Postcard from The Soul: Interview to Cedric Burnside
by Gio Pilato
The REAL music, the one that comes from the heart, is never fortuitous; it may be coming from inner, deep feelings such as loss or separation, but is nevertheless the result of somebody that is able to observe life with pure eyes and is, in that specific moment, that one is able to separate REAL music from the pre-planned one. Cedric Burnside belongs to this minute portion of worldwide artists able to express their emotions in music in a straight forward way, without filters and capable to adopt such purity in the immediate build-up of their songs.
When I met Cedric at 9 am in a beautiful, sunny Italian morning in Rome and almost immediately, Cedric welcomed me with the biggest, most sincere smile ever, and a hug that almost disarmed for such immediacy and spontaneity. Cedric is today's guest of Bluebirdreviews.com to talk to us through Hear Me When I Say, his latest release, recorded in collaboration with Trenton Ayers, a very talented guitarist and long time friend of Cedric under the name Cedric Burnside Project. The album is a very intense one, lyrically speaking, packed with soulful tales of life and once again, a true treat of pure Mississippi Hill Country sound played beautifully both by Cedric and Trenton.
Gio - Hear Me When I Say is your new record and one almost get the feeling that the predominant theme on the album is discerning the true colors of life from the fake one; was this the original concept behind the album or the lyrics took a different tangent during the recording process?
CB - You know, I try to write my music according to how I live my life and the way my family and friends do. In life you go through all different types of things and then such things may come to you in a moment; you can be in your bed or in a hotel room, it doesn't matter where or when. I hope that people can relate to my music in the same way I write it; maybe they might have been there and follow my same paths, lived them and maybe they can walk up to me and say: "Cedric, that song, man, it really hit home!". That is how I try to write my music and I think I am going to do that in the same way for the rest of my life because is all about the realness to me.
Gio - Your singing style on this record reaches its very best of your glorious career so far, in my personal opinion, very deep and soulful than ever; did you feel more emotionally connected to the songs on this album more then on your previous works?
CB - Well, thank you for your compliments; I have to say I am always into my music when I write it and I always feel those emotions or felt them at least once before. If I write a song right now, it's gonna be about my emotions or about emotions I felt before in my life. I just write naturally, whenever it comes to me; I may come up with some lyrics about the way I feel and maybe the music can come up after three months or in 30 minutes or I can come up with a riff to calm myself down and say "Wow, I like that!!" so then I just need to find the lyrics to that. It's all about the heat of the moment, you are never sure when that inspired moment comes; I can have a conversation with somebody and such conversation may spark some sad moment that you remember and I try immediately to write and translate those moments in music. I am not a man of many words but having said that, people look at me and say: "What? You talk a lot, man, that is not strictly true!" (chuckles)
Gio - "Wash My Hands" is one of the many standout tracks of the record; it almost sounds like your drum beat and Trenton's guitar fuses together in one, sole, powerful instrument . Can you tell us a bit more how this track was born?
CB - Well, as you know from those lyrics, I went through a whole lot of pain (Cody, Cedric brother's, passed away unexpectedly at a very young age). I have been dealing and been through a lot of trial and tribulation and then that song came up to my mind; I wrote the music very quickly and the lyrics too but I had to show Trenton the music; so we sat one day in a room, Trent and I and started practicing the song over and over again until Trent had his own feeling that the mood and the sound were just right and so did I, although we have our own way to read through songs and the execution style. By practicing so hard, I guess we just reach a level in which my voice, the drums and the guitar just jelled together naturally because we both felt the energy and the mood on that song was just right.
Gio - You have been touring the record here in Europe, although I know you are already planning to record a new album before the end of this year, hopefully. Have you been pleased with the fans' response to Hear Me When I Say, here in Europe?
CB - I am! I have to say, some songs on the record, I just do them live as they come out on the day and they wouldn't be classified exactly as Mississippi Hill Country but more like R&B or country songs, that sort of stuff. Because of the immediacy we put in our performances, some songs almost sound like dressed in a different style because I do all types of music, you know and I play with all types of people and I just wanted to see what the people thought about hearing the tracks in a different way. They seem to love them, you know and that makes me very happy!
Gio - "I Like It, I Love It" is for me a typical Cedric Burnside's Mississippi Hill Country tune about life in general and an acoustic master class from you and Trenton; what was your inner mood when you penned the track? Did you feel particularly inspired by something specific on that track?
CB - "I Like It, I Love It?" Believe it or not, that song was inspired by my girlfriend! We were on the phone one day and she was in a restaurant in town and while we were chatting, I was telling her about my day and she was going "I Like It, I Love It!" an awful lot and I just said "Wow!", I don't know quite why those words were stuck in my head afterward until I said to myself: "I Like It, I Love It," that sounds like a song!" Believe it or not, I wrote that song in 30 minutes and I called her back saying: "D'you know I have written a song about what you were telling me before, "I Like It, I Love It?" and she couldn't believe it. So I played her the song on the phone and she still couldn't believe it!! She was absolutely ecstatic.
Gio - Another track on the album, "Mean Queen," is a true gem and well loved when you play it live; do the lyrics come from the slightly angry part of Cedric Burnside when it comes to relationship between sexes?
CB - Well, I have to say, yes! (chuckles). I love to bring my emotions and my feelings through my music. I can talk about it now ... I got a bit frustrated at times and my words don't come up right and so I can sing my words better of how I can express them in any other way. "Mean Queen" comes from a long time back, about 8-9 years ago; I was going through some difficult times with my ex-wife, things escalated between us in not a nice way, one day after the other until things just got out of control. I wrote this song about at the same time all this happened but never recorded it; I guess the reason why we decided to record the song just now is due to the fact I thought it was right to do so now, on this particular record. We recorded the track in only one take and that was the version that ended up on Hear Me.. The only time I played this song before was on my patio, with Kenny Brown back at the time! And now that we are on tour Trenton and I keep hearing people wanting "Mean Queen" played all the time! That feels really good.
Gio - The recording of this album has been a longer affair for you than your previous records; taking more time to make this album, has kind of changed your way to look at the timespan needed before releasing new records?
CB - Yes. I always look forward to write and create more music but not any kind of music but stuff one can relate to; I like to speak through my lyrics about how the world is today and the way I live in such world. I can be at time a little ironic, or put a bit of fun in my tracks but pretty much I live in the same way I write my music. As we were discussing before, I shall be starting recording a new album in the next months but I have learned to appreciate writing and recording in a short length of time if both lyrics and music are immediate or in a slightly longer time, depending how fast the music come to myself and Trenton.
Gio - In one of your tracks you sing, " Life can be clean and smooth like an escalade or life can be mean and cruel like a razor blade." How important is for you, in music as in life, to get your point across with people?
CB - Well, sometimes I might never be able to get my point, any points across but that doesn't mean I ain't tell it as it is, they might not listen to me but it doesn't mean I won't try! (chuckles). I wrote that song really for kids in the world today, especially young one, about making the right choices in life. I just tried to give my advice about how important it is to make the right choice in any state of mind or of your life, doesn't matter if that happens when you are angry, happy... As long as you follow your dreams, no matter how hard is gonna be, stick to your guns because, as I was saying in my song, if you don't, life can be like a razor blade and cut you through and through. But if you decide to work hard to pursue your dreams, your desires, than you may just reach that fabulous escalade.
Gio - You have won 3 consecutive times the award for Best Instrumentalist / Drummer (although you won the Award four times in total), you have three beautiful daughters ... Is three really a magic number for Cedric Burnside?
CB - (chuckles) I don't know what my magic number is, Man ... I just know that I am 35-years old, I look forward to a long life as much as God wishes to keep me here, I look forward to take care of my babies, write music and hopefully, be able to transfer my musical DNA into my wonderful babies too if they want to follow my path. If not, as long as they are happy and healthy, I will always be a happy man!
P.S. Many thanks to Kerry Bayhi and Trenton Ayers for the friendship and the Entourage of the Mojo Station Music Festival in Rome for making this interview possible. To Cedric, always for the ability and talent as a musician and most of all, for being the extraordinary human being he is.
About Our Author: Giovanni "Gio" Pilato is Italian music writer, who has been living in UK since 2002. With an enormous passion for music, and life in general, his interest in the communications began at 11 years old. He worked briefly for local radios in his youth and did a one-off radio show on 2007 on the glorious BBC 6 Music Radio station. Gio started his freelance journalist career in 2012, with Italian artists, and is now mainly focusing on blues artists. To follow Gio Pilato and his all cool radio show, Visit: (RTL 102.5 Cool (Webradio)): http://www.rtl.it/Cool