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The genius pop brain of Brett Domino
Brett Domino might just be a musical genius. With nearly 150,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, the unlikely Yorkshire star has covered everyone from Daft Punk to Lady Gaga – as well writing hit original songs including ‘Naughty Sexy Funk Woman‘, ‘Gillian McKeith‘ and most recently ‘A Song About the New AirBnB logo‘.
His latest trick is to take what he’s learned about pop and try his hand at teaching others. His two recent ‘How to Make a Hit Pop Song’ videos have amassed a combined 3 million views, so we caught up with Brett to find out more about the ‘trio’, his love for Jason Derulo and just how easy it is to write a hit pop record.
Hi Brett Domino, thanks for speaking with us today. For anyone who doesn’t know, could you tell us a bit about the Brett Domino Trio and how you met?
Hello. Well, the Brett Domino Trio consists of me (Brett Domino), and my colleague Steven Peavis. NB: There were originally three of us, but the third member (Mitch Hutchinson) left in 2009 to focus on his career as a fork lift truck operator. For those unfamiliar with our output, we are a musical group who play predominantly electronic keyboards (but also some other stuff).
Did you expect your songs to enjoy the level of success they’ve had?
Not at first, but in hindsight; yes. I think I’ve just about got the internet figured out now. People love cover songs – especially when played on something different to what they were originally played on (stylophone, ukulele, deodorant can, etc). That’s the golden formula, and that’s what got us where we are today. It gets a bit boring doing covers though (and doesn’t make us as much / any money due to copyright laws), so what I’ve tried to do is start writing songs that sound as if they could be cover songs.
These pop hit tutorials of yours are proving very popular. Excuse the pun, but why do you think they struck a chord?
They seemed to appeal to a range of people for quite different reasons. I think some people saw the videos as a hard-hitting satirical attack on the formulaic nature of modern popular music (not the case at all); some people found it a fascinating insight into the methodology of crafting a pop hit (as was intended); and some people just liked the songs (a great result). Also, I think some people just clicked the thumbnail as they were intrigued by the bassoon.
We were admiring your bassoon skills on ‘Sexy When You Do That’? How many instruments can you play and which is your favorite?
I can’t actually play the bassoon (as covered in How To Make a Hit Pop Song, pt.1: Step 2). It’s my mum’s. She is a bassoonist by trade. I had a basic 10-minute lesson, and it took me a further 40 minutes to generate the four notes you hear in the song. I am, however, quite proficient at most keyboarded instruments (piano, organ, Stylophone, keyboard, etc); and I can also play the ukulele, theremin, kazoo, recorder and a range of auxiliary percussion.
Both videos make writing a pop hit look easy. Is it easy?
Yes. Producing a pop hit is the tricky part.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about Jason Derulo?
Jason has a great vocal range – he can sing really high, like a lady, but still manage to maintain a level of ‘cool’. Lyrics aren’t really a strong point of his, but what he lacks in narrative, he really makes up for in groove.
Do you have any favorite Yorkshire pop stars?
I think it’s good for pop bands to have at least one member from Yorkshire. It worked for the Spice Girls (Mel B), 5ive (Sean) and Girls Aloud (Kimberley). One Direction has two (Zayn and Louis) and look at them.
If you could have written any pop song by another artist, which would it be?
Probably ‘White Christmas’ by Irving Berlin. It’s one of the highest-earning songs of all time – I’d be filthy rich.
You’ve done a lot of cover versions in your time, have you had any feedback or contact with the artists themselves?
Justin Timberlake posted our video medley of his songs on his website, which was nice. We met Ellie Goulding once too, and she said she liked our medley of her songs. She might have just been saying that to be polite though.
If you had to choose one highlight and one lowlight of the band’s career – what would they be?
One highlight was being flown out to Sweden to film an elaborate car advert (involving a full-scale remote-controlled people carrier) that was never actually aired. A lowlight would be playing at a bar in Darlington on Christmas Eve and having bottles thrown at us during the first few bars of ‘Baker Street’.
Is there any hope of making the Brett Domino Trio a trio again?
We did reunite with Mitch last year for the 5th Anniversary of my YouTube channel. We covered ‘Insane In The Brain’. I think Mitch is pretty settled in the Lake District now though. And Steven and I have got used to splitting our gig fees 50/50.
Finally, what’s next for the band?
We’re working on a web series at the minute for the YouTube channel. It’s a kind of magazine show, with different regular segments (celebrity interviews, a cookery bit, etc). That’s going to be uploaded weekly from September 9th. We’ll also probably play a few more live dates before the year is out. Think that’s about it.