It’s no small feat to develop a relationship with one of your songwriting idols.
It’s another to obtain their blessing on a cover song of theirs you’re planning on releasing. Such is the case with Portland/New Zealand indie folk singer-songwriter Brandon De La Cruz.
The track embodies both gravity and tenderness, and the quiet, distant picking that opens the track creates a meditative, steady rhythm for De La Cruz’s delicate vocals to float over. The bridges are colored by doo-wop style “la-la’s” that provide the perfect counterbalance to an airy, spacious arrangement. “I Love You Babe” is sculpted with minimalist charm and effortless precision.
Hurley himself had this to say about De La Cruz’s cover of his song:
“That song of mine [“I Love You Babe”] he did was recorded at one of the sessions for the second Folkways album I was supposed to record, but I never finished it due to a move to Boston from Bucks County, and when I came back to New York some months later, the Folkways office had been closed. I had no knowledge of what to do then but get back on the train to Cambridge… I couldn’t see how anybody could like [the song], but Brandon De La Cruz brings it into a new day, don’t he? It sounds like new music to me.”
All of De La Cruz’s tracks on his upcoming album, Two Kilos of Blue, may be considered a reflection of his tenure as a staffer at Mississippi Records in Portland, Oregon, which is where his bond with Hurley bloomed. Samples of folk and country-blues recordings issued from the early 20th century by Mississippi are used in De La Cruz’s upcoming album to subtly layer and build to his unique arrangements. “I Love You Babe” is the one conspicuously sample-free track.
“When I was in Portland, I started working at this cafe called Sweedeedee, which is named after one of [Hurley’s] songs, which was in the same building as Mississippi Records, and is a label that put out a lot of his music. I started working at the cafe without much knowledge of him, and I worked there for 4-5 years, and he’d come in a couple times a month. After getting to know him a bit, his records slowly grew on me. Eventually I worked at the label in the store room and got to know him even more. And when I first heard [“I Love You Babe”], I just knew I loved it. It’s so little known, and I love the way it feels when I sing it. You know how there’s certain songs, you can’t really explain why, but they make you feel so good to sing? That one hit me in that way.”
He was recently featured on Radio New Zealand’s (RNZ) program ’Bookmarks’ on June 27th to promote the new single and upcoming album.
De La Cruz grew up in the suburbs of Southern California’s Inland Empire, and has lived and performed regularly in Portland Berkeley, California, and New Zealand. While living in LA, he religiously attended Jon Brion’s weekly improvised performances at Largo. His last three records were inspired by the works of Rainer Maria Rilke, Joan Didion and Ovid, while his upcoming album draws from the images and experiences of his own life from the past decade.
The record is linked thematically by love, loss, spirits, seasons, shades of blue and the moon. Recorded and arranged over two years at the artist’s studio in Kirikiriroa, New Zealand, from March to September 2021, each track is a balancing act of consideration and spontaneity.
“I Love You Babe” follows his June single release, “Disguise.” His album, Two Kilos of Blue, is slated for release August 25th.