New Music: Jay Burnam "Social Skeletons"
Wichita Falls singer/songwriter brings soulful spirituality with a lyrical edge
Texoma singer/songwriter Jay Burnam played a brisk outdoor Thanksgiving weekend show at Collective Coffee in 2023 and I was lucky enough to catch that performance and get an introduction to his music, under the stars.
Jay has been busy since then with a starring role in a local theater production, but he still found time to record and release a brand new EP, Social Skeletons. I took the opportunity to listen and check-in with Jay for some insight on where these songs come from and making music in the modern era.
FUSE: Are these songs pretty fresh for you, or have you been playing some of them live for awhile?
Jay: ‘Social Skeletons’ is actually in reference to what these songs initially were; little sketches, ideas, ear-worms that I would toss out on social media here and there, as a bit of low risk/high reward validation content, with some of these dating back to 2022. I am, admittedly, way, way, way too online. I’m also an individual that has fought severe validation issues for a really long time (I often wrestle with whether or not I’m creating as artistic expression or if I’m making things so that someone will say ‘you are good at this and you are enough.’)
I reference that a little bit in the song “Hell” — “I’ve gotten so comfortable pursuing other lives / Keep doing the song and dance with nothing left inside / Just hoping that someday I might be something you like / I’m running out of fight” And lemme tell ya, short form social media content and wanting someone to passively say ‘good job’ to provide a boost of serotonin go together like fried cheese and big beers. So posting that content, those minute long ideas has served as a quick, painless way to put something out there, just hoping it can garner a few “great jobs” in a comment section, some clicks, some views.
I’m not saying ANY of this is a good, or even a genuine creative endeavor, but it is what my intentions have been for a few years. And I’m not the biggest fan of it as a personal creative process these days, to be honest. So, as I shifted back towards trying to release music this year, I had the thought to push these little seeds into full blown tunes, without pretension, without feeling like it needed to be “done the right way”, which is such an amorphous, shifting thing in 2024, and to just put out these 5 lil buds and share, what I would call, personally, the rawest actual form of artistic expression I’ve released to date.
I spent about 8-to-10 days this past December recording it at home, and I’m really pleased with how everything turned out. I’ve played a few of these live, and within the past year; “Try For Me” (a cynical look at how we mourn those close to us and my hypocritical, selfish hope that I will be someone that people mourn as well) and “Scapegoat” (a song about the cycle of how we operate as a country when national tragedy strikes, and the tendency to point fingers as opposed to present solutions, which the song is very self aware about. The one, I can honestly say, I am most lyrically proud of from this release.)
FUSE: Your music sometimes portrays a spiritual angle with a lyrical edge. Can you comment on that? What role does spirituality play in your music?
Jay: I grew up in the Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, spent time as a worship leader for years here and in other spots we’ve lived, and also have released worship/pop Christian music over the course of my adult writing career. That being said, I have had on and off periods in my life where I have, what I would call a “healthy questioning” of what all of the whole of spirituality, or religion, in my case Christianity, IS, really. That questioning has been a huge piece of my songwriting as I sit in the current state of where I am with all of it. The fluidity, the questioning of it all serves as kind of like a picture I can look at and write a story about. So I would say; if you also find yourself here, in this seemingly endless pool of questions about what happens when we die, and if any of it is real, please know, that you are not alone in any of it, and I’d be happy to sit down and ask questions with you. I keep finding songs to write in the questions I’ve found so far, and still don’t have any of the answers, ha!
FUSE: Who are the other musicians on the record, if any?
Jay: Just myself. I’ve played everything needed for ‘meat and potatoes’ recordings (meaning I sadly didn’t rip any delicious oboe solos for these songs) for a long time, and when it comes to quick demos, it is a handy tool that I am working on being more grateful for and using as much as possible.
FUSE: Who were the production and mixing crew?
Jay: That was also a solo effort on this as well, and I apologize immensely for it. Folks, I cannot over state this; hire people to do the things you are not good at.
FUSE: It's a cliche question, but who do you consider your influences?
Jay: I’ve got a lot! I grew up with a pretty wide variety of musical intake, and currently, it shifts all the time. But as a songwriter, here are easy, off the top artists I respect a lot that I think about in the writing process; Matt Thiessen, Phoebe Bridgers, David Ramirez, Rich Mullins, Matthew Wright, Julien Baker, Brandon Kinder (The Rocketboys/The Wealthy West), Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra/Bad Books/Right Away Great Captain!) and bands like The New Frontiers and The Gin Blossoms (who both play HUGE influential roles in the full band project I’m launching this year), and I mean, a TON of others. Been on a HUGE Aaron Copland kick as well, recently.
I’m also very thankful to be sharing musical space with SO many here in town; the likes of Wichita Falls’ own Charlie Roberts, Clint Vines, Darion Ryan Roberts, Eb Steward, Hazel, Richie Bates, Jason Archer, Bryson Lawrence, IHTBD, Noe Boyd, friggin LADYBIRD, dude, who remain my favorite act from here, currently. So many, too many to name or quantify and I already feel guilty for inadvertently omitting, honestly.
Wichita Falls continues to be a hotbed of art of ALL kinds (If theatre is your thing, and if you have the been to a show at either theatre downtown recently, I’d highly suggest it asap.) And my goal, now, is to work to help build the community and make heartfelt, genuine art that folks from here can be involved in and hopefully share a communal experience with.
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