ATH Interview: Aisha Burns
Just a few days away from the Austin Music Blogger Awards, and we wanted to make sure that you got a chance to meet some of the great talent that’s part of the event. Today we’ve got a short interview with Aisha Burns, who many of you may recognize as one the members of Balmorhea. But, her album, Life in the Midwater, left a lasting impression on many, including us. Here’s what she had to say.
ATH: Balmorhea has gotten great reviews universally, so how does it feel that your self-titled record, and you, are getting some accolades of your own with the Austin Music Blogger Awards.
AB: The response to the record has been pretty amazing. I’ve been apart of this musical community since 2006, and I’ve been lucky enough to share in the successes of the musicians I’ve worked with over the years. But being recognized for the work that I dreamt up and labored over, and that was written in such a pivotal moment in my life, that feeling definitely stands apart. It feels great to be acknowledged as an independent artist in my own right. I sort of loathe the comparison of any project being “your baby,” but that seems like a good way to explain what I mean. I’m not a mother, but I’d guess that of course you’re excited when your nephew rocks the soccer game–but, when your kid scores a goal, it’s a different kind of internal celebration.
ATH: What was the songwriting process like for Life in the Midwater? Was it easier going it alone, as far as the initial arrangements, or more challenging with a lyrical focus, compared to your other work?
AB: Writing the songs themselves was some of the most natural musical writing I’ve ever done. I was usually heavily inspired by one lyric or a feeling. With the guitar, lyrics and melodies, I just played around until things seemed to fit just right. And when they did, there was no question in my mind of their structure or essence. It sounds a bit cliché, but they just felt right, and expressed what I wanted to express. In that regard, it was easier than collaborative writing, because I got to give life to the precise emotion I had in mind.
It was actually the string arrangements that I wrestled with a bit. I tend to get over whelmed by possibility and ended up with different versions of arrangements for a few songs. Strings can color a song in so many ways. Sometimes, it helps to have a few other minds to provide some parameters.
ATH: A lot of people always take for granted that there are tons of Austin bands working in our city. But, almost every one I know has to work twice as hard to make a living at music. What’s a typical day like for the life of Aisha Burns.
AB: Oh gosh. Well, if you’d asked me this a few months ago, I would’ve told you that when I wasn’t on tour, I woke up without an alarm, worked on music for hours and then did whatever I wanted. I quit my job a year and a half ago to make and support my record, “Life the Midwater”, focus on writing, and tour with Balmorhea.
However, those days are gone and I’m back in grind. Lately, I’ve been working two jobs. A typical day involves me waking up at 6 or 7am, abusing the snooze button, biking to work, and either putting on my barista hat at a place on campus or working in a bakery for 6 to 10 hours each day, seven days a week. After relaxing for a bit at home, I’m at the computer, working more on the music business side of things for a while, and then working on songs if I’ve got it in me. Every couple of nights, I try to have some semblance of a social life before falling asleep. No days off is no joke! The next time you see a show you like, buy the band’s record. I too feel like nearly every serious musician I know is quite literally working overtime to make it happen.
ATH: There are tons of great bands nominated for the AMBAs. Pick a category, other than your nomination, and pick the sure-fire winner for that category. Explain. You can find nominations at https://austintownhall.com/AMBA
AB: Oh who knows what will happen, but I’d pick Mirror Travel for anything they’re nominated for. I really love them. We shared a bill at the Mohawk, and I remember just watching them thinking that they had such a bad ass sound fronted by a sweet drummer and a couple of bad ass women.
ATH: Looking back at 2013, which seems like ages ago, what was the best moment in your life? It doesn’t necessarily have to be music related.
AB: Oh wow, the best moment in my life. 2013 was a trying year in a lot of ways. I’m caving under the pressure of that superlative! But one moment that definitely stands out was when a few members of the band Idyl and I went up to an Apache Reservation in northern New Mexico and taught a week-long after school music camp for kids. At the end of the week, one of the girls who was clearly very talented but seemed to me to be a little uninterested walked up to me and handed me a little necklace with a feather charm at the end of it and said “Here–so you’ll have something to remember us by.” Turns out my perception was totally wrong! I remember feeling like we must’ve really made an impact on her. And in a time when I was generally feeling a bit worn down, it was awesome to feel like I did something that mattered to someone.
ATH: What can we look forward to in regards to Ms. Aisha Burns in 2014? Care to let us in on any secrets?
AB: Oh gosh, now what fun would it be if I spilled the beans? Actually, I’m still sorting that out. I’m playing some shows in Europe soon. I definitely want to play lots of shows around Texas. And the secrets are so secret I don’t even know them yet! ha! All I can say is that it’s pretty lonely being up on that stage on my own…
ATH: The Austin music scene. What’s hot? What’s not?
AB: Honestly, over these last two years, I’ve spent the least amount of time actually in Austin since I moved here 8 years ago. Until very recently, between touring, some family stuff, and traveling, every time I came back to the city I felt a little more disconnected from the scene. Seems like Holy Mountain is pretty hot! They’ve had great show after great show in that space.