The Tennessee native opens up about growing up on the DIY music scene, combatting imposter syndrome, and of course, his upcoming sophomore album.
If you are like us, and follow Briston Maroney closely on socials, you’ll know they have been teasing new music across their Instagram for some time now. Well, the time has come and we are finally getting our first taste of Briston Maroney’s second album, Ultrapure with the first single off the project, “Body.” This initial track off of Briston's sophomore album is so incredibly special, robust, and dynamic...the track fully surrounds your being as you listen. It's is thick with instrumentation, from the twangy guitar, the grounding and consistent drums and bass, to the bright electronic additives in the background. Sonically, "Body" is deep and rich; you could easily spend hours with the song on loop picking out the different elements that have been woven together to create it's transcendent rock sound. Now, the lyrics? Mind bendingly poetic, the track is chalk full of quintessential Briston Maroney lyrics that will lovingly send you into existential rumination. This is easily a track that will make into all of our niche emotion-specific playlists for the rest of time.
"And it seems the closest that I come to free // is when I let the world fall around me" – Briston Maroney, "Body"
If you have been living under a rock and have yet to hear the sonic heaven that is a Briston Maroney song, a bit of background for you little hermits. Now residing in Nashville, Tennessee, the 25-year-old owes much of his career to the DIY house party scene around Tennessee, where he developed his own refreshingly unique and personal sound. Briston’s roots are still ever present in his performances: his comfort and joy on stage make you feel as if he’s singing just for you and your friends in the confines of a dingy basement, rather than to a nearly sold-out crowd in a large venue. Maroney’s beloved song “Freakin’ Out On the Interstate” has received more than 172-million streams since its release in 2020, and is an exemplary display of the artist’s innate talent to write and create pure magic. The mounting tension and release are hallmarks of Briston’s discography also seen in songs such as “Bottom of the Ocean” and “Rollercoaster.” Briston’s debut album, Sunflower was bestowed upon the public on April 9, 2021 to much love from fans. It has been over two years since it’s release and we have been itching to experience the magic of listening to a Briston Maroney album for the first time, and lucky for us, our itchiness is coming to an end!
But back to what you came here for. Briston Maroney so graciously chatted with us about growing up on the DIY music scene, combatting imposter syndrome, connecting with fans, and of course, his upcoming second album.
Okay, jumping right in, a lot of your early career was spent in the DIY scenes around Tennessee. Could you speak on your time in those kinds of environments, and how they shaped your music during that time, or even now do you still find yourself thinking back to those days?
BM: Yeah, dude. That's like one of my favorite things to talk about. That was such a vivid part of my journey playing music. I think for a lot of people those types of environments are just electric, and you really find community in those DIY spaces. I think what shaped my music the most in that period of time was seeing how songs actually impacted my friends in those environments, and writing with the mindset of like, okay, I'm going to play this in my friend's garage or basement, or whatever, in a couple of weeks, and I know who is going to be there and I know there are other bands that I want to think I'm cool or there is a crush that I'm trying to impress. You know what I mean? You literally write and perform with an intention of presenting yourself in a certain way and being perceived in a certain way. You learn a lot about the power of music and performance in those spaces. And you just like, make friends, I mean, that was truly the most impactful thing about diving into that scene; being given a community just because we all love music.
That's sick! Is there any venue that you did one of those shows at that just holds a special place in your heart?
BM: Oh, my gosh! Dude they are all such like a movie set. It's like a Hulu documentary about DIY music here, it's changed a lot, obviously. But like man, there was this one place, this one kid’s house called Chris Rock’s Mansion. That was the shit. The stage was literally just a wooden palette that was like 6 inches off the ground in this basement with no windows, like no installation. So if it was summer it was hot, if it was winter, it was fucking, freezing. Yeah, that place is awesome.
I would kill to see a show at Chris Rock’s Mansion
BM: I could see a revival happening, for sure.
Perfect, I'll be there. So since you kind of came up an out of the DIY scene, and now you're selling out venues across the US. Has this level of growth prompted any sort of reflection like: dang this is insane, or how is this my life, anything like that?
BM: Yeah, not to be like grim about it, but I think the imposter syndrome hits a lot because of the impact of the those days early on with the DIY stuff, like there are times where I feel really uncomfortable in environments that are more structured with music. It's kind of a battle to maintain that spark, and like that special relationship between people and music the bigger rooms get. So there are totally moments where I look at a room full of people, and it's just like man I can't, I literally can't process the the power of music, bringing this many people together. But also feeling like a person, and like wanting to make sure that all of those people are connecting, so it's a totally different experience. But yeah, I definitely struggle with the ‘What the fuck am I doing here?’ feeling.
Can you speak more about the imposter syndrome you experience? Obviously, it can be a really hard thing to get through some days, but is there anything that you do that kind of helps you with combatting the negative things that come along with imposter syndrome?
BM: I think I used to turn to humor a lot more. I think I would be really goofy and maybe sometimes, sell myself short a little bit, and be silly and fuck up songs on purpose to make people laugh or make the band laugh. The older I've gotten, the more I've tried to just kind of be more sacred about it, and accept that I think the only way to deal with it is just to talk through it. I mean, you've seen shows, probably where I've done this, I like to talk and if I have a feeling that feels really persistent throughout the night for better, or worse, I will share that feeling very directly. That helps a lot to just be like, okay, I don't have to feel super far away or like I don't deserve to be here. I can vocalize that and sometimes that's really helpful to connect with people.
That seems like a great tool ease imposter syndrome. Do you ever feel like when you are going on stage that you're kind of putting on a different persona, or do you feel like when you are on stage you are very much yourself?
BM: Dude. It's such a slippery slope, because it's such a combination of both. For some people they are truly doing a character, and for someone in my circumstance it's like I am being myself, but then people start knowing you as like the person who is being themselves, and then I start playing the role of the guy who is not playing a character. Yeah, it's an interesting, interesting line, so I definitely sometimes feel like I'm putting it on more than other times. Saying that, I don't think there's anything wrong with putting it on as long as you're respecting people's time, and the fact that they're there, you know what I mean?
For sure, that makes complete sense. When you were performing on DIY scene, how did that feel in terms of putting on a persona? Did that feel a lot different than preforming at these much larger venues?
BM: I think in the DIY scene everyone kind of had this agreement that we were all pretending to be rock stars back then. So it was kind of this really weird special zone, where everybody was being a character, because we were also all like 18 and 19, just trying to be the TV show versions of ourselves. I think honestly, the the bigger the shows have gotten, the less I feel like I've been able to pretend. It's kind of made me feel like I have to be really in touch with myself to handle the idea of being in front of a lot of people which I probably, I don't think I would have expected that.
Yeah, no, that's a very interesting insight to those different levels of performance. I know you've been kind of doing music for a while, but did you ever think when you were like a little kid that you would make it big? Because, you know, some people are like, "I know without a doubt I'm going to make it."
BM: Dude, I was like the total opposite kid. I had a plan B through through like E, I had like a lot of backup plans, and my parents were incredibly supportive, but they are both just super hard working people, and they were both really realistic about the slim chance of this getting to be something I did forever, and they're still that way. So yeah, I've never really been a person who is like overly overly confident about this stuff working out.
What was your plan B. If you don't mind sharing?
BM: I think Plan B was like probably a competition between a lot of like, really, just 14 year old boy from Knoxville stuff like I always thought I was going to be like a Park Ranger or something. You know what I mean, like I’m going to give back to my environment, that kind of vibe. I think now, if I stop playing music, I would want to be like a fishing guide. I’ll go do that and I don't know, like lead boat trips and stuff, and do like inshore fishing stuff.
Are you really big into fishing?
BM: I grew up doing it a lot. It's been a while, so maybe my love has changed. But I do hold those memories very fondly.
That's.. That's nice.
I'm sorry I have absolutely no opinion on fishing.
BM: That's okay, I can understand why.
Perfect, thank you. You've got a really great relationship with your fans. It's really cool how you like to bring them along for every step of making and sharing you music with your live streams and all that kinds of stuff. You kind of slightly kind of edged toward this earlier, but how do you navigate those types of parasocial relationships, when you have such a large audience like that?
BM: Yeah, it is a really like pretty one of a kind dynamic to share with people who know so much about you, but also that you don't know them personally. So I try to just like, put myself in other people's shoes. I think it helps that I am also a lover of music and a fan of so many bands. It's really as simple as me, being like, okay if a band that I loved - when I was growing up, I was obsessed with the band The Districts - and I would always think like, okay, if The Districts live streamed right now, and were showing me the process of one of these songs that would later on become one of my favorite songs, that would be so fucking cool. I always just wanted to know more about the artists that I was into. So I try to just try and think through the lens of what would I want from the bands that I connected with? So yeah, it's a hard boundary, like I was saying, with people who know so much about you, but also doesn't know you. I think, just being aware of that and being kind to people is your best bet in those types of situations. I don't know. I don't claim to know a ton about it, but I try to try to just be human.
That sounds like a great approach. You kind of said earlier that when you were performing in the DIY scene, you knew who was going to be in the audience, and you allowed your audience to help shape your performance and your songs. Do your fans now at all shape your music?
BM: Yeah, I mean, it's fun to answer this question to you of all people, like your whole squad. We look forward to seeing you guys there, and you would be crazy to think that the thought didn't come through my head at certain points of like “Okay, is this a song that I could like see y'all sing along too?” when we are making the record. Specifically with this new record, the number of times that I was like. “Okay, I want to imagine playing this song in this venue” or like thinking back on shows that were great, being like, okay for this audience that night, I wish that we could have played a song that felt like this, for this group of people. It's a very living, breathing thing, which, some people are really stiff about. They're like, I don't want to consider an audience at all, like it's gotta be really personal. But I think, for what I do, it's a different thing, and I think it has to connect to and with everybody.
That is so sick to hear! Okay, alright, so kind of shifting gear slightly to more towards your new project. Can you just speak more about this initial single? What's the vibe? How does it compare sonically to your last album?
BM: So the first single, wow, this is the first time I'm talking about this I'm kind of nervous, so I may do bad, but we'll see. So the first single is called “Body” it's a song that originally I wrote during the pandemic, and put an acoustic clip of on Instagram. People were super sweet about it in a way that I had not gotten response to a song like that before, like so instantly. It was one of those rare songs that came very quickly, and I like really didn't think twice about whether or not it was going to be something people connected to. It was just like very personal, just like this literally is feeling good to play the song and I have literally nothing else going on, so i'll just like post a video of it. Yeah, and then, it became something that a lot of people were really, really sweet about. That was the first song we recorded, it's really different than the Instagram video like the recording. But we literally referenced like, okay, I want to be able to play this song at Red Rocks and like let it run for like 10 minutes if we want. So we like kind of set up the structure to be like really open, and really kind of anthem-y, and just like a train that just doesn't stop. So yeah, I'm so excited that this is the first glance into the record. It's totally not a 180 sonically there aren't any sounds that we haven't really used before. But that being said, it's such a different vibe than the last record, Sunflower, like it's so much more personal to me and just so much less afraid about being right. I think, like with Sunflower a lot, I was really concerned about the parts being perfect, and it sounding perfect, and I think I ended up just like squeezing it too tightly. And so this is like a lot more free. This is a lot more like if it felt good when we were tracking it, then it's what it needs to be, so much less overthought.
Wow, I can't wait to hear it. I am all for “Body” 10 minute version live from Red Rocks. Alright, I'm not sure how much you can talk about the album as a whole, right now, but can you tell us a bit about what fuels this album?
BM: Yeah, I would say, this is a record that I made for 15 year old me. It's super influenced by all the bands that, got me into music. So it's a rock record, it's like a singer-songwriter record. I tried to make it as simple as possible, and literally just listen to a bunch of music that I loved, and I was like cool I'm gonna try to make some music like that, like it's that simple. So yeah, it's super influenced by just stuff I grew up on, a lot of like 90s bands, it's influenced by the Jeff Buckley stuff I was into as a kid, and like a lot of like The District stuff, and just like I don't know a lot of the singer-songwriter people as well. It's just really not complicated, but it feels like we caught the emotion that I was feeling, and that's what I was hoping to feel.
Sounds like it'll be a banging record. Do you have a song that you've got on repeat at the moment?
BM: What am I listening to? You know what, let me think for like 30 second what I've been listening to. Oh, it's kind of a old older song, “All My Friends" by LCD Soundsystem. I have been listening to that song so much. It's like 7 or 8 minutes, or something, and like I mean, yeah, you know it. When Samia was out of town, I just like, did not want silence in the car or in the house ever so I would just like leave that song on repeat.
There is just something about crazy long songs. Are there any really long songs on this upcoming album?
BM: I think there's one that's like 4 and a half minutes, maybe close to 5 minutes. There are also a couple shorter ones, like the last song is only like 2 and a half minutes. There's also like a 30 second intro track too. We did some fun stuff with song links.
Oh I do love a good song link. Okay last question I swear, are you big into what order the songs on the album are put in?
BM: Absolutely, it was so, tough. It was honestly harder than making the stupid album. I hate sequencing shit like cause it is important to me, but I'm so not good at it. Then I do this stupid thing where I ask all of my friends, and of course, all of them have different opinions. Then I eventually just kind of closed my eyes and just wrote everything down, and it was like, this is what it's gonna be, and it's gotta be this way. But yeah, it was hell. It was terrible.
Well, I'm glad you got through the other side of all that. But okay, I promise I am out of questions.
BM: Dude. Thank you guys, for having me. This was all really fun to talk about.
We’ve gotten the chance to see Briston Maroney perform many times over this past year, from his “All Aboard” US Fall Tour in 2022, to the inaugural Paradise Fest in Nashville, Tennessee, at the end of 2022. It might go without saying, but we are big fans, like BIG fans. Joyful and bright on stage, Briston has a magnetic sound that surpasses all expectations live. It’s obvious that Briston Maroney is incredibly passionate and their hard work of making their fanbase and music a welcoming and safe space for all is overwhelming abundant. You simply cannot not be a fan of Briston Maroney - poetic lyricism, banging production, blinding empathy, and one of the most community-esque fanbases out there, all tied in a bow of just a good, kind, and a little bit goofy human - there is not a facet of Briston that you can't get behind. We are (not so) patiently counting down the days until September 22, 2023 when we get to hear Briston Maroney’s second album, Ultrapure in entirety and for when we get to sing along with him from the crowd.