Special Relationship: An Interview with Molly Burch
Love and heartbreak have always been themes in the love song. It’s indicative of the arc of the relationship, from infatuation to demonization (if it goes to that extreme). There is to see the other as the embodiment of all that is wished upon, but then there is the realization of the human, flawed and emotional, the “all that glitters” scenario. The beauty of love comes in loving the imperfections; “Yes, you are an asshole, but…” Molly Burch has an exquisite album, Please Be Mine, which delves into the quandaries of the heart and its wants.
“I started writing the songs for the album when I was going through a break up,” notes Burch. “Then we ended up getting back together, he’s also in my band now and recorded on the album so I think like all the songs are very influenced by that relationship with him like having ended things and missing that person and then, you know, reuniting. Also, I moved to Austin by myself, I’m from Los Angeles, I was living in North Carolina, but just the act of moving gave me a a lot of independence and definitely hope that comes out in the songs as well.”
Burch has been noted to draw influence from the likes of Sam Cooke to Nina Simone, however, it is not represented in the often used method of either of those artists. If anything, Burch takes the idea of forging and following an individual path lit by the light of her voice. Voice, not only as an instrument, but also voice as identity, songs that represent the ideas of the artist’s motivations.
“I think I have always been drawn to classic music, I grew up listening to a lot of jazz, Nina Simone was always my main influence growing up. Just listening to her voice, being obsessed with her voice and her music,” Burch adds. “So I have been singing since I was a kid and just taken a really long time trying to hone in on my voice and that’s just what I have been inspired by as a songwriter, the voice, and just writing for how I sound.”
“Please Be Mine” places the listener in the mind of the loving lover. It seems simple, but that’s where the complexity of human relation resides. While the subject matter may weigh a little on the somber side, musically it glides by breezily. “Downhearted” may be about the loss, but it’s being reflected upon from a hotel window while looking at a beautiful ocean. “Fool” tempers the disappointment with a jazzy two step: “Why you actin a fool?” All of this is a result of the chemistry of Burch and her band who, while only having done one album, sound quite seasoned. The players respect the song as a form, each performance displaying purpose in its presence magnifying the whole.
“Usually how it works, I think Daley [guitarist and subject of many of the album’s songs] and I have a pretty special relationship where he totally gets the songs and he’ll come up with his own guitar parts. He improvises a lot, especially when we play live, his solos and all that. I feel he totally knows what to do, but we’re also very open where if he plays something that I don’t think fits with the song, it won’t be in the song,” Burch notes. “I do feel fortunate that I’ve been playing with the same people for awhile, the people who recorded on the record are in my live band-so from playing with each other for so long, like a couple of years now. We just have a good vibe going and an open communication of what the song should be, so I’ll bring a song to them and explain how I want it to be and it’s very easy to communicate with each other in that way.”
As Burch’s voice is such an integral instrument of the song, one may wonder how that instrument is held up over van rides and various living quarters.
“It’s the biggest thing for me,” Burch says. “This is like my first big tour; we toured for a month and now we’re on tour and I actually got sick during the first one. I mean, we still did the shows, but it was so hard cause I still feel such an anxiety that I feel all singers have, where if you don’t feel great, and you know you have to sing and you have to sing every night and that is the most important thing: I will not enjoy a show if I feel like I’m not singing right. It’s also, to add to that, you’re playing in all these different venues where you don’t have 100 percent control over the sound of everything and I don’t feel super knowledgeable in that way, but the one thing I do is I have my own microphone and that helps me feel a little more in control. It’s something I think about all the time.”
Molly Burch opens for Sallie Ford at White Oak Music Hall (2915 N. Main) on April 21. Tickets are $12 and doors at 8 pm.