SPENCER BURTON DELIVERS A WILEY COYOTE
The concert halls may have grown silent during the pandemic, but the studio walls were bristling, as many musicians took the time to channel their isolation and creativity into their art and record new music. Niagara’s own SPENCER BURTON is one such artist who put his down time to good use.
The chameleon-esque country-folk singer/songwriter released his fifth solo album, COYOTE, on February 19th, and it’s well worth the wait. The album boldly presents Burton’s strength as a songwriter, as he weaves a rich tapestry of human experience into songs perfectly suited for his resonant deep vocal style. Songs like “”Hard Times,” “Memories We Won’t Soon Forget,” “Nothing’s Changed” and “Thins I Can’t Do” showcase Burton’s rootsy empathy toward life’s simpler emotions. A special guest appearance by lap-steel legend Lloyd Green (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney) adds another dimension of splendor to what amounts to Burton’s best solo work to date. Burton took some time to chat with GoBeWeekly.com about the release.
GoBe: Let’s start with a little quote from Charles Dickens. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Given your productivity in a year defined by COVID, which side of the fence are you on when you consider the last 12 months.
SPENCER: I’m sitting right on the fence. I don’t pick sides. It was a good year and it was a bad year. I think because of this whole pandemic, a lot of negative things came out it. A lot of death and sickness. I did find with the pandemic I was able to learn a lot more about myself. I had a lot more time to think. I learned more about my loved ones and my wife, being able to spend so much more time with them. If you’re lucky enough to have people, spending more time with them was a good thing. I’m lucky enough to have some property, some livestock, we’re just putting seedlings in the vegetable gardens. So there were some ups and down.
GoBe: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming you put the songs on COYOTE together during the past year. As a musician, with no touring and no live events, that must at least be the positive takeaway.
SPENCER: I will correct. This pandemic on a creative side has been a bit of a slouch for me. These songs on the album, I recorded all of them in the summer and fall of 2019, but because the pandemic hit I wasn’t able to release them. We sat on them and released them single by single. I don’t want people to think that this song or that song was written during the pandemic because it seems to fit. It’s quite the opposite actually. They’re all pre-pandemic, it’s just that many of them are suited to the current climate.
GoBe: This is your fifth solo album. That would be an entire career for some. Do you feel like you’re hitting your stride creatively given your growing catalogue?
SPENCER: I don’t know about hitting my stride. I will say that I’m happier with this record than any other record I’ve released. I feel that way about every record. I think that’s the way anybody’s that’s creating should feel. If you put out a record, or if you write a book, or create a piece of art, and you wind up thinking ‘oh, my last one was better,’ then you’re doing something wrong. I make music because I love it. I make music because it’s a form of therapy for me, and because I like to continually better myself as a person and an artist.
GoBe: You’ve released a video for a song “Nothing’s Changed,” a kind of ode to rustic Alberta. And yet, if you look at where you were when your music career started and where it is now, a lot has certainly changed in your world. What do you think are the primary internal and external forces shaping the change in your musical universe ove the years?
SPENCER: I’ve never known how to answer that question properly, because it always winds up such a vague answer. I’m not generally influenced by other artists. I respect other artists, some more than others. But my music is never changing because of the type of music I’m listening to, it’s changing because the way I’m currently living. I write a song because it’s how I’m feeling. The style, the way it comes out, it’s just because of how I’m feeling. There are songs on this record that sit really nicely together. There are other songs that don’t fit as well. I’m not trying to make a folk record, not trying to make a country record, not trying to make a rock record. I’m trying to make a Spencer Burton record. And sometimes these songs can be anything whether that’s rock, folk, punk, country or whatever you call it.
GoBe: You’ve got the legendary Lloyd Green playing lap steel on the album. How did that come about?
SPENCER: I was really lucky. My last album of adult songs, Songs Of, I was lucky enough to record with an incredible producer. There were some ups and downs, but by the end we got to know each and he understood what would get me excited. When I went back to make Coyote, we were in the studio one day and he was like, ‘you know what would be really cool on this song? We should get Lloyd Green to play on it.’ I kind of laughed, and low and behold, the next day I show up and Lloyd Green is there. He’s a living legend and so painfully talented. Just watching him play was awe-inspiring. He only did three takes and played about ten minutes, but he stayed in the studio for five or six hours just telling stories.
Gobe: If there’s a common thread in these songs it’s hope and optimism. Even on a song like “Hard Times,” there’s a light to be found, a positivity there, not a bleak depiction of the current social and political landscape. What is your source of hope in songs like that?
SPENCER: There is hope and love everywhere. Everywhere you look. “Hard Times” is about the truth and the fact there is no up without a down. There’s no win without lose. Everything lives in harmony and everything reacts together in its own special way. You can’t have one thing without another. It’s just how life is. There’s a light and a darkness everywhere and you have to embrace both.
Check out more of Spencer Burton's work here: Spencer Burton (spencerburtonmusic.com)