How are you feeling about this year’s music you’ve put out so far?
Feeling real good! I’m really proud of the writing I’ve done the past couple years and the work me and my team have done in the studio. The “Right Time” album really started at the end of 2019 in terms of the writing, and that whole creative cycle for me really was a cathartic and ultimately healing experience. I had so much to work through on an emotional level, so much heavy shit had gone down in my personal life and that album became a vehicle for me to work through it. And as always one of my favorite parts of the work (on the production side that I do with my co-producer Andrew Wesley Carter) is to get the musical mood and landscape to match the core of the song and the words and the message. I’m proud of how it turned out, the simplicity I think is really effective. Also with the new single “One More” I feel really proud of the statement it’s making, lyrically and musically. The sparseness of it and the vulnerability. I hope people enjoy it!
The year is coming to an end! What are you doing in these last few months musically?
Right now my sole task is performing well on this tour with Rival Sons, I’m right in the thick of it and we’re out til mid November. Finding a bit of time to write for new material here and there, but this tour is pretty demanding in terms of travel and all, especially because I’m traveling alone this time. When I get back it’ll be some local shows in California and picking back up on some new songs we’ve been kicking around in the studio.
What has it been like touring with Rival Sons?
I’ve been on the road with these guys a couple times before and it’s always a pleasure. Number one because they are close friends so you get that little bit of home while you’re away for so long, and number two because I get to watch them play every night! It’s so great to be on tour with a band that you really look forward to watching every night, it’s inspiring and it pushes you to do better the next night, I love that challenge. They’re so good at what they do. It’s a joy being out with them. And the audiences have given me a really warm welcome so far, I’m grateful.
What are you working on right now in the studio?
Finishing the “Right Time” album felt like a real milestone for me. In a lot of ways it’s the record I’ve always wanted to make and I’m happy to let it ride for a while and do shows with my band to support it and give it it’s due attention. I’ve got a lot of sketches of songs in process, we’re just kind of hunting for the sound right now. I’ve done a lot of work in the studio based around the piano, and I’m feeling this pull to really get back to my guitar playing and showcase that in the new stuff. Also the last couple years have been on the darker, melancholy side, and I’m having a feeling the new stuff will push the energy up a bit. I’m excited, I just don’t know what it is just yet.
What are your studio sessions looking like these days?
Well, being on the road at the moment I’m not spending any time in the studio, but before I leave and when I get back it’s either starting up ideas at my home studio which is great for the writing side and for vocals and for starting ideas. And then getting into Echo Studio (which is my spot in Santa Ana with Andy) and working on grooves, drums etc for ideas that I’ve started at home usually. Occasionally we’ll start up a session before I have the writing done, and go from the ground up starting with a groove and maybe a guitar idea. I think the latter way will be what we gravitate towards when I’m back. Focus on energy first and let the writing follow it.
Is it just you when you go to record or do you work with others?
My close friend Andrew Wesley Carter and I share a studio space in Santa Ana called Echo Studio. I work from home sometimes cutting vocals or acoustic instruments, but the meat of the production is done at Echo with Andy; we co-produce and play most of the instruments between the two of us. He also mixes everything I do out of there, he’s a badass. I’m super fortunate to have a good group of musicians in my band as well and they join me in the studio frequently. Devin Beaman & Greg Velasquez on drums and percussion. David Beste (from Rival Sons) guests on bass sometimes, Blas Perez and Nic Rodriquez on bass too, Justin Burrow on steel guitar. All amazing players. Over the years I’ve also worked a ton with my great friend Dallas Kruse – we’ve played live a lot together and he has a studio in Santa Ana called Zion. Still get to work with him on music, video projects, and live sometimes. He’s amazing. So lucky to have so many great collaborators available and into what I’m doing! Also my brother Gabe Burt has been playing guitar with me live lately. He’s a great musician and my best friend, so that’s been really fun to have him on the team!
Who is the person that you want to work with next whether it’s putting them on a track or just producing?
So many people. In the immediate family I think of Doll Knight who is Dallas’s partner and an amazing vocalist and writer. She’s done some shows with us and made some live guest appearances, and would love to have her on some new music soon. But I haven’t told her yet! Also a long time collaborator Gabriel Hartman, he’s played sax on a few things I’ve done before and I’d love to involve him and a horn section on new stuff, but again I haven’t told him! Beyond that, Brian Eno. Daniel Lanois, T-bone Burnett. Production masters that it would be a dream to do something with.
How are you customizing your sound in your next tracks?
My mentor the late, great Rupert Hine was a master producer and artist who taught me so much. But I feel like his central statement that resonates with me forever is, “Do what only you can do. Write a song that only you can write.” I’m always striving for that and re-examining myself to think of what my real core is as an artist. I think the interplay between my guitar style and my voice is the core of what makes my music mine. So following this last record I’m excited to walk deeper down that path and center things around my guitar playing and hopefully let it take the spotlight a bit more.
How do you make sure that you’re customizing your overall vision for your music?
I think the answer to that is actually to not try too hard. To not “try” to be anything I’m not. You know, I love all kinds of music and there’s so much out there from the present and past that inspires me and sometimes I think, “Oh! I want to do something like THAT!” And that’s cool to be inspired by other things, it’s essential. But when I’m creating it’s usually best to let those thoughts drift to the background and really just let the music come together naturally around the song. To be myself as much as possible really. To follow our first instincts in the studio. To quote Peter Gabriel who is one of my heroes, “I just follow my nose.” Find something interesting to me and chase it as far as it goes, and leave it up to everyone else to enjoy it or not. Hopefully I will enjoy it!
What is your overall vision for yourself!?
To write songs that touch my heart and to make beautiful recordings and to bring that out into the world and perform it. I believe if I write and make music that touches me, it could touch others as well. All other goals of life and success and travel aside, that’s the core. I can sleep on that.
How are you leading with love with your music?
Whatever I’ve done, I think my music has always come from my heart. I can’t always easily be myself in social situations or with people, sometimes that’s an effort to be outward in the world and be myself, be comfortable and open. But my music is always me, and my heart always takes the lead there. That’s the driver. In the writing and performance I don’t second guess myself or hold back, whoever is watching or listening is getting my true self. And that openness and connection with people through music feels like pure love to me.
Where can you be followed on social media?
Instagram is my main outlet these days, but you can find me and my music anywhere you like! Thank you.
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End of Interview