Calexico | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Behind the Sun

Apr 01, 2015 Calexico Bookmark and Share

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Joey Burns loves to travel. Since 1997, the Calexico frontman has made his living writing music infused with life on the road. His dust-covered folk touches on everything from the flamenco bars of Spain, to the barrios of Los Angeles, to the sunburned deserts of the American Southwest. Still, hearing him speak about where he’s been, the places he’d like to go, and even daydream about the trips he’d like to go on with his twin daughters (Venice and Paris are both high on the kid-friendly travel list) feels a bit like stepping into a Lonely Planet guide. Tourism boards take note: you could do worse than to have an ambassador like Burns.

“We were in a neighborhood that was walking distance to incredible bars and restaurants and cafes,” he begins, setting the scene. “Everyone was very kind to us.”

Burns is talking about Mexico City, the inspiration for his band’s ninth studio album, Edge of the Sun. Along with drummer John Convertino, Burns wrote the majority of the album while visiting the city—his first extended time in the in the region. Even across a cell phone connection, his voice sparkles with excitement at the memory.

“We met a bunch of musicians down there,” he continues. “Which was really cool to see how they worked. It felt like I was going to Hollywood or something. It didn’t feel that much different than hanging out in Los Angeles, when you’re in a recording studio just hanging out. But when you step outside, the place is next to Casa Azul that housed Frida Kalo’s family. You’re like, ‘Oh shit!’ This is some serious history and inspiration. It’s much different than life in Los Angeles.”

From the city’s history of missionaries and conquistadors, to the pyramids of Teotihuacan (Burns paints a vivid verbal picture of the black onyx eyes of the Quetzal statues), Edge of the Sun is infused with the spirit of Mexico City. Still a folk endeavor at heart, the album’s twelve tracks hang heavy with strings, horns and even the occasional reggae-inspired beat.

Joining Calexico (which also features the talents of Paul Niehaus, Jacob Valenzuela, Martin Wenk, and Volker Zander) on the album is an international slate of artists, including Ben Bridewell (Band of Horses), Neko Case, Sam Beam, (Iron & Wine), Nick Urata (DeVotchka), Guatemalan musician Gaby Moreno, and Mexican Grammy winner, Carla Morrison. Burns speaks glowingly of his collaborators, counting friendships over the years serving as one of the greatest souvenirs of his travels. His descriptions of the “magical” Case sweeping in to record her part on “Tapping on the Line” in a mere two hours, to Moreno just happening to be in the same city at the right time all carry with them an air of pure admiration.

“I think by nature musicians like collaboration,” he laughs at the observation. “They like playing with each other. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch. I think we all enjoy being asked to play.”

Music is an escapist endeavor. Life, however, is not. As much as Burns loves life on the road, Arizona and his family will always be home. Recently, a fan asked him about his favorite piece of music. Burns’ response says everything.

“The song that my daughters sing when they wake up in the morning,” he answered. “My next favorite song is the song that my wife sings to our daughters. My next favorite song is the song my mom sang to me. That sound, that moment, that is the stuff that builds your DNA. It makes you who you are. You take those songs with you. My girls are in preschool. The last two nights they sang a song, like prayer before dinner, where we all held hands. We’re not overly religious. But I was raised in a family that was Catholic, so we say grace before dinner. It brought me back to those moments growing up. The song was about the earth is good to me; it gives me the apple seed. From there, all good things grow. Oh my gosh, it’s so beautiful. It brings things back home. Life is complex. It’s hard to get the songs going and get the process completed. It’s hard to leave home and go on tour. But it’s that much more rewarding when you do come back. It’s the greatest feeling.”



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September 17th 2018

I am very happy that I can read such a valuable article.