'Everything' in its right place

Originally from Birmingham, Ala., singer-songwriter Chris Burke spent several years performing in the Atlanta area before moving to Nashville.

His latest album, Everything, is a graceful collection of all original material that explores matters of the heart with sharp insight and soulful arrangements.

Burke, a regular at Nashville's 12th & Porter among other Music City venues, discusses his particular place in the music industry with Out & About Newspaper.

What can someone expect if he or she is seeing your show for the first time?

My show, as well as my music, is very laid back and comfortable. I grew up listening to and singing classic soul music, like Etta James and Sam Cooke, and my show has the same uncomplicated and smooth feel of that music. If someone were to see my show for the first time, he/she could expect to sit back and relax into some smooth pop/soul tunes with strong melodies. I am a singer at heart! It's easy and comfortable and fresh music.

What's the biggest difference being a musician in Nashville compared to, say, Atlanta or Chicago or even New York City?

I can't really speak of the music scene in Chicago or NYC, but I lived in Atlanta for 10 years and had some luck here and there with pursuing music. It was ultimately unsatisfied though, and I picked myself and my two cats up and moved here to Nashville. The main difference I can see is that Nashville is really saturated with musicians who are likewise pursuing a career in music, and Atlanta seems to have so much else going on. It is a huge city with about every opportunity in the book, but there seems to be a cap on just how far you can go with those opportunities. There definitely is a music scene in Atlanta and, I would imagine, Chicago and NYC, but Nashville is truly bubbling over with incredible musicians. There seems to be a a much greater percentage of true musicians here who live and breathe their art. That is both a blessing and a curse, but it has revolutionized my own music and how I create it.

How do you go about carving out your own niche in Nashville, a town brimming with musical talent?

This is a difficult question. As I said before, the sheer amount of people that are here in Nashville that have the same dream to make a life and a career out of their music makes getting heard and seen that much more difficult. Again, it is an amazing place to figure out who you are as an artist, but not an easy place to carve out a niche, and I am still in the process of figuring that out. It seems logical that your music and talent should bring success and fans, and as hard as I have worked to define who I am as an artist should somehow magically be rewarded with people to attend the shows. But, that step in the process is not well defined and can be elusive. Because most everyone is making music and playing out as well, it can be an arduous task to bring people out to a show. I am still figuring that out with mixed results. I actually have a show tonight, so I will have to let you know just how it goes!

At this point in your career, what brings you the most enjoyment---performing or songwriting?

I grew up singing, and my voice is the first thing that a listener usually notices. So, up to the last few years, I would say that performing brings the most enjoyment. However, the last few years have really been an amazing transformation from vocalist to artist for me, and songwriting has been a huge part of that. I always believed that my voice would be it for me, and if I worked on that I should be okay, but I have found that what I have to say is just as important if not more so, and the songs I write and sing are just as much a part of me as my voice and how I deliver the songs is. So, at this point, I would have to say that songwriting is more fulfilling.

What influences---musical or otherwise---were most important in feeding your creative position and putting you on this journey as a singer-songwriter?

Again, I grew up listening to classic soul music. Those artists delivered simple messages in their songs back then, and it made you feel what they are saying down to your toes. I always wanted to emulate that. My main musical influences are those soul singers that created passion and soul out of thin air through only their voices and a simple message: Aretha, Sam Cooke, Etta James, etc. Also, because of my mother's unconditional support and love, I have always believed that everything I ever dreamed of with my music was and still is fully possible. I have a pretty solid group of folks around me in my personal life that have helped push me forward even when it didn't feel like there was much going on for them to push me to. My partner of over six years has always given me unfiltered and unbiased input on my choices and my career so far, even when it was painful. I have never been challenged in my life to really push myself beyond just my voice until I moved here, and he is a big part of that. I had so many misconceptions and so much to learn about being a musician and an artist, and he has helped me work through and past them.

Going forward, what career goals have you set for yourself in the next five years?

When I first moved here to Nashville, I co-wrote an album that I am still very proud of. A few years later, I fully wrote, produced, and engineered an album in my own home studio. I am still learning and growing and improving myself and my music. I am presently working on a new project and with other extremely talented musicians and writers, and going forward, I want to raise the bar even from the last two albums. Again, I still have so much to learn, but I have the pleasure of working on my craft and myself as an artist almost everyday. So, my goals are to continue as I am, to grow as an artist, and to consistently challenge myself. Success to me is in a kick ass beat, a line of a song that says exactly what I am feeling, someone listening to my music and being affected in some way, and in an incredible new song. My goal is to keep moving forward and constantly becoming better at what I do.

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