Meet the Artist: Cedric Burnside
July 29, 2019
Grammy-nominated blues musician and songwriter Cedric Burnside continues the rich tradition of Mississippi Hill Country, imbuing the genre with modern-day sensibilities and a timeless flavor. His free show at the David Rubenstein Atrium on Thursday, August 15, is guaranteed to enthrall a new generation of listeners.
Top three influences (musical or otherwise)?
My Big Daddy (R.L. Burnside), Junior Kimbrough, and Paul Wine Jones.
Artist/album you have on repeat?
Muddy Waters, actually. I've been getting into some Fred McDowell, too.
Last live performance you saw?
My uncle Garry Burnside at the Hill Country Picnic last weekend!
Favorite city to play?
Byron Bay, Australia. It's so tropical. It's a beautiful place with beautiful people and it's one of the best festivals I've played in my career. It's just so, so beautiful.
I do a lot of stuff! I cook, I can fix things around the house… I'd surprise you.
Favorite book or movie?
The Jungle Book. I love The Jungle Book…even to this day. Should I be embarrassed to say that? 'Cause I'm not.
Top three pieces of advice for aspiring artists?
1. Don't quit. Music is challenging, but if you want it bad enough, you'll do what it takes to be good at it. 2. Like I just said, music is very challenging. You gotta remember that. 3. Always remember that you can do whatever you put your mind to.
First live performance you remember seeing?
My Big Daddy, R.L. Burnside. We were in Arkansas, maybe Little Rock… it was a blues festival. I was 11 or 12 years old, and my dad was playing drums behind R.L. I wanted to be up there so bad. It was really something, and it made me want to play.
Artist you'd most like to meet (past or present)?
Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters.
First paying gig?
Does the juke joint count? (Laughs.) Junior Kimbrough used to pay us $5 every weekend to play at his juke joint. If it was really good, he'd pay us $10. We'd have snack money the next day at school, so that was a good thing, I guess.
My new album, Benton County Relic! It's out now on Single Lock Records and I'm real proud of it.
Country you'd most like to visit?
I've been blessed to have gone to a lot of them. Australia is my favorite country. I also like Croatia. It's a really beautiful country. Denmark is great, too.
Artist you'd most like to collaborate with?
That's a good question… 'cause there are a few. Willie Nelson would be one of them. I dig his stuff. I would've loved to have collaborated with Johnny Guitar Watson. I LOVE that dude.
First time you realized you wanted to be a musician?
Six or seven years old. Just sitting there and watching my Big Daddy, my dad, my uncles play house parties. I just sat there and watched for so long, and I just knew, right then, that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I knew it.
What you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
That it will get easier. It was a real struggle for me getting going. I realized that the struggle—most of it—came from my family. They were giving me contructive criticism, but I didn't know what that was. It made me mad, and it was hard. But it got easier. If someone would've told me that it would be tough, but to not give up, it would've helped me.
I used to practice every single day, sometimes six or seven hours a day. We'd practice, take a break, eat something, practice some more. Give yourself at least an hour a day, more if possible, to practice your craft. Especially if that's what makes your living.
You hope someone comes away from one of your shows feeling…?
Inspired! And invigorated… in a way where if there's a part of their life that they're going through that I'm singing about, I want them to go away knowing that everything is going to be okay. Everything is gonna be all right.
Next goal or challenge you're setting for yourself?
Well… I don't know if I have any challenges, but my next goal is to record another kick-ass album. I'm looking forward to that!