Brandon Zano’s forthcoming solo album has had a long gestation period. His first mark on the Cleveland music scene was when he started playing with the hard rock act Tender Blind Spot in 1997. “That was the first band I started to tour with,” he says. “We did a three-week tour that was a lot of fun.”
After that band dissolved, he joined Leo, a group formed out of the ashes of another hard rock act, Cows in the Graveyard. “We played bigger shows thanks to [Live Nation’s] Dan Kemer, who was running the Odeon then,” Zano says of Leo. “We would open every big show and we started to play big shows.”
The band got a development deal with Island Records and showcased in New York, but for various reason Leo’s deal fell through.
In the wake of Leo’s dissolution, Zano started Dozen Dead Roses, an “AC/DC-meets-Guns N’ Roses” band that was drawing label interest until it dissolved due to the proverbial “creative differences.” Undeterred, Lozano’s next move was forming This is a Shakedown!, a part-dance, part-rock act that signed to the now defunct Reversed Image Unlimited label. Despite glowing reviews and good momentum, Shakedown! just couldn’t get there because the people working at the label, according to Zano, “…had no idea what they were doing.”
“It just bummed everybody out and that band broke up,” Zano says of the band’s premature demise.
In the midst of these set-backs, he started writing pop songs just to see if he could do it. That’s when he started learning how to record and took online recording classes. “I spent thousands of hours learning how to make my recordings sound better,” he says. “And then I started recording other people, too. I shifted into producing and audio engineering.”
Zano also started the hard rock group Ragers in December 2011, and the band is still going strong, currently recording its debut full-length album. And he got back into spending serious amounts of time writing songs for his own solo album. Just recently, he launched a crowd-funding campaign to fund recording for his solo project, which he is working on with local producer Ben Schigel. Schigel has produced a number of big-name rock acts and currently plays in the up-and-coming alt rock act SomeKindaWonderful.
“He said the stuff was really cool and thought we could do something,” Zano says of Schigel. “I wanted him to really dive into the songs and make them the best they could be. I started to realize I was spending so much money. He’s worth it but about a month ago I realized I needed to come up with some money for the project.” Zano’s campaign goal is to raise at least $5,000, which he says is the minimum amount he needs to finish his debut solo album.
The campaign comes to a close on Feb. 19 and Zano plans to move to Los Angeles in April, where he hopes to put a band together and start playing the songs live. Songs such as “Something in the Air” and “I’ll Do Anything” feature a balanced mix of electronic and organic instrumentation. Each song has a catchy chorus and sounds like something that could be heard on commercial radio — think the Killers if the music had more of an edge to it.
“I’ve been part of the local music scene for so long,” says Zano. “I’m not scamming anyone. I want to finish the record when I’m in Cleveland. I’m a perfectionist and such a hardcore perfectionist that I really want it to sound a certain way. When you put something out with the band, it’s on the band. But when it’s my name, it’s all on me. I’ve been here for so long and I’ve been so close for so long.”