Molly Burch has a lifetime of artistic and musical experience. She grew up in LA, the daughter of creatives: her father was a writer and producer and her mother was a casting director. When it came time for college, she headed east, to the University of North Carolina at Asheville to study Jazz Vocal Performance, adding a new layer of influences to tunes of Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and classic movie scores that soundtracked Burch’s childhood. After college, Burch headed to Austin. In an incredible testament to Burch’s hard work (and the expense of studios), she and guitarist Dailey Toliver tracked and recorded all the songs on her debut album Please Be Mine in just one day with a full backing band. The haunting work showcases Burch’s deep songwriting skills, speaking of relationships gained and lost. With titles like “Wrong For You,” “I Still Love You,” and “Fool,” Burch’s breathy vocals, slightly twangy guitar, and steady bass line will slowly mend your heart and pull you through tough romantic times. Leading up to her show next week as part of our UO Live showcase in Austin, we met up with her and her bandmates for a dreamy trip to the desert.
Photos by Nicole Magnolia, interview by Kat Harding
We were so excited to get to photograph you and your band outside Austin...What was it like to be photographed in such an iconic place?
It was so beautiful. We were right next to Enchanted Rock, which I’ve only been once before, but it’s the most beautiful place. My band and I had our record release show the night before and we met up to drive out to the desert at 4 in the morning. So yeah, at first it was a little bit of a struggle. I got a little bit sick this past weekend as well, so the journey there was a little tough for me. But once we got there, I felt so much better — the sun came up and it was stunning. Where we were was just the most beautiful place. I feel like it was very healing to be there. It was great.
So many of your songs are about loss and breakups; are they autobiographical? Where do you get your inspiration?
A lot are [autobiographical]. I moved to Austin right when I graduated college. I spent a little time in the town that I went to college in, which was Asheville, North Carolina, and I was dating Dailey Toliver, he’s currently in my band, and we were dating and we went through a breakup and I was sort of having a crisis, so I moved to Austin by myself on a whim in 2013. I wrote most of the album when I moved here and was going through a really hard time and just being by myself and dealing with like, mourning our relationship, and then we ended up getting back together about a year later...so there are some songs there inspired by that reuniting, and then there’s some songs that are just sort of make believe, and for fun, that aren’t directly related to him. But a lot are inspired by our relationship.
It sounds like recording your album was a whirlwind! What was that process like?
It was a couple days, but we recorded all the basic tracks live, and that was in a day, and then Dailey and I went back and did overdubs. I had saved up some money to record the album and I knew I wanted to get it done in a day and to me, that didn’t sound hard. I just didn’t question that, but everyone that we told, they were like “there’s no way you can track all those songs.” No one thought we could do it, so it sort of became a fun challenge. We had just been recording all this songs out live for six months or so, and so my band and I had them down. I wanted the album to reflect how we sound live, so yeah, it was good.
Your debut album is still fresh and you’ve got a bunch of touring planned. What else is going on for you? What’s your dream place to play?
We’re going to be on tour until March 15, and then we’ll be playing the 15-19th at SXSW. We’re planning more touring now, but nothing is announced or set yet. I definitely want to go to Europe and I’ve only been to a handful of places. We’re going on tour with Tim Darcy for March and then we’re going to support Sallie Ford in April along the East Coast and West Coast. I’d like to play LA and go onto the West Coast. I don’t know what my dream place is, but I definitely want to go back to Amsterdam. I’ve never been to Berlin or any place like that. This will be my first SXSW: I'm excited.
You’ve lived in some really interesting scenes for music — LA, Asheville, Austin. What do you love about these places and their music scenes?
Well I’m not too familiar with LA music scene, just because I didn’t play in bands then. I left LA when I was 17, so when I was in high school I was not active in the music scene. I was a pretty introverted and non-social high school kid...we haven’t played in LA yet. I love LA, but it’s totally different thing growing up in a place. I don’t go back that often but we’ll play there for the first time in late April.
Asheville was really great. I mean, I was in college, so I think the scene that I knew was very much surrounded by the university, and meeting people. I went to school for music, so I would meet new friends that were in the music department and it was very small and tight-knit and I had a band there...but it was so small that I felt like you couldn’t play too much. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since. There are so many great places, like Harvest Records. I love them. It’s such a great record shop and the owners are awesome; the Mothlight is also a great venue to play there. It's a really special place. I think I just left because at the time I needed something different.
And here in Austin, I feel like it’s been a very nice sized city to grow as an artist, because it has the best of both worlds: it’s not too small and I don't feel like there's an "overplaying" limit. Austin is very supportive and I feel like the community is really nice. There are so many musicians here, so yeah, it’s just a really inspiring place.
What have you been listening to lately?
I was just listening to the new Homeshake record. I just got that from my label [Captured Tracks], their sister label just put that out, Sinderlyn. So yeah, Homeshake, I was just listening to the new RF Shannon song. They’re an awesome band; I love them. They’re close friends.
How would you describe your album to someone on the street?
I feel like that question is hard for some reason; I don’t know why. I feel like it’s something that you have to get used to. Like, you know, when you’re in a band, and people are like “what do you sound like?” and you have to come up with a concise sentence. I don’t know. I’d say it's definitely pop-inspired, and it is a very romantic album, and it’s very vocally driven.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
About anything? Let me think. The only thing that comes to mind right now is my favorite teacher in high school, her name is Tyke O’Brien, she would always say “play hurt,” and I like that motto.
See Molly Burch this month at UO Space 24 Twenty for UO Live in Austin. Click here for more schedules and information.