An album sure to be on many "best of" lists at year end, Paul Burch's recently released tenth, Meridian Rising, is a creative and unique musical journey, an imagined autobiography based on the life of legenadry singer-songwriter Jimmie Rodgers, whose music, (like Burch's) blended numerous genres. In advance of his show at Sid Gold's Request Room in NYC on March 3rd, Burch graciously took the time to speak in depth about the album, Rodgers, and more.
You had thought about doing a record like this fifteen years, so why was now finally the right time?
Well, I think I got to a point, where probably everybody in every profession gets to, where I had done everything that I wanted to do when I started….but I didn’t want to stop. I made a lot of different kinds of records, I had made honky-tonk records, quiet records, dark records, light records and ones that were a little more rock and I started to feel that the whole concept of making a record was getting a little bit predictable.
Nashville is a great environment. We have a great studio and there’s a lot of very good, accomplished musicians here who are really willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and do the best they can for you. I don’t sell a lot of records and I’m not in the studio as much as some people, but after twenty years we’re all pretty good, pretty competent, at making records. I got to the point where I thought I wanted to shake things up a bit and make a record that wasn’t going to fit into the same kind of frame that most records do.
It’s a record that is definitely done in an incredibly creative and unique manner. Many times when people pay tribute to another artist they simply cover their songs; you approached it from a totally different direction.
When the idea came into my head, I thought ‘Well, that’s an unusual idea’, but it also seemed very meaty, something with a lot of heft to it, more so than the typical record. I think the writer in me is always looking for a challenge, for a different way of writing songs. I still love Rock and Roll and will always want to write Rock and Roll songs, but that’s a real narrow framework.
The idea for this album came into my head a long time ago when I became enchanted with Jimmie’s recordings, one in particular that he did with a blues guitar player named Clifford Gibson, who is not very well known but is a very accomplished player. They just seemed to hit it off in a way that was very joyful and it got me thinking about Jimmie. I had read his biography and loved his music, but I enjoyed thinking about him and his story. It was a great time period not only for music but for art and architecture as well; it was like the beginning of the modern world….and Jimmie was a modern guy.
One of the things that made it fun for me was that I was okay if I couldn’t get it done. Originally, we recorded two songs and they came out really well and we were all very happy with them, but even then I thought that if this ends up being a single, or something I do over a long period of time that’s okay because the idea was strong enough…and everyone’s allowed a good idea. I knew that if I couldn’t finish it it wasn’t because it wasn’t a good idea, it was because the inspiration hadn’t hit me. But as you see, I kept going (laughing). I’m actually pleased that it's done and I don’t have to keep doing it (laughing).
Lauded as one of Texas's premier singer-songwriters, and a 2012 inductee into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame, Robert Earl Keen has released eighteen albums over the course of his career. His latest, 2015's Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions, was embraced by fans and critics alike. The beloved troubadour will be returning to New York City on April 7th for a night at Irving Plaza [rescheduled from January 23rd due to the blizzard]. In advance of the show, Keen kindly took the time to talk about the album, the ninety second song and more.
You’ve played NYC many times, at different venues. Is a good music crowd a good music crowd or does NYC differ in any way?
Well, New York is always full of people who are really excited to be there. I mean, maybe it’s because there’s a little more struggle to get to where you’re going at night or maybe there’s a lot of people who come to the show that don’t live in the city. But it’s always really plugged in, electric. They’re always very happy to be there.
We're definitely very enthusiastic when good music comes our way.
Congrats on the success of Happy Prisoner. I read in an article where you said making the record was a rejuvenating adventure for your own work. How so?
Absolutely. The great thing about making that record was that we went into the studio and played these songs that really everybody knew one way or another, mostly they were songs from childhood. We went in there and it all fell together. I didn’t have to worry about the creative process like I normally do when I write songs. All I had to do was worry that I was making the right choices for the songs themselves....and worry about my singing, which I rarely do. I never considered myself a great singer, so I just sing, but this one I really enjoyed thinking about how to sing these songs and the way that I project. I got a ton out of this record; it turned out to be a real sort of shot in the arm as far as how to do music.
Nashville recording artist Erin Kalin’s first album, No Regrets Yet, featuring her duet with Vince Gill, received rave reviews and landed her a record deal offer with Toby Keith. However, personal issues put Kalin’s music career on hold. Now, she returns with her new single "U-Turns" from her upcoming album You Found Me. A devoted mother to her four children, Kalin kindly took some time from her busy schedule to talk about her journey, the new single, album, and more.
You began singing in the church at age four, did that foster your love of music?
Absolutely! The minute I started singing, I just loved it; I didn’t want to do anything else. I think it was one of those things where it was a gift embedded in me.
My Dad is a pastor, so I grew up singing in the church and on the worship team throughout high school. We traveled to inner cities and other countries to serve others, which had such an impact on me. My parents taught me to be others-centered and to think about others before myself. These were invaluable lessons that I have carried through to my adult life. Even now, I can relate those lessons to music. I love the message of love that music can send and how it can connect with the heart, even if people speak a different language or have different feelings. Music can gather people together that wouldn’t necessarily gather together and I love seeing that and being a part of anything like that.
You grew up in the church, so when did you discover country music?
It was an interesting turn of events. I always loved Don Henley and the Eagles, I even had the opportunity to open for Glenn Frey once at the Dayton Challenge; I also liked Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Then I stumbled upon Reba when I was watching this documentary with my mom. Reba was in another country serving others, giving back with her music. I loved how big her heart was and how great her personality was; she totally embodied everything I wanted to be as an artist. I didn’t know what being an artist meant at the time, but I wanted to be like her. I fell in love with her, Faith Hill, Shania, and Garth.
I am a huge lover of country music. I love how the storytelling in country music genuinely connects with people. I’m such a lover of music - I don’t care how old someone is, or what gender they are, I just love great songs and people who sing their story. That’s what I connect to and I think that’s what people want to hear.