Spencer Burton: Living the Good Life and Singing SONGS OF
BY DAVID DeROCCO
As a well-travelled singer/songwriter, SPENCER BURTON has heard the stories, read the lyrics and listened to endless songs penned by road-weary musical vagabonds who chronicle the hardships of life on the road. But in all his years of travelling, first with Niagara’s indie-favs Attack in Black through his tours with City and Colour and now as a solo artist, he never really understood why musicians complained so much about taking flight and venturing off until something transformative happened to him – he traded his wings for roots.
“I truly believe that travelling and hitting the road is harder now than at any other time in my life because I don’t always look forward to it,” said Burton, now a married family man whose new CD, SONGS OF, was released May 5th. “I love playing music and I love recording and everything to do with music, but now I’m not just going off to play music. I’ve leaving a beautiful wife behind, my children. I’ve got 10 acres of goats and chickens in Ridgeville. We have this beautiful family. When I hit the road and leave them behind it’s crushing. Today I’m on the road to Peterborough and it’s my daughter’s seventh birthday. When they say it’s hard on the road now I understand.”
As hard as saying goodbye can be, Burton is buoyed by the fact his life these days is filled with happiness, and not just because he’s got a great new CD of original material to perform for audiences when he does venture out on the road. In fact, the friends and family he’s managed to surround himself with were part of the inspiration for the 11 songs founds on SONGS OF, an album Burton says was written from a very unfamiliar place of personal contentment.
“This is the first album I’ve ever written where I had really truly good things to write about,” said Burton, who’s headlining an album/CD release party June 15th at St. Catharines’ newest concert venue, The Warehouse. “Not that every other song I’ve written was about sad and depressing things. I travelled a lot before because I never really had anything keeping me here. SONGS OF is really the first time I’ve ever written a bunch of songs where I had a wife and children and a home that I was comfortable enough with to want to stay at.”
Burton’s certainly happy to be back home after the whirlwind recording sessions for SONS OF in Nashville with producer Andrija Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray For The Riff Raff). The resulting tracks reflect Burton’s gift for telling real stories that connect with audiences on a very human and engaging emotional level. For example, the first single – ‘Broken Hearts and Broken Chains’ – explores the universal truth that sometimes you have to lose it all to appreciate what you’ve got. On the other hand, Burton’s included the song “Cry Little Darling”, a track inspired by tears of longing flowing from a daughter who wanted her musician father to stay home.
“I was leaving for a tour and my little girl who was four or five was losing her mind and couldn’t stop crying,” remembers Burton. I was trying to explain to her that it was my job to play for people. She kept crying and said ‘why can’t you just play for me?’ Of course I was instantly devastated. So instead of jumping in the car I pulled out my guitar right in the porch room and I wrote her a song on the spot. The version I played for her was not one I’d put on record. But after changing some things around it made it on the CD. Right now at this moment that would be the standout song for me.”
With 10 other standout tracks, SONGS OF is the perfect reflection of Burton’s lyrical and musical artistry as it exists in 2017. And while the two weeks he spent recording the album in Nashville may seem like a short window in which to deliver an album, the songs that resulted will certainly be resonating with Burton for years to come given their intimate subject matter.
“Everything you make is the music world is a labour of love and it’s not really about how long it took. The Curve of the Earth took two days, and Songs Of took two weeks. But really those albums took my whole life. They’re experiences that I’ve gathered over the years. It took years to write the songs, two weeks to record them and an entire lifetime to learn the life lessons that each of those songs wound up teaching me.”
See Spencer Burton and friends July 15 at the Warehouse. Prior to the CD release party fans can see Burton in a free 20-minute acoustic set inside Mindbomb Records on James Street in St. Catharines.