Among Brian Burns' earliest memories are the sights, sounds, and smells of the Katy Railroad locomotive shop down the street from the house he grew up in... and music. The songs of Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash... those trains and that music... that poet's wanderlust. Well, let's flash forward thirty some-odd years... legendary Texian Johnny Bush (who wrote Whiskey River, among countless other country standards) also wrote, in his own autobiography:
"This kid named Brian Burns sent me a song called The Haunted Jukebox (At The Lost Highway Saloon), and it was exactly what the best of the new generation of Texas singer/songwriters were doing: songwriting, storytelling. Brian is that kind of storytelling artist. I put his CD on and lay down on the couch and went to sleep, and when that song came on, it woke me up. I guess it was that old thing of waking up something in your mind... well, it woke my ass up. And I listened to that song all night long."
His songwriting notwithstanding, Brian has since emerged as one Texas' most powerful and engaging performers. His music explores both the poignant and the humorous sides of humanity, drawing out the things we've all felt and wish we could have said. The warmth, wit, and eclecticism of his performances captivate audiences night after night.
Brian grew up in Central Texas listening to the western ballads of Marty Robbins, the progressive country music of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, and just about any other substantive (as usually opposed to "top-40") artists/styles that he recognized as such. Early on, he developed an appreciation for musical depth, along with a knack for the story. As his passion for music grew, he began to explore a variety of styles ranging from pop to reggae. At age 16, Brian hit the road on a musical journey that would eventually find him sharing stages with some of America's top performers.
Brian's Texas roots remained an integral force in his life and work. After his first million-or-so miles of rough road and half-a-lifetime of impressive musical accomplishments - yet not much to show for it, Brian planted those roots firmly back in Lone Star soil. "Music's not a choice I made, I believe the choice made me," he declared in the title cut of his debut solo album, Highways, Heartaches, and Honky-Tonks, a 1997 work which summarized his musical journey up to that point. His second album, 1999's Angels & Outlaws, produced the venomous, yet humorous Texan anthem, Welcome To Texas (Now Don't Forget To Go Back Home) which dominated FM heavy rotation lists in the nation's largest country music markets for many months. But Angels & Outlaws also met critical acclaim and enlightened a discriminating listening audience to a more intellectual and introspective side of Brian Burns.
Brian's 2001 release, The Eagle & The Snake: Songs Of The Texians, presented an epic collection of classic, contemporary, and original ballads based on the history, folklore, and culture of Texas. The Eagle & The Snake was heralded by reviewers as a masterpiece shortly after its release, and went on to become an established Texas classic. The album's first single, I've Been Everywhere (In Texas) became one of the few singles in history that was produced in an artist's home project studio, yet went on to chart nationally on the Radio & Records' national country chart. The Eagle & The Snake would also lead to Brian's development of Once Upon A Time In Texas, the state's premier educational presentation for K-12 Social Studies curriculum enhancement. Once Upon A Time has taken Brian's musical and storytelling talents into thousands of elementary, intermediate, and junior high schools, and remains Texas' #1 school assembly program to date.
In 2004 Brian released Heavy Weather, continuing to mine a rich balladeering vein with songs like Indianola, The Train Wreck At Kiowa Creek, and his remake of Gordon Lightfoot's Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, which stayed on the top of the XM Satellite Radio playlists for several years. Heavy Weather also produced the "sleeper" hit Thunderstorms & Tyler Roses, which remains a popular play in radio markets nationwide. Brian's 2006 release, Border Radio, introduced a collection of poetic romps through west Texas and Mexico - although the recording was done in a stationary setting, virtually all of the songwriting and production decisions were made where Brian listens to music the most - out on the highway. Border Radio won Brian the honor of XM Satellite Radio's Best In Texas award in 2006.
In 2009 Brian released his sixth studio album, American Junkyard. This collection of songs looks at our nation through the eyes of an aging patriot who sees us at our best, and our worst, all at once. American Junkyard was prophetic in that it called attention not only to a distinct change in how Americans consumed artistic media such as music, but a profound shift in popular musical styles and artistry. In retrospect, music had gone from being an active facet of American life to a passive one.
Brian retired from the music business in 2017 to run a multimedia company providing web design, software development, graphic & typographic design, HDR & aerial photography, and A/V production.
"And the rest," as Brian would say, "is history."
At the beginning of the decade, a wild-eyed kid from Waco kid gets his first guitar (and drum set). By the end of the decade, Brian has joined Texas-based national touring band, Freewheelin', first as drummer, then transitioning to guitarist and lead singer.
Brian enjoys success with several central Texas bands, including one of Texas' premier dance hall bands, ultimately serving as "house band" at Willie Nelson's Farm Aid and 4th of July Picnic concerts. Brian closes out the decade with his own touring band, playing top venues throughout the U.S. and Canada. During this decade, Brian writes some of the first songs to comprise a rich musical catalog that will ultimately establish him as a Texas "songwriter's songwriter".
Brian's songs have been recorded by legendary Texas recording artists as well as up and coming Texas/Red Dirt artists. Brian begins touring Texas "troubadour-style", delivering dynamic and engaging acoustic shows either solo, or on stage with some of America's most revered singer/songwriters.
Brian's debut CD, Highways, Heartaches, & Honky-Tonks, is named CD of The Year by mainstream FM radio in the nation's top country music market, D/FW, TX.
Welcome To Texas, the first single from Brian's second CD, Angels & Outlaws, is the most requested (and most played) song in the nation's largest country music market.
Brian is honored to receive Solo Artist Of The Year from The Terry Awards, a long-standing institution recognizing excellence in Texas Music.
Brian has, for the past two years, been voted Texas Artist Of The Year by The Rockzilla Awards, an international group of devoted and discriminating Texas/Americana music enthusiasts.
I've Been Everywhere (In Texas), the single from Brian's latest CD release, The Eagle & The Snake: Songs Of The Texians, moves to #1 on Texas radio, charting nationally for five consecutive weeks on Radio & Records based upon reports by radio stations in all American country music markets... an unprecedented achievement for an independent recording artist.
Brian's single, I've Been Everywhere (In Texas) is featured in the motion picture Grand Champion, starring Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts, George Strait, and featuring an all-star musical soundtrack.
Brian introduces his Texas-history-based school program, Once Upon A Time In Texas, which establishes him as the premier educational entertainer for K-12 schools throughout Texas.
Brian's single Evangelina remains in the top 10 of the Texas Music Chart for several weeks.
Brian's CD, Heavy Weather is released, producing two of Texas radio's most requested, most played songs - Nothin' To Say (Austin Vs. Nashville) and Thunderstorms & Tyler Roses. Brian's rendition of the Gordon Lightfoot classic, Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald propels Brian's music beyond Texas, launching his entire music catalog onto the national stage through XM/Sirius Satellite Radio.
Brian is honored to receive The Don Foshee Memorial Award For Educational Excellence for his K-12 school program, Once Upon A Time In Texas.
Brian's fifth CD, Border Radio is released, and Brian is honored to win XM/Sirius Satellite Radio's Best In Texas Award. Brian logs a record 300 live performances this year.
Brian cannot find time to eat, sleep, or wind his watch, and doesn't remember anything.
Brian releases his sixth studio CD, American Junkyard, featuring a stellar lineup of musicians and vocalists, including Trout Fishing In America. The single, Rattlesnake Tequila is an instant "cult"/radio favorite, and the album, as a whole, presents a seasoned American singer/songwriter whose work transcends borders, both geographical and musical.
Brian receives the Daughters of The American Revolution Texas State Media Award for his educational school concert program Once Upon A Time In Texas.
TWO MILLION MILES.
I once performed for a group of 7th-graders whose Texas history teacher had assigned them quite a challenge. He had given them each a copy of my recording of "I've Been Everywhere (In Texas)", along with a Texas roadmap, and instructed them to plot the route through each of the 91 cities mentioned in the song - then to calculate the total mileage. Their calculations yielded results ranging (depending on the routes they chose) from 14,000 to 18,000 miles. Of course, their big question for me that day was whether I had actually been all those miles to all those cities. Oh yes, many times over.
I thought of that assignment recently, and I started wondering how many miles I had traveled over the course of my life in music. So I did some calculations—nothing scientific, mind you, but I did double and triple-check the answer because I found it a bit unbelievable. Nonetheless, it is actually the most conservative sumtotal I can come up with starting from my first gigs as a drummer in Waco in the mid-seventies to my last performance at Baines Middle School in Missouri City in May of 2017:
2,000,000 miles. That's right, two million.
A few years ago, I was with a couple of other Texas singer/songwriters of the non-spring chicken variety, and we were ribbing each other before a show: "Man, you're startin' to walk like Fred Sanford." Well, I'd say that's a bit of an exaggeration in my case—but as the last line of one of my favorite dirty limericks goes, "I don't feel as good as I did." But why, some folks ask, have I retired from the music business altogether?
(1). It is pretty well known among those who have followed my music career that I started developing a distinct vocal tremor about a decade ago. Even after consultations (and various treatments) with several of the nation's top voice specialists—from Dallas to San Antonio to New York—the condition continued to grow progressively worse. My voice no longer had resonance and tonality; I lost vocal range and strength, and it became virtually impossible to hit pitch or hold notes. To say it was a struggle would be an understatement; the honest truth is, I simply couldn't sing anymore.
(2). We all know that the music industry has gone through profound changes over the past decade; music itself has diminished both in quality and value. On that point, even if I could sing like I sang on "The Eagle & The Snake", music has gone in a direction which I simply have no interest in pursuing. One of the world's great songwriters (and one who helped teach and inspire me to write songs that combined historical events with personal experience) is Al Stewart. A few years ago an interviewer asked Mr. Stewart when his next album was coming out. He replied, "when they open the record stores back up and people start buying the albums again." There you have it.
(3). I have always considered myself a content creator, whether that content is musical, literary, or visual. I've also enjoyed a lucrative profession in software development, back when music was just my "night gig". At the beginning of 2017, I dove into starting, promoting, and growing a new company, and the results have been far beyond what Veronica or I expected. I get to create cool things for cool clients, spend more time at home with my family (I HAVE GRANDKIDS NOW!), and travel when the notion strikes me.
(4). 2,000,000 miles. That's right, two million.
Those two million miles have left me with a lifetime of memories... memories of colorful characters, interesting places, crazy endless nights... I owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one out there, living or deceased, who ever thought enough of my music to buy my albums, to sit in a smoky bar and listen to what the muse brought out that night, or to wish me safe travels in the journey onward. The chorus of a song by the great Bill Staines comes to mind:
Lovers and losers,
dreamers and boozers,
pickers and poets in the rain...
I long to hear them,
and I'll linger near them,
for I have seen their faces,
and I have known their names.
Two million miles. It's been a helluva journey.
Keep the wind at your back and let the road rise up to meet you. As for me...
I'm still livin' here in Fort Worth; I'm just the way I've always been (even if I am walking a little bit like Fred Sanford).