Interview: Briston Maroney

Tabitha Smith 

Briston Maroney’s sophomore album ‘Ultrapure’ is the ultimate autumnal soundtrack, with poignant, hard-hitting lyricism for those who want to feel a little deeper this November. Impact’s Tabitha Smith sat down with Briston Maroney ahead of his Rescue Rooms show to talk all about the album, the tour and just how much you can romanticise Nottingham this time of year.

Heading up the stairs to the dressing rooms at the very top of Rescue Rooms, I was greeted by a smiley Briston Maroney, as we sat down to commence the interview. It had been just over a month since the release of ‘Ultrapure’, despite Briston revealing it felt like it’d been “about fourteen years” since the album dropped; “it’s been full-on, but in an exciting way.”

“I still kind of feel like I’m in the tidal wave of a record coming out, like I haven’t really hit the shore yet,” Briston explained. “I haven’t been able to process a whole lot, so I still feel in the middle of it, which is a fun place to be, but it’s an exhausting place to be too!” Despite admitting that the tour was tiring him out, Briston still seemed enthusiastic, asking all about Impact Magazine and expressing his excitement to be in the UK in the colder months, where the Christmas market was up and in full swing. “Being here at this time of year is very romantic”, they told me, “it feels like a movie, everything is glistening.” Another thing Briston admitted they’d picked up on was how fashionable everyone seemed; “everyone has a great jacket, that’s my only insecurity here,” they confessed.

they had now grown to a place where they felt they could revisit and properly address some of these feelings through music

Hailing from Nashville, having grown up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Briston expressed how different touring the UK felt to being back home. ‘Ultrapure’ as a project has a very nostalgic feel to it, and has led the artist to confront a lot of home truths to create such an honest body of work. Home is an important place for Briston, as they say it is nice “getting away from all the craziness for a little bit” when they return there, and it appears to be a place that they visited mentally to envision ‘Ultrapure. Briston explained how they were listening to a lot of music they enjoyed in their high school years while working on ‘Ultrapure’, including Oasis and The Moldy Peaches. “That youthful confidence…a certain fearlessness” was something they were searching for when working on the project, something that came from a period where Briston realised that they could pursue music as a career. The album addresses topics that have been on Briston’s mind for a while; “I was slowly chipping away at how to address them for the first couple of records”, they admitted, realising that they had now grown to a place where they felt they could revisit and properly address some of these feelings through music. “It’s comforting and horrifying at the same time”, Briston laughed, but he admits he’s very proud of the final product.

The album starts with Intro, a song that sets the tone for this soft, sentimental record. Briston told me that this track was originally a version of the title track, Ultrapure. “I was pulling my hair out trying to pick which one I felt told the story better”, he said about choosing which version of the song to include, then when he spoke to his producer Daniel Tashian, he realised the decision shouldn’t be so difficult; “he was like, ‘dude, it’s your album, you can put whatever you want on there!’” Briston’s decision to include both versions creates an amazing cyclical feel to the album, with the final version of Ultrapure acting as the last track, circling back to its “slower, waltzier version”.

The song was written about Briston’s childhood experiences, something he wasn’t sure if he was done writing about

I praised Briston for the brave nature of the record, as it seems that the artist took themself to a painful place to write such heart-wrenching lyrics, and this idea is embodied completely in the album’s seventh track, Delaware. The song was written about Briston’s childhood experiences, something he wasn’t sure if he was done writing about. “I had this voice in my head that was telling me we touched on that topic enough. And then there was another voice that was like ‘but what if you put the magnifying glass on it one more time, like what if you really dug all the way in’”. The song came together rather quickly, around halfway through the process of creating the record, as Briston admitted it was something that needed to be created and then let go. Admitting they don’t normally stay up late working on music, Briston told me how they were awake until two in the morning, thinking “if I don’t finish this now, I will never finish it”. I thanked him for going to such a dark place for his art, and he said it felt great to address trauma like this head on, in order to move on.

When asking Briston about their favourite song from the record, they admitted they could only answer that question in the context of what they have been enjoying playing live. The Ultrapure World Tour commenced in Brighton back on Halloween, but Briston and his band hit the road way back in late September, teasing songs from the album on their record store tour of America, shows that Briston revealed made a great foundation for the wider Ultrapure tour. “It’s been fun to get familiar with the new songs acoustically to begin with”, Briston said, revealing that those first few shows were just him and an acoustic guitar, playing in intimate venues. “I really got to get the songs in my DNA and feel really familiar with them, and now getting to play them with the band, it’s like a whole new life has been brought to the songs.”  These acoustic shows really impacted Briston, who admitted that one of his favourite songs to play live from the album was Sunshine, primarily due to the crowds’ reaction to it. “I thought that was the song that was a bit too personal for people to relate to”, he said, so being in a room of people who have been singing along to a song that is so close to his heart has been “mind-blowing”.

I recommended a trip to Nottingham’s well-stocked Waterstones

Talking about tour more generally, Briston expressed gratitude for the experiences they’ve had so far. “This year has been wild, we’ve got to play some really fun shows,” naming playing Red Rocks in Colorado, alongside the rising talent of Noah Kahan, as a particular highlight, describing the indie folk star as simply “awesome”. Going from strength to strength, the young artist is excited to be heading on their world tour; “there are lots of dream venues that I’ve grown up romanticising…I’m super stoked!” Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington are some places that Briston is really looking forward to going to again, having dreamed about playing venues on the west coast of America since they started playing music. Briston admitted to enjoying their downtime on tour a lot too, something which is important with such a demanding schedule. When I asked how he and the band unwind, Briston responded that “we’re all pretty nerdy, we play a lot of video games and we all read a lot”. He recommended me the classic 1970 novel ‘Play It As It Lays’ by Joan Didion that he had been caught up in whilst on the road, describing his empathy with the complexities of power and misogyny in the lifestyle of a housewife. Taken aback by the surprising literature that this indie rock artist was consuming, I recommended a trip to Nottingham’s well-stocked Waterstones, something which excited Briston so much he asked if he could make a trip before his show started in the next hour.

Another comfort while on tour has been listening to the music of others, with Briston citing Fiona Apple as an artist that they can’t get enough of lately. Explaining that his girlfriend introduced him to the artist, Briston admits that he was “super late to the game” when discovering the magic of the art-pop icon, but her music was incredible nonetheless. When asking if this was inspiring them to write new music, Briston admitted that “there’s always stuff cooking…always something on the backburner”, but they seemed to be focusing on the live shows primarily. “If something’s good enough to make you pull out a guitar and write on tour when you’re so dead tired, then it’s pretty important to me.” I thanked Briston and let him get ready for the show, a live experience which left nothing to be desired; his chemistry with the other musicians on the stage when riffing, even when lying on the floor and playing, was one of my musical highlights of the year.

You can stream ‘Ultrapure’ by Briston Maroney wherever you find your music – and I highly recommend that you do!

Tabitha Smith 

Featured image courtesy of Muriel Margaret. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @bristonmaroney via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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