DIME had the opportunity to sit down with Josh Brister, the voice and founder of Burt Byler & The Bearded Souls. Their alt-rock-Americana sound is growing and is sure to become something that everyone should have on his or her Spotify or Apple Music playlists. We found out what really pushed Josh to move forward with his sound, as well as how his songwriting process goes. Check out their new EP Castle of Corruption available everywhere.
DeeJay Rolison: How did you become Burt Byler & The Bearded Souls?
Josh Brister: My name is Josh Brister; obviously my name is not Burt. About a year and a couple of months ago, I watched Making A Murder and it like… I’m a super laid back, chill, don’t get flustered about anything kind of guy, and that was the first time in my life that I got really pissed off because of something I watched. Like it really, really, REALLY just kind of turned me inside out. It just brought about these feelings in me that I had never experienced which is just being so pissed off at corruption and a lot of things that are going on. That’s where it started. Then the election happened and just a lot of social stuff going on in the world. I’m 31 now, about to be 32, and I think something clicks at about 30 where I just started getting more upset about stuff than I used to. I used to not give a rip about politics or anything going on in our country. I just lived my life. So Making A Murderer was the first thing and the election was just the last straw. In that whole process, the songs kind of just came about. The EP has songs that deal with corruption, being pissed off, a breakup. A lot of the songs just came from anger.
DR: How would you describe your sound?
JB: I used to do a lot of folky stuff and I feel like this EP is a transition from carefree, folk kind of stuff to where I wanna go, which is like angrier rock and angst. I think this EP is a middle ground, so it’s kind of Americana. It’s edgier folk, I guess you could say, or edgier singer-songwriter stuff, but it’s still not like super rock or anything. So I think it’s kind of like a transition in between folk stuff and full on blues and rock. It’s like one step, kind of, in that direction.
DR: Where does your inspiration come from?
JB: Recently it’s been a lot of people who are speaking up to power, like Shawn King or the Young Turks. Even politicians like Bernie Sanders are a huge inspiration to me. Other musicians that are starting to talk about it are huge inspirations to me. I feel like two years ago, a lot of musicians didn’t feel super comfortable talking about it, but now that everyone is talking about it, it’s easier. We went to a Nathanial Rateliff concert in Madrid and at the end of it he had this big sermon where he preached and talked about Bernie Sanders stuff. So I would say Bernie Sanders, Shawn King, Nathanial Rateliff, and a lot of other artists that are talking about the same stuff I’m talking about.
DR: How would you describe your new EP “Castle of Corruption”?
JB: It’s just songs that have spewed out from being pissed off about stuff, being pissed off about a breakup I had two years ago with a girl, or being pissed off about a tv show and how much social corruption is happening in politics and the justice system and with churches and a lot of other stuff. I would say Castle of Corruption is an angry response to a lot of issues that have been going on in my life and then there is one love song, which is the opposite of anger. But it also came from that breakup, the same one I talk about in “Slave Dog,” where I’m just done with the love thing. So, that new love song came out of a negative place. I think every song on the EP came out of a negative place, if that makes sense.
DR: Where did the title come from?
JB: From the song “Castle of Corruption”. That was one of the songs I started writing after I watched Making A Murderer, when I was pissed off about politics and about religion, because of the church background I have. I guess you could call it corruption that I see in churches; it’s the same kind of corruption I see in politics and the justice system and schools and it just all seems so messed up to me. This isn’t just like 2 or 3 people, this is a castle with a priest and a king and the jester and I just felt that mental idea of the whole place just being messed up and built on corruption and lies and injustice.
DR: Describe your song-writing process.
JB: I’m a storyteller. I can’t write a song unless I have a pretty large idea of what I want to talk about. Some people can go off of one little phrase and come up with a whole song, or they can have a guitar part and work out a song just from that. Me? I grew up in a storytelling family, like where my grandfather can sit down for hours and tell stories and you’ll just be on his every word. For me, I feel like it starts off with emotions and then I’ve got to come up with a story in my head to where it works. I need the whole story in my head and then I can write the song. I’m a big picture kind of guy, so for me I have to have the big idea to know what I want to talk about.
DR: What is your favorite song on The Castle of Corruption?
JB: I think Slave Dog is. I think it’s my favorite. It captured both sides of where I was doing folk stuff and now I’m doing rock stuff. I think it’s catchy and I think it’s the best song on the EP. Just because the way it turned out, it was exactly what I was hoping for.
DR: Do you enjoy playing live? How is that for you?
JB: Rehearsing is probably my least favorite part of music. I love to get on a stage and have fun. I love performing for people, but I just hate the practicing. I’m more of like a songwriter, and I love to tell a story. I wouldn’t consider myself some great musician. I feel like I’m a subpar guitar player, a decent singer, and a decent songwriter, but I feel like the thing I have going for me is the ethic. I love playing live, but I just hate the practicing
DR: Where are some places you would like to perform that you haven’t?
JB: We are trying to plan a tour through Europe in July. We are doing Madrid, Barcelona, and a few other places in Spain, and then do an acoustic tour in other parts of Europe. The goal is to do a couple dates in Norway, a week in Germany, and a week in Austria and Switzerland. I’m super pumped.
DR: What’s next for Burt Byler & The Bearded Souls?
JB: Finally releasing all of this stuff. I usually get my stuff out really quick, but I wanted to take my time with this and try and do it right. We had some release shows here in Mississippi, Jackson and Hattiesburg, and then all the shows in Spain from March through June. Then hopefully the acoustic tour in Europe in July. I’m excited about doing more stuff, I’ve been listening to these stupid songs for a year (insert laughter). I’m super excited about where everything is headed. I’m excited to get on the road and share these new songs with people, because I believe in it. We are just ready for people to hear it.