January 25, 2022

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Rock & Blues Muse Chats With Robert Jon Burrison, Robert Jon & The Wreck


Robert Jon & the Wreck photo

Robert Jon Burrison

Southern blues/rock band Robert Jon & The Wreck have been releasing albums since the band’s inception in 2011, winning multiple awards along the way. This blues and country-infused rock n’ roll quintet has been consistently delivering soaring solos, boogieing grooves and arguably perfect tunes for the last ten years. With 11 albums to their name, the band self-produced their latest all-original album Last Light On the Highway (2020), a fresh contemporary album with outstanding songs and expansive sounds.

Led by vocalist/guitarist Robert Jon Burrison, whose voice is one of the most ear-pleasing today, the band includes Andrew Espantman, Steve Maggoria, Henry James and Warren Murrel.  Backing singers include Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins. Harmonies are part of the band’s signature sound, along with well-crafted songs and stellar musicianship. The pandemic permitting, they will tour the UK and Europe in 2021.

Rock & Blues Muse
There’s much more to your sound than Southern rock, or Southern blues/rock. How would you describe your sound and how has it evolved over the years?

Robert Jon Burrison
I think in our earlier years we got described as southern rock, because of our use of the slide guitar, and that’s an easy way for people to label that sound. Most of us in the band do love southern rock but I think over the years we have evolved into more than that label provides. We have soul and straight rock n’ roll elements as well as blues. We love to write songs that mean something to us and put the songs together musically as we see fit. We don’t try and stay in a southern rock bubble.

Rock & Blues Muse
Did you and the band have a different vision for your album Last Light on The Highway than for your previous albums?

Robert Jon Burrison
We focused a lot more on our songwriting for Last Light on the Highway. We wanted to write great songs that meant something and were powerful. I think that was the biggest goal we had as a band for this record and I think it shows compared to past records.

Rock & Blues Muse
Are you the main songwriter or do you write together as a band?

Robert Jon Burrison
We are all songwriters in the band. Each and every one of us has a part of every song. We each bring in individual ideas and then as a band we put it together. We also work on lyrical ideas together as well as arrangements to make the songs the best they can be.

Rock & Blues Muse
Your songs are personal, moving. On “One Last Time” on Last Light on the Highway is beautiful. Tell me about the lyrics, and in particular “We’re just a flicker in a candle of time. Counting down the days before our light burns out.” Also, on this song, the last minute descends into a brilliant jam. Did that just come about in the moment or did you plan that?

Robert Jon Burrison
I think it is one of those songs that will have life far past this album cycle. That specific line was written by our drummer Andrew Espantman. To me, it is saying that we are just little specs in this life, counting down the days until it ends. Which at times some people think that and get depressed while other’s think that and get inspired to make this life count. In this band, we want to make everything count from our music to the lyrics. The jam at the end wasn’t technically planned but it’s that magic that we have in the room that is created when we get together.

Rock & Blues Muse
Tell me about your song “Gold.” It’s a beautifully written song, full of heartbreak, some anger too.

Robert Jon Burrison
“Gold” was brought in by our drummer Andrew Espantman. He had it on the shelf for a while and finally brought it in. It found new life in the room when we played it with everyone. We usually have one ballad on our record and that spot with the right song can take some time to find. With “Gold” we knew this was the one for this record. It’s a song that we have gotten a lot of attention for because of the amount of honesty in the lyrics. It allows it to be very relatable to everyone.

Rock & Blues Muse
Your vocals are a standout and have been described in glowing terms. Have you always sung?

Robert Jon Burrison
I started playing drums at a young age, then slowly moved to guitar. I was a drummer in many garage bands around Orange County, Ca. I picked up the guitar during that time and started writing songs and singing. Before I knew it, I was more of a singer/songwriter than a drummer. I still work on my vocals constantly; I have had a few different coaches over the years. It’s something that as a band we all work on and strive to be better musicians as the years go on.

Rock & Blues Muse
You brought in Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae, and Juanita Tippins for backing vocals. How did that come about?

Robert Jon Burrison
It was an amazing experience to have them on our record. We met them on the first Keeping the Blues Alive Cruise that we were a part of with Joe Bonamassa. They are his backing vocal group. After that, we kept in touch and when it was time to record our album, we contacted them and were excited that they made the time to make this record even better. They are an amazing group of talented singers.

Rock & Blues Muse
“Last Light on the Highway Part 2” is so interesting musically. Tell me about writing this song and how you brought in strings (Gideon Klein, string arrangements) Do you have everything prepared before going into the studio or is there room for improvisation?

Robert Jon Burrison
We’ve had instrumental songs on the past three records of ours.  It’s something that we love to add to a record. With Last Light on the Highway we were focusing on songwriting a little more and wanted to try to have both elements in our “Instrumental.” It came out unlike anything I think we could imagine. It was just magic in the room. We had met Gabe & Gideon Klein years ago and knew the talent they had for arranging string parts. So, we contacted them, and they knocked it out of the park, and intensified the song to another level. We also try to have everything ready and rehearsed before we get into the studio.

Rock & Blues Muse
How has it been for you with the pandemic? You’re a touring band—what have you been up to with time off the road?

Robert Jon Burrison
It has been very interesting to say the least. We are a touring band, and to have that taken away from us, is a hard thing. We try and plan our lives out months in advance to keep everything on pace and for personal relationships to exist. These past months now it’s been hard to plan anything, so we’ve taken our time to write, and work on our musicianship. We’ve also come out with some great things on our online store, like a giant digital box set of everything we’ve recorded since the beginning and brought out some old t-shirt designs from the vault. We have some more exciting things on the horizon in the next few weeks.

Rock & Blues Muse
You go on tour in the UK in May of 2021 and then a full tour of Europe. What do you have planned for those shows?

Robert Jon Burrison
To just play live and feel the energy of the crowd again, that is unlike anything else. We are still planning on our UK and EU tour for 2021 in May. We hope that things will lighten up and we can come back and tour and share music with everyone who’s been without it for so long now.

Rock & Blues Muse
Will you be doing any more live stream performances?

Robert Jon Burrison
We are talking about doing another one soon. There is something that you get from a live performance with people in a crowd that you just don’t receive when you are playing for a camera over the internet. That being said, we have had great success with live streams in the past so there might be another one day soon.

Rock & Blues Muse
Congratulations on getting married!

Robert Jon Burrison
Thank you very much. During all this craziness, it was amazing to make that day happen, and it was the best day that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Robert Jon & The Wreck’s album, Last Light on the Highway is out now. For info see here

 

 

 

 





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