Emma Furrier chatted to the one and only Briston Maroney in anticipation of his debut album release, ‘Sunflower’, which is out now. A very special interview with a huge rising star, this one is not a Spotlight to be missed!
RNRR: Hi Briston, welcome to Spotlight! Let's start off with introductions for those who are unfamiliar with you and your music.
BM: Hi my name is Briston Maroney! I am a musician from Knoxville, Tennessee, but I live in Nashville now. Right now I don't do a lot, but I am waiting to put out our debut record next week (April 9th). It's insane... but yeah, I'm Briston [laughs].
RNRR: Wonderful! It's lovely to meet you.
BM: You too, thank you.
RNRR: How are you feeling about your debut album coming out? How would you describe the sound? Is there any sonic shift from what you've put out in your EPs so far, and the singles, which are amazing, by the way.
BM: Ah, thank you! That's so sweet, thanks so much. I feel like the singles are a good representation of what the whole record is kind of gonna sound like. There's a couple more stripped back tracks that weren't singles that are some of the more special ones to me on the record, and more personal. It's pretty wide ranged between all the stuff we've released so far between some of the heavier, "rock stuff" and some more acoustic driven, "songwriter-y" songs too, which is kind of where my roots are based musically. But yeah, we try to do a little bit of everything and I think it came out in this kind of funky, pretty weird combination of things. But it feels really true to kind of the period of time that we are making the record.
RNRR: How long have you been working on it for? Has it been just during the pandemic?
BM: Dude, it's insane [laughs]. This has been the longest process ever. I don't mean to sound ungrateful about it at all, but it is so long, it's insane. Some of these songs were some of the first songs that I sent the label that we work with when we started working together like 3 years ago. So some of these songs are so old. I have written so many songs since. I have written more songs since the record was done than there are total on the album. We actually got the first batch of masters like done this time last year. I've had this record in a stupid little Soundcloud link for a year. You can safely assume that I lost my mind listening to it over and over just being like "It has to come out!" [laughs].
RNRR: Right, well it's your baby, it's your debut!
BM: Yeah totally. Everyone is being so sweet about it so I haven't felt a ton of pressure. But just like, self wise, it does feel like... it's scary, man. With how much time has passed in the time that we worked on it, it just feels like man, that was like two years of life essentially, that I hope can impact people in way, like it was worth that time and effort. When you pour yourself into something, you obviously want it to do well. We definitely did, for like two years straight.
RNRR: There's probably pros and cons to that too. Having to sit on it for a while before you're able to release it.
BM: Totally. Yeah, that's a really good point. I definitely feel like my relationship with it has changed a lot. I really was so scared when we started getting stuff back and seeing it completed. I was like oh man, there is so much more I should've done, or I should've done things differently, I wish I would have sang this differently, or gotten out of my head the day we tracked this part and this part. But with that much time to sit on it, I've really come to terms with just like, man it couldn't have been any different than it was. You know what I mean? It happened exactly how it was gonna happen. So like, just coming to peace like yeah, this is what I was capable of at that time. I wouldn't want it to be any more or less.
RNRR: Right, and then it'll sound true to you as well. It's not pretending to be anything more than it is.
BM: Yes, exactly. Yeah. Which is scary, because I battle a lot with "okay, if this sounds like me, what if me is not enough?" You know what I mean? So like, it's weird. You constantly have to be working on that, I guess, in that mindset. I'm sure you have similar feelings with writing, like I'm sure just hearing your own voice and seeing your own thoughts on paper, it's just like, this is totally what I want to feel and want to say, but that's a scary thing to do.
RNRR: Yes, absolutely. How did you come up with the title, 'Sunflower'? I was really excited to see you named it that. I love sunflowers, they just make me so happy.
BM: Oh thank you so much. Yeah, that is literally what it came down to for me. I didn't want to complicate that super heavily, I didn't want to make it anything crazy. I felt like this album is pretty straightforward and pretty simple. It's kind of my attempt at talking about what I think is beautiful or impactful in my life, and sunflowers are that. You can't really knock a sunflower. I don't know anyone that looks at a sunflower and is just like, "this is not good" [laughs]. If you are criticizing a sunflower, you're probably a tool and not cool [laughs]. So yeah, I just wanted something that was universally beautiful. They're really awesome. They also do this crazy thing, I don't know if you knew this or if this is even really true. But I read somewhere that they grow towards the sun and at times if they need sunlight, if two of them aren't getting enough light, they'll turn towards each other and combine whatever sunlight they're getting. I don't know if that's true, but it seemed very romantic and awesome, so I liked that.
RNRR: I love that. You could probably make a lot of metaphors out of that.
BM: For sure. Yeah, it's like, fake smart [laughs]. I'll let the smarter people decide.
RNRR: How has making the album, or just making music in general, how has that relationship evolved throughout the pandemic for you?
BM: Man, that's a great question. It is definitely really different just because we are not getting to try new songs live. That's a huge part of when something feels good or bad for me. We got to play a socially distanced show a week or two ago and we played some of the new songs from the record, and it was like, a huge moment for me. Some of the songs I was like, man I am really scared of how this is gonna be received. Then getting to play them for people and seeing that they were making people happy, it totally helped me come to terms with what these songs are and what they mean to me. I have written a lot in the past year, but a lot of these songs, it's like, I don't know how I feel about them and I won't until we get to play them for people. The Internet is an awesome way obviously to share that stuff, but it's like a comment of saying "I'm enjoying this" is so different than seeing someone actively having a good time. So yeah, that's been a huge impact.
RNRR: This summer you are hitting the road with Mt. Joy for some outdoor shows.
BM: Yes! We feel really good about doing the outdoor stuff. And we're booking for next year and stuff, which is so long away, but if that's what it takes, then that's what we'll do. We'll hope for the best and we'll get back out there.
RNRR: Right, and you're playing some online shows. You're doing Bands In Town.
BM: Yes! Dude, I am so excited about that, I can't wait. A bunch of my friends have done them and said that they were really really fun. We get to do it in Nashville, too, at a place that we really love. I'm stoked about that.
RNRR: I collect vinyl, so I am so excited to get your album. I ordered the autographed, translucent orange pressing you put out.
BM: Ah no way! That's so nice, thank you. That's so cool. I had a really solid little vinyl collection going and then I moved, and it's just been at this house that I lived at like three years ago, this big box of records has been there.
RNRR: It's hard to move vinyl!
BM: It is, yeah! Because you can like mess them up really bad too, right?
RNRR: Yeah, you have to be really careful. There is a lot of care and maintenance that goes into it, more than people probably imagine.
BM: Yes, it's crazy. Hopefully they make it back to me soon.
RNRR: Over the pandemic especially, I've seen that social activism is something that you've been pretty vocal about, with No Kid Hungry. That is a really cool thing to use your platform for. How has that influenced you, or has it influenced your music at all?
BM: Yeah, thanks for saying that. That organization specifically is so awesome and was so helpful. It's definitely an area that was heavily impacted by COVID. So many kids were relying on public schools to be fed. Especially in big cities like New York or something, kids that were getting 3 meals at school were suddenly not having access to food. That organization is awesome and a little bit of money goes a long way with them. But yeah, obviously everywhere you looked in 2020 there were different groups of people expressing need because of the impact of the pandemic and everything that happened socially. I certainly considered that with making music. It's an interesting thing, because I don't ever want to tell someone else's story, and I have a pretty limited view perspective wise. I'm incredibly lucky to have lived a privileged and blessed life, so I more so try to talk about themes of inclusivity, love, and kindness, in a way that I just want people to know that my music can be a place that they can turn, despite whatever story they have experienced. I want it to feel like a safe place. So yeah, I've definitely kept that in mind more than ever in writing in the past year. But you know, it's something that you can constantly get better at doing. It's tough too, to not be able to meet new people and hearing new stories in person, to be able to try to help the best you can. I'm definitely trying [laughs].
RNRR: That's really so great. And like you said, a little bit goes a long way. Would you say that there are any exclusive, predominant themes in your music? Or is whatever you are feeling and experiencing in the moment?
BM: I think with the record, stumbling into maturity was a really big part of that. Looking back, a lot of times I am like "dude, shut up. You were fine, you're okay" [laughs]. A lot of those songs were from pretty angsty places when I was nineteen and twenty, trying to figure out my place and if I really wanted this life that I thought that I wanted. This kind of rock and roll, sort of chaotic thing. So a lot of those songs are about the journey with that. Now, a lot of the songs I've been writing are about love. I started a relationship at the very beginning of the pandemic, like right before things shut down, I met a partner. That relationship has been amazing and I've learned so much from that. She has inspired me a lot, writing wise, to just like be honest and reflect back on things that have happened throughout my life and start to give those some light. All sorts of things. I have been writing a lot though, more than ever.
RNRR: That's great. And that sincerity of emotion really shines through. I think that's what makes your music relatable to people, especially the transition too, that's noticeable in your lyrics. In a way, it's like your fans are experiencing the same emotions and growing up with you through your music.
BM: That's so awesome.
RNRR: Have you picked up any new hobbies this past year?
BM: Kind of. I got super domestic at the beginning of it all. I moved into a new house, I got to buy my first house, it's crazy. When I first moved in it was all about doing little projects on the house and jogging and buying lotions and things I never would've bought. The last thing I ever thought that I would be doing [laughs]. We were on the road so much before, we didn't really get to live a normal, day to day life. I've definitely tried to just live life, which is cool.
RNRR: Are you embracing that quieter lifestyle, or are you itching to get back out on the road?
BM: For a while I was super zen about it, super like "I can be happy anywhere" and now I am like no, I don't wanna do that [laughs]. I miss the road so much. Our last show was November of 2019. We've all lived like ten years in that period of time.
RNRR: I heard you're a big fan of ‘Schitt's Creek’ and binged that in your downtime. What character would you say you are most like?
BM: Oh yes, big fan. God, that is such a hard question. This requires the most critical thinking. Probably a combination of Stevie and David. Are you a fan? What would you say?
RNRR: Yeah, I would be a combination as well. Probably... Alexis and Mutt.
BM: Woah! [laughs]. Okay, that's a really good combo. I wanna change my answer to that as well.
RNRR: Changing gears, another thing I wanted to touch on was way back when, you got your first taste of fame on American Idol. The bus went by in your town, and you stated then how you believed in "divine intervention" and you never would have auditioned if it weren't for that. Looking back on it now, and especially releasing an album during this time, do you still have that same belief that everything happens for a reason?
BM: Yeah, I pretty much still think that everything happens for a reason. I know that gets complicated. I think a lot of the time that missed opportunities are good things. I definitely still stand with that, and I am pretty thankful for how the American Idol stuff panned out. I'm glad...it was awesome and fun to do when I was a kid, and now I am glad that it didn't last any longer than it did [laughs]. I still love the show. Sam and I have been watching the new season. My drummer's wife's sister is on this season. Her name's Cassandra Coleman. She's so good and she's so sweet, so you should watch it 'cause she's crushing it.
RNRR: Awesome, we'll keep an eye out! So what are your plans for when your debut album comes out? What's in the works? You recently posted a clip in the studio with Andy Hull from Manchester Orchestra.
BM: Yeah, we've definitely been making a lot of music and writing a good bit. It's kind of up in the air with who knows when record two will start. I'm pretty eager, but they keep telling me to breathe. Hopefully more time in the studio soon. Definitely been writing a lot, and yeah I got to do some stuff with Manchester. I don't know how much I'm allowed to disclose, but we've worked on some stuff together. Andy actually wrote one of the songs called Bottle Rocket on the album. He's been a huge mentor, friend, figure. We've been working on a bunch of stuff with a lot of different people. But focusing on getting back to touring properly is really, really big for us. There are some kind of one-off dates here and there, that are safe. We want to hit 2022 with no inhibitions, as far as how we want to present the show. Kind of just like, spreading the record online, doing more press for that, writing more, and gearing up for hopefully a great year for touring next year. Then, maybe a record somewhere around there. All subject to change. All of that could change at any day, so who knows.
RNRR: Do you have any artists that you would love to collaborate with? What would be the ultimate collab for you?
BM: Gosh, my answer is always changing. I'm a huge fan of the new Arlo Parks record that just came out. I would love to do something with Arlo Parks at some point, if the stars ever aligned that would be really cool. I've gotten to know Jake Luppen from the band Hippo Campus. I've gotten to do some stuff with Jake which was kind of a dream thing. I love that dude so much, that was really really cool. But I don't know, the list is infinite.
RNRR: That's great. I love how you mentioned both young, modern artists too who are kind of in the same boat as you. Those would be great collabs to see. Now you came from a musical family, right?
BM: Yeah, they all play music. My dad was definitely huge in helping me always have the resources to do this stuff.
RNRR: They must be so proud of you.
BM: I hope so [laughs]. They are very sweet. I'm proud of them. They're awesome.
RNRR: Okay to wrap things up, our signature Spotlight question is if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one album with you, what would that album be?
RNRR: Forever. Well, as long as you're on the island, I guess. I don't know if you're getting rescued or saved, that part can be up to you.
BM: Dammit. I always have to have my Spotify ready to go. Okay, the first thing that came to mind just 'cause there's so many different kinds of songs on this. ‘So Far’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It's a classic. There's upbeat ones for the good days on the island and some sad ones for those long nights. I'm proud of that answer, I feel good about that.
RNRR: Yes such a good one! That is an excellent answer. Just last night I actually watched the documentary 'Echo in the Canyon'. Have you seen that?
BM: Yeah, I watched that a couple years ago. I heard so much about it for so long. So good.
RNRR: Bonus question. Did a bug really crawl in your mouth once? (Per Briston’s Instagram bio).
BM: Oh yeah. I was in Joshua Tree staying with our friend who rents a house out in the desert. He hadn't been there in a really long time. So when we came in there were a lot of bugs and then I went to sleep not really thinking that the bugs wouldn't go away. Then in the nighttime a bug crawled into my mouth. It was the worst experience of my life. I was sleeping and I woke up to the feeling of like a big grasshopper in my mouth. I was pretty bummed [laughs].
RNRR: That's horrifying, I'm so sorry you experienced that [laughs]. Well, this was so great. Thank you so much, Briston, this has been awesome! We can't wait to hear ‘Sunflower’. We'll be listening and cheering you on.
BM: Thank you so much for your time, you rock.
If you would like to find out more about Briston and keep up to date with his latest releases, the links to all of his socials can be found below via the icons: