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April 29, 2009

Rebel With A Cause

While running both an ecofriendly record company and a clean energy nonprofit organization, Garett Brennan has proved himself to be one of the hardest working musicians and environmentalists today. From his home base in Portland, Oregon, Garett explained to Playback the importance of supporting clean energy, his feelings on the Obama Administration's environmental efforts and tips on what everyone can do to improve their communities.

By Walter J. Tucke

Garrett Brennan

Garrett Brennan

Can you explain briefly your involvement with Three Pin Records and how it got started?
The first project we did that formally launched Three Pin Records was called Project Little Cottonwood, and we worked with Clif Bar to do this. They were looking for a creative way to launch Clif Nectar, and we were looking for a creative way to cut a record in a beautiful natural setting and then release it at farmers markets. After a series of conversations we realized that we were both essentially trying to create something based on the values of simplicity, natural, organic, etc, so we decided work together, and Clif Nectar sponsored Little Cottonwood and the Keep It Simple Tour. In the summer of 2005 we converted a cabin at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon into a recording studio, cut the record and then toured it at farmers markets around the country. In some ways, Project Little Cottonwood served as a pilot for Clif Bar's current Green Notes Artists program; which has now helped many artists, including Gomez, Josh Ritter, Brett Dennen, Martin Sexton, Guster, Missy a creative way to launch Clif Nectar, and we were looking for a creative way to cut a record in a beautiful natural setting and then release it at farmers markets. After a series of conversations we realized that we were both essentially trying to create something based on the values of simplicity, natural, organic, etc, so we decided work together, and Clif Nectar sponsored Little Cottonwood and the Keep It Simple Tour. In the summer of 2005 we converted a cabin at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon into a recording studio, cut the record and then toured it at farmers markets around the country. In some ways, Project Little Cottonwood served as a pilot for Clif Bar's current Green Notes Artists program; which has now helped many artists, including Gomez, Josh Ritter, Brett Dennen, Martin Sexton, Guster, Missy Higgins, and others, tour green by reducing their environmental impact and getting the conversation rolling with their fans about what they can do also.

Do you feel that the media brings enough attention to environmental issues, especially to the younger generation?
I think the media is getting better at it, yes! But they need to remember that covering science is not the same as covering politics. And when they cover climate change as if it's politics, then people get the wrong information and a bunch of misinformed finger-pointers discredit the reality of the science. I think over the past couple of years, though, it has gotten a lot better, especially since the fourth IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report came out. Reporters like Andrew Revkin (NY Times), Bryan Walsh (TIME), Sharon Begley (Newsweek) and bloggers like Jesse Jenkins (Watthead) have been taking a hard look at these issues and reporting on them in ways that help people understand the complexity and get involved.

In addition to your songwriter/artist career, you are also the Executive Director of Focus The Nation.
Focus The Nation is a national non-profit headquartered in Portland, Oregon. Through education, engagement and action, Focus the Nation empowers young leaders to accelerate the transition to a more just and prosperous clean energy future. We have two main program areas to achieve our mission: Civic Engagement and Beyond Carbon Leadership.

Our inaugural civic engagement campaign organized the largest teach-in in US history last January 2008, educating nearly one million people on climate change solutions at 1900 institutions, engaging 65 members of Congress, 15 governors and hundreds of city leaders. It was huge and helped a lot of people get involved in the issue. This year, however, is different. We have a new president, there is lots of momentum to try and get federal legislation passed, and with the COP15 Copenhagen climate treaty negations on the horizon in December, the US has a real opportunity to step its game up.

With that as the landscape, we are currently in the thick of running our second civic engagement campaign–Nationwide Town Halls on Clean Energy this April 18th all over the country. This is going to be a big moment during the April Congressional recess. This is when the members of Congress will be back home in their districts. Shortly after this time, there will most likely be climate legislation going through the House and Senate. So on April 18th we're hosting these town halls in Congressional districts across the country so that young leaders, elected leaders, business leaders and community members can actually get face time with their Congressional representatives to discuss and talk about accelerating the transition to the clean energy future.

Our Beyond Carbon Leadership program awards summer grants called the Focus Fellowships to youth with innovative solutions to the climate change and clean energy issue. All three projects from last year are still operating in their communities. Like Maya Donelson's project in San Francisco, Graze the Roof, that's helping communities in the Bay Area build and operate roof-top gardens to reduce their food-travel miles and eat healthier. Or Jesse Hough's project in Portland that's helping a neighborhood here in town convert their elementary school into a geothermal power source.

In a nutshell, Focus the Nation is forging bridges between generations, between campuses and communities and between areas of the country that are already implementing solutions with areas who need a lot of help. In every community, we have people in political and business power and people rising– lots of them–who will eventually take over. So the sooner we get these two groups to partner on getting educated and active around clean energy opportunities, the quicker we'll get bold carbon policy passed, the quicker our communities will move toward that future, and the better off they'll be in terms of how we power our towns, feed our families, earn a living and get around.

And on top of all that, when does your new record come out?
My next record, Huckleberry Tree , will be released this summer. I'll be touring during next ski season. The album includes all of those old time roots all stars from Portland I was telling you about. You can download it here: http://garettbrennan.argoarts.com/ On the home front, my wife and I have a little cherry orchard outside Hood River, Oregon that we're looking to convert to an organic operation. That'll take a while though.






Playing for the Planet

On February 11, 2009, 1% for the Planet celebrated 1,000 members worldwide and honored 1% founders Yvon Chouinard and Craig Matthews. ASCAP members Grace Potter, Jeff Franzel and Dan Mackenzie performed at the event.


Craig Mathews, Terry Kellogg, Yvon Chouinard, and Tom Brokaw

Craig Mathews, Terry Kellogg (Executive Director for 1% for the Planet), Yvon Chouinard, and Tom Brokaw celebrate 1% For the Planet with ASCAP membersn

On Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 1% for the Planet's Host and Master of Ceremonies Tom Brokaw helped celebrate 1,000 member companies worldwide, and honored 1% founders Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia) and Craig Mathews (Blue Ribbon Flies) for their vision, leadership, and dedication to the health of our planet. This powerful movement is now active in 37 countries, is growing by more than one new member company every day, and has channeled $42 million to environmental nonprofits worldwide.

ASCAP artists Grace Potter , Jeff Franzel and Dan Mackenzie performed at the event.

1% for the Planet exists to build and support an alliance of businesses financially committed to creating a healthy planet. It is a rapidly growing global network of companies that donate 1% of their sales to environmental organizations worldwide and it is a brand that engages and inspires a powerful citizenry to make informed choices as consumers.

For more info please visit: www.onepercentfortheplanet.org/en/

Watch 3 Dollar Bridge with Yvon Chouinard and Craig Matthews which was shown that night at the benefit.