Brandon Harwood, an Upper School Spanish teacher at Landon from 2008 to 2019, is now a professional recording artist after 20 plus years of writing songs and performing. He released three singles in the spring of 2023.
On June 10, 2023, Harwood played his first live show with a band in New York City, where he played eight original songs, five of them unreleased.
Harwood will release ten songs in two albums—each called “Dreambell”—this fall and winter, one fully arranged and the other acoustic.
Harwood first played guitar in seventh grade but focused on other interests until he returned to the instrument in high school at Bullis. He printed sheets of chords and lyrics from the school’s computer lab and researched music of all genres. Growing up in the 1990s, Nirvana had a profound impact on him, Harwood said. And the band was the primary motivation behind the beginning of his musical discovery. The three artists that Harwood holds in high regard are Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Bob Marley.
He continued to play intermittently throughout college and his career as a teacher. He moved to New York City in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2021 that he found his “artistic pulse” and felt motivated to record his music in a studio.
Harwood works under the name “Island Moons,” a reference to the English poet, William Blake, whose manuscript of a similar name inspired him when Harwood was in a recording session with his producer.
About the name, Harwood said, “it takes you somewhere...it has a life of its own.” Harwood added he is inspired by artists and bands with names that transcend the artist and genre; some of these include Nirvana, Tame Impala, and The Doors (whose name was also inspired by Blake). Harwood says his music most aligns with the indie genre but that he wants his work to extend beyond the confines of modern genre labels.
“I know my purpose is to be an artist and to create...to sing my song, literally and figuratively," he said.
Alfredo Benavides, former Landon administrator and Spanish teacher (as well as avid guitarist), reminded Harwood “of the pure joy that music brings.” Benavides has acted as a constant inspiration in Harwood’s musical career and life, even officiating Harwood’s wedding.
When Harwood found a producer who shared his vision, he scheduled three sessions with a fully arranged band; the production process was developmental for him as an artist.
“I truly understood the meaning of the term ‘recording artist’,” he said. In the true sense of the word “artist,” Harwood described the process as “painting with sound.” For the first time, he added, he saw how sound was layered and arranged to produce a polished product.
Harwood audited Jim Kreger’s musical theory course in 2018-19 alongside two seniors. This course gave Harwood the opportunity to learn the “language of music,” and it paved the way for his future sessions with backing musicians and influenced his own compositions.
Middle School Dean Jeremy Norman ’92 said about Harwood, “I always knew he had the musical talent based on our late-night guitar sessions with Mr. Benavides in Spain, but to have the courage to take it to the next level while working full time and starting a family is admirable.”
Harwood’s music is available on Spotify and Apple Music.