Interview: 'Pretty Woman' Star Brennin Hunt Previews New Single 'Heaven's on the Way'

Produced in conjunction with mental health non-profit Hope for the Day.

By: Dec. 07, 2020
Interview: 'Pretty Woman' Star Brennin Hunt Previews New Single 'Heaven's on the Way'

Brennin Hunt, known to Broadway audiences as the first replacement of Edward in "Pretty Woman" and Roger Davis from the 2019 FOX production of "Rent: Live," recently released his new mental health-centric single, "Heaven's on the Way."

For the song's release, Brennin has partnered with Hope for the Day - a non-profit movement that empowers the conversation on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. Hope for the Day most recently partnered with Demi Lovato and Marshmello on their song 'OK Not To Be OK.'

BroadwayWorld had the privilege of speaking with Brennin about his new single, how he hopes it will resonate, and the process of creating art in a pandemic. Read the whole interview - and watch the music video for "Heaven's on the Way" - below!

I really enjoyed "Heaven's on the Way" - it's a beautiful song with a beautiful message. Can you talk about what inspired you to write it?

Thank you so much. I actually was inspired by one of my best friends that I grew up with. His name is John. He more or less hit rock bottom. He was really struggling, and not talking to anyone about it. I had no idea - I've known this guy my entire life. We grew up one street apart in a small town here in Oklahoma. And none of us knew he was struggling. He has a crazy long story - I won't get into all the details, but he was dealing with a lot.

And I was out in L.A. staying at my buddy Ryan Cabrera's house. He was out touring, and he was like, "Hey, man. Any time you need a place to stay, crash at my place." So I was staying there, and he's a musician, so he has this beautiful grand piano at this house. I sat at his piano and I just started - I mean, literally, the chorus just kind of fell out of me. Just thinking about John and his situation. You know the common phrase, "Help is on the way," and heaven just kind of slipped out.

I wrote a verse and a chorus just thinking about him, and, also, thinking about my own struggles within the entertainment business. Just striking out left and right for every pilot that I was auditioning for, and questioning my place as an actor, and all of those things we do as artists. We always second guess ourselves, and the lack of confidence in what we do, because we get more "nos" than we get "yeses."

So that's kind of where the song came from. It was a marriage between his situation and what I was going through. And then, when the pandemic hit, I had actually booked the role of Conrad Birdie in "Bye Bye Birdie." I was going to make my Kennedy Center debut! It was gonna be with Harvey Fierstein, and James Van Der Beek, and this awesome cast. We were gonna do, like, eight shows. It was this special week-long thing.

I booked that on a Monday. My press release was supposed to be a Friday - this was in March. That Wednesday, the NBA shut down. Thursday, they canceled it, so nobody even knew that I booked the job.

And, you know, I'm kind of a newbie. I did an episode of "Nashville" in 2015, but never really pursued acting after that. And then I booked the role of Roger in "RENT: Live," which kind of catapulted me into this trajectory of musical theatre. And then I went to do "Pretty Woman," and that's kind of where my career was going. And to have it just pulled out from under me when I felt like I was just now starting to get my legs underneath me in the entertainment business after struggling for thirteen years in Nashville, it really hit me.

And just sitting here in Oklahoma City - we bought a place here. We'd lived in LA and New York - we were in Nashville for twelve years. And just questioning, "What the hell am I doing in Oklahoma City? What kind of work am I going to get? When's the pandemic going to be over?"

So, with all of that being said, I just sat here and thought, "That song needs to have a place, because I know a lot of people are struggling right now." People struggle anyway, but adding the pandemic on top of it, you're just sitting at home in your own head. I've never felt severe depression until this pandemic.

We decided to record it. I got my brother-in-law Nathan Raglin to shoot the video - I think he did a beautiful job keeping it simple. The metaphor of me just kind of missing being onstage and performing and doing what God created me to do is all in the video, in little, subtle messages.

It surprises me that you wrote the song before the pandemic because it resonates so well with the experience of right now. What was it like to create the music video DURING the global health crisis?

That was quite interesting. I reached out to a few theaters here in the state of Oklahoma, because we knew we wanted to get that across and specifically target people within our industry who are struggling. So, that was a challenge in itself, just to find a place to shoot it. We didn't really want to go for a high school or anything. We wanted it to look like an actual place where Broadway shows are done.

So, luckily for us, Mark over at Tulsa PAC in Tulsa, Oklahoma gave us the Chapman Music Hall. And it was interesting, walking in with masks, and they have their minimal crew that helped us. Just trying to pull that off on a cold, rainy day, and have some kind of hope. I guess the rain kind of helped set the mood and the tone for what we wanted to achieve, especially in the beginning of the video.

It had its challenges - just trying to get schedules lined up and all that kind of stuff when everybody's still terrified, as they should be, of this virus, and trying to do it the right way.

I appreciate what you said about the song just kind of falling out of you. Have you always written music? What has that process looked like, historically?

For anybody who doesn't know my history, I come from a musical family. My grandmother was in a duo with my great aunt in the forties, and my aunt and my cousin were a duo in the eighties - they were all country music. So, I grew up with an uncle who played pots and pans, and that kind of stuff.

Music has always kind of been in me. That was one of the reasons I moved to Nashville - to be a singer/songwriter, and try to make it, if you will, in that realm.

It turned out that I got publishing deals and wrote songs for a living for about eight years in Nashville. That's mostly what I did, aside from touring and doing shows here and there. I was writing songs for a living, and honing my skills at that.

So, luckily, for the song "Heaven's on the Way," it was such a heavy, personal song, anyway. Usually, when those come to you, they come pretty quick. And then it's gone.

For the verse and the chorus, I had it, but I really tried hard to write the second verse, and I couldn't do it. I was mentally and physically exhausted from emotionally going there. So I called my friend Skip Black, who's a fantastic songwriter in Nashville, and I asked him if he would try to write the second verse. He was like, "Yeah, man. Send it over." So I sent it to him, and literally twenty minutes later he sent me the second verse as it is. And he's like, "Man, this just came to ME."

We knew we had something special, and it doesn't always happen that way. A lot of times I don't show my music to people because it sucks, you know? You strike out, and sometimes you hit home runs. And I felt like this was one of those magical moments, and, for whatever reason, it just sat on a shelf. Fast forward to the pandemic, and it was the right time to release it.

I called my buddy, Jonny Boucher, who started the charity Hope for the Day. And he and I did two tours in the Middle East and Europe to perform for the troops with Armed Forces Entertainment. He and I hit it off, and he would speak to the soldiers about suicide and depression. His whole call-to-action is to de-stigmatize mental health in general, especially in men. Just to let them know - you can still be masculine and show signs of strength by talking about your struggles. It doesn't mean you're a weak person.

That was the main focus in partnering with them - to help bring awareness to de-stigmatizing mental health, and just trying to help each other get this to a wide platform, and just help people, really. That's what we're trying to do.

Can you tell me a little bit more about Hope for the Day?

Their tagline, which is so simple but so powerful, is, "It's okay not to be okay." As simple and as cliche as it is, it's true. I think that's the biggest step they're trying to accomplish - the acceptance that you're not alone, and we all go through this in some way, shape, or form. And for whatever reason, our society has stigmatized it to the point where people just sweep it under the rug when they have issues.

I've had these conversations with my mom and dad, and they shared with me that that's just how they were raised. That was society. The baby boomer society is just, you know - you pull up your bootstraps and don't talk about your issues. You just go about life. And, luckily, there's a change coming. People are being more vulnerable, and being more open about it, and hopefully we can get these numbers way down, and let people know it's okay to go see a therapist. It's okay to talk to your friend about it. It's a sign of strength to open up and share your deepest, darkest demons that you're dealing with.

It really does feel like there's a change on the horizon on that front.

Absolutely. There's a lot of changes going on. It's funny - I have another song that I wrote two years ago, after one of the mass shootings in California. I was out in L.A. when I wrote that as well - maybe I just need to stay there and keep writing songs.

But it's called "The Valley." It was right after "RENT" had closed, and I was in a boot, dealing with all the broken foot issues, and I got tired of Facebook and all of that kind of stuff. I wrote this song about people fighting, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and social injustices. That's another one that's sitting on a shelf, but I just don't know whether or not I should put it out. And then "Heaven's on the Way" came along, and it kind of pushed it out of the way.

I felt like it was better to be more positive. The other song is a little John Lennon-ish. It goes a little deep. I might lose ten thousand more followers if I put that out.

I think there's definitely a place for that! There must be a good time.

Yeah! I've already got it mixed and mastered, and it's ready to go, so I'm just waiting for the right moment to put that one out. Because it's something that I believe in and fight for. Inequalities between the LGBTQ community, any different race, creed, religion, background. There's just so many injustices, especially in this country, and, unfortunately, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I talk about everything, and lose a lot of followers, but that's okay.

I just love people, man. I just want to help people. And I was blessed with amazing parents that raised me to love people, and not to judge people, no matter their background. I guess that's why these songs always come out, and sometimes they fall flat - sometimes people don't want to hear them - and other times they work. My mission and goal is if I can save one human being with this song, and help somebody, that's mission accomplished. I don't need a platinum record, I don't need Grammys. I don't need anything else. I'm just trying to change the world one person at a time. I'm still trying to change myself!

Do you have any other projects coming up you can tell me about?

The blessing for me - the silver lining throughout the pandemic - is it has allowed me to sit at my piano, or pick up my guitar, and write music again, which is my first love. It will always be my first and foremost love. Writing songs, and trying to be a storyteller.

I've got about sixteen or seventeen songs that I've recorded. I go where the wind blows me. Like, alright, I'm gonna go to Broadway - let's pack the family and go to New York. We just kind of roll with whatever happens. So, I've got other songs, and hopefully, we can put an album out. I haven't done a full-length album ever on a major platform. It's just been singles. I did an EP in 2016 kind of in the country realm. And, this time around, I don't have a publisher to tell me what I need to write.

There's a song I wrote for my kids about how to treat a woman when you start falling in love. Things that would never be on the radio, but things that are really important to me. I'll probably put it out at some point! I just have to figure out the logistics, which is always the fun part of being an indie artists.

I think there's a lot of cool stuff that a lot of people will resonate with, whether it's hit songs or not.

Watch the video for "Heaven's on the Way" here:

Follow Brennin Hunt on Twitter and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Robby Doland

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