, not even love. Because if you’re able to just be grateful where you are and appreciate what you have then that’s when you can experience love and happiness. If you find love first and you aren’t grateful for it and if your not appreciative of it, you know, love is appreciation, not possession. That’s a Gandhi quote for ya!

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

QUESTION FOUR

How has the pandemic affected your relationship with nature and meditation? 

Absolutely, I didn’t meditate much throughout my life until the pandemic started and I'm so so thankful for that… not thankful for the pandemic itself, but because something in me told me to start meditating. It’s been so wonderful to just get out, walk around in nature. I was in Malibu for most of the pandemic, living in an artist collective called Cocoon Malibu. I was creative director there for about a year, then the pandemic hit so nothing was really going on. I was so grateful that I was able to be in a place like Malibu where we could just go to the beach or go through hikes in the canyons, and we did that damn near every other day. Also with exercising too – I am in far better shape now than I was when I was 23, getting drunk every day in Los Angeles. I think the pandemic has definitely helped some people realise the health benefits of the outside and of being comfortable with yourself, and by yourself. And a lot of that comes from meditation.

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

I’m aware it’s also been detrimental to some people and my heart goes out to those people that this has been a mental struggle for. But I urge those people to get up and make yourself sweat, go walk outside, and pick something beautiful you see and just stare at it for 30 minutes. People in my home town would be like ‘oh that’s some hippy dippy shit’ but I’ll tell you what, it works man. The void that you feel when you’re bored or whatever is not because the void is empty, its because you’re not giving the void a chance to be full. That feeling you feel when you meditate, is that void being full. Meditating is actually very difficult, I’m not good at it, I’m still not good at it. People think its about thinking about nothing, but meditating is about thinking about everything in a much calmer manner. You know, your thoughts are like a ball of yarn that’s all tangled up and meditating is like taking that yarn that’s all tangled and making into a nice cylindrical ball like the kind of yarn you buy from a store. It’s about taking all your thoughts and making them circular and allowing them to make more sense so youre not overwhelmed by them all at once. 

 

So, it’s like finding a way of stopping and learning how to focus intensely? But at the same time find peace and organisation to your thoughts?

 

Yeah, I mean youtube videos man – anything you want to learn, anything you want to do – just type in how to.. whatever you wanna do. There’s so many good guided meditation and relaxation videos – one of my favourite ones is abundance meditation on youtube. I actually have a mediation spotify playlist I’m pretty sure is public?

(Credit: Mod Sun)

QUESTION FIVE

What do you think the biggest challenges are in terms of creative and nature in urban environments? 

It definitely is a challenge. Nature doesn’t necessarily inspire all creativity – it definitely helps but I think it can be found from within. Every single school should have a 30 minute meditation every day for the kids, to teach kids how to do that. But that’s a huge challenge for the schooling systems which are a challenge in themselves! Most cities have park spaces and I really do think it should be mandatory for people to spend a certain amount of time outside in nature, wherever it is. I also think that it should be mandatory for people, especially Americans to leave the country before they become self actualised – because if you don’t do that then you actualise yourself in a place where you think that that’s how big the world is and you think that everyone acts that way. And I know I'm being a bit of an idealist here, but that would be amazing.

 

Hey, that’s a thought isn’t it, if we could make it mandatory for kids to experience a different part of the world. Somewhere where you are the minority, where you don’t speak the language, where you’ve never eaten the food, where you see the most beautiful nature and things that you’ve never seen before. I am so grateful and appreciative that I was able to do that growing up. You know, we spend so much money on all these other things, unnecessary things. As an example, the chewing gum industry!? Chewing gum is entirely unnecessary. No one actually needs chewing gum for any reason at all. And yet, it’s a multibillion dollar industry – there are so many examples of these unnecessary things that we spend money on, when we could be putting that money into cities and places where kids maybe don’t have the ability to do certain things. I’m not a politican, I’m a lover and a creator and I try to inspire – a lot of these things might sound very ideal and privileged but all I can say is that I’m grateful and appreciative to be here.

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

Yeah, I don’t think you come across as privileged in a negative way - I mean, most people are privileged to some extent, but in different ways. I think that its important to have those ideas to inspire other people and learn from others at the same time.

 

Sure, yeah. All the money that I have is money that I’ve made. I’ve got parents that love me that I’m very grateful for but I did not grow up rich. Saying that, as white people we must recognise our privilege – and that’s the main thing right now as a white person is you must recognise, even your micro racial tendancies. Not necessarily second guess yourself, but try to step out of your shoes some time and have it in your mind that you're able to say or do certain things and not everybody has been able have those same opportunities. 

 

I’m a hopeful dude – I think we have the power to fix the environment, to fix the hearts and souls of people and you know what, if no one else is going to be optimistic them I’m gonna stand up and be optimistic. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

QUESTION 6

What are your bucket list places to go and people to work with? Why?

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

Egypt is at the top of my list – 'cause I've gotta see the pyramids! I mean, we still don’t know how they really made them. There's theories, but we don’t know. Also, Greece, Iceland, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Austria, Rome, Venice, New Zealand – skydive! I’ve done parasailing and paragliding but I've never done sky diving. I know that’s such a cliché bucket list item but I still really wanna do it! 

 

People to work with.. Reggie Watts. I’ve watched every single video of his on youtube. He is absolutely wonderful, he is so talented and such an improv mastermind. I just love Reggie Watts so much. 

 

Also, Beardyman. In my mind, Beardyman is the best musician in the world. I am a very accomplished musician, I’ve played with some of the best musicians, of what I believe to be the best in the world. Some of these people are just insanely talented but Beardyman, what we can do with his voice and his voice only is absolutely unbelieveable. He would be a joy to work with. Beardyman live at the underbelly, Edinburgh. Look it up. 

 

Jacob Collier, another wonderful musician, another amazing talent. Those are my top 3. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

QUESTION SIX

Which one of your songs are you most proud of?

I mean honestly, I only have like 7 songs out on spotify but there is many many more that are coming, and I’d probably pick one of those! But of the ones that I have out, I’d probably say Another Life, with the Bali music video. The chorus is interesting cause it says, ‘Everytime we dream, we’re sleeping in another life, I wonder who I’d be if I lived another life, times when I daydream, I wake up asking, what is this thing I call me?’.

 

Talking about dreaming, they say we sleep 8 hours on average a night, theres 24 hours in a day right, so that’s one third of your day on average that every person in the world is sleeping. So if youre 30 years old then you’ve been sleeping for ten years of your life which is kind of knarly to think about. Like what are you doing in those dreams, is that the real world, are we in some kind of simulation? Haha I dunno, but yeah that ones pretty cool. The music video means a lot to me and it’s got the first girl I really ever fell in love with and she’s in that video so that whole experience means a lot. 

(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Have you got any advice for anyone reading this?

Just for anyone reading this, trust yourself. You really can do whatever you want. If you're unhappy, figure out why. There is a reason. Try to change your health habits, eat better, exercise. Try just 5 minutes a day meditating and let love guide you. Theres an old native concept, when I was on a road trip from Santa Fe to Mexico, I don’t like to say Native American because they weren’t Americans when they were natives – they were the first people on this land. Anyway, there was a native guy named Viento and his family goes way back and he explained the concept of the red road to me. It's not fate and it's not destiny, but the concept is essentially, every step that you take is a step that you can, will and should take. Fate and destiny imply that there is something predetermined waiting for you, but that’s not how it works. You just have to trust yourself that you are where your supposed to be and just keep going. 

 

I have tattoed right across my chest, 'Be happy searching or be sad expecting an answer.'

So just continue on your journey man!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

That’s such a cool message and particularly important in todays society and culture where everything seems like it should be so accessible. There's so many people in their early teens and twenties seeing things on social media, and thinking that their life is abnormal or disadvantaged because they’re not popping to the Maldives at the weekend or lying on a beach in Dubai. This can obviously lead to deeper mental health problems. I think it’s so important to normalise every day lives, but at the same time give people the inspiration and confidence to achieve what they want. 

 

Yeah yeah, social media is not real!! It’s an internet app on your phone and is not real life. It’s great in some ways, I mean, I’m very thankful for it because without it, my business would not be what it is but you need to draw the line at letting it run your life, and instead make sure you're living your life and just using it as a tool. 

 

So true, I read something recently that was saying how you should never compare your worst day (or even just an average day) with someone else's best day... and that's all that most photos on social media are, just one second, one filtered snapshot that doesn't reflect the whole hour or day or life behind the scenes. 

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(Credit: Brennan Peirson)

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A NOTE FROM US HERE AT WILD CITY 

Firstly, we'd like to say a huge THANK YOU to Brennan for sharing his thoughts with us. 

He is such a down to earth, free spirited guy who really makes the most of life, 

and shares that creative spirit across the world. 

Find him on instagram, youtube or visit his website to follow his journey. 

We search for people that demonstrate a significant connection to nature in their work and lifestyle. Here at Wild City, we believe that nature and creativity should be accessible to all ages, all backgrounds and all communities. All professionals featured are chosen to inspire and uplift urban communities worldwide, raising awareness and encouraging others to reconnect with their imagination through nature.  Get in contact if you want to contribute!

This part of our business is not for profit – we do it for free because we care and are interested to hear what people have to say. However, feel free to share on your social media or even buy us a coffee if you enjoyed reading and want to support us in future!