The concept of time is just something we made up to deal with a multitude of things, but even though it’s just an idea – we’ve put a lot of weight on the particulars. From birthdays to clocking out of a job you hate to starting a new year, they all have their own significance. This is why when 2021 started on a Friday, many artists worked hard to ensure their latest release dropped on 1/1/2021. It wasn’t just that it was the first release date of the year, it also symbolized trying to get over the immense hurdle that was 2020.
As Burd Hauz explains, “I wanted it to serve as a reminder that I had made it out of 2020 alive, and with something tangible to show for it.” That “it” being ‘In My Sky.’ We talked about the record, race in rock, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: Stylistically this album is a little of this and a little of that, but overall centers around an alternative base. Did you grow up on an album collection that was heavily grounded in that realm?
Burd Hauz: I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and soul music; tons of Toni Braxton, Luther Vandross, Boyz II Men. My Dad did play a lot of Prince, though. And I love Michael Jackson, The Jackson 5, Earth Wind & Fire, etc. I’d like to think that ‘In My Sky’ is a subtle combination of what my parents were playing when I was coming up, and what I chose to listen to on my own later in life. I wanted to fuse Michael Jackson’s imagination, the energy of Earth Wind & Fire, with really theatrical writing like Toni or Sade…But set instead to the tune of maybe Jimi Hendrix or Queen…
Kendra: Being Black in the alt-scene isn’t as uncommon today as it was say…a decade ago. Back then I remember feeling like I stood out, even just as a fan. Would you say there are still some significant hurdles in alternative music as a Black artist today or have things improved from your perspective?
Burd Hauz: There are improvements every day, but we still have a long way to go. I am grateful to see artists like Moses Sumney kicking down doors but it seems strange to me that Black artists making ROCK music get categorized as “alternative.” Especially considering that Rock & Roll was pioneered by Black artists. We really should be welcomed with open arms if you ask me. We shouldn’t have to fight to be acknowledged for something that our ancestors created.
Kendra: Listening to ‘In My Sky,’ I got very ethereal, dreamscape vibes. With that, if you had to compare the album to a place in Oakland – which place would it be and why?
Burd Hauz: That place would be anywhere the sun meets the ground or my face here in Oakland. That’s what feels ethereal and dreamscapey to me here because when the sun goes down, it’s another story entirely. The dreamscape turns pretty cold.
Kendra: The Bay Area as a whole is known for not only its gifts to the hip hop realm but also singer-songwriters thanks to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. For you, what makes Bay Area artists stand out regionally?
Burd Hauz: The creative community here is unbelievable. It truly is a well of talent. What makes Bay Area artists unique is the confidence they possess. I’ve lived in a few major cities and I have never met artists that were more comfortable with themselves and their creative abilities. The Bay’s sound is 100% unique to the bay. It’s very groovy and very alive.
Kendra: It’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Burd Hauz: I am constantly working on new music! Right now I am finishing up the follow-up to ‘In My Sky.’ I realized I had a few things still left on my heart that I needed to release. This upcoming project takes on a much more romantic perspective and leans even further into Rock & Roll.
The sound of heartache is pretty beautiful to me. So while I’m actively experiencing it, I want to capture it. And I want to set it to the relentless strum of a weeping guitar! I think about what songs like “Bulletproof Soul” and “How Could Angel Break My Heart” have done for me and how I want to return that same energy to the musical sphere. You know? Sade and Toni Braxton’s vulnerability gives me the strength to be more honest in my songwriting. And I want to give that same unadulterated emotion to whoever is listening to my music. I think the further we lean into our least comfortable emotions, the stronger we become for ourselves, but also for everyone around us.