A Chat With Moscow Idaho Native & Alt-Americana Songwriter Bart Budwig About His Tune ‘Rolling Stoned’, The Oregon Music Scene, & More

“It’s his ability to combine tragedy and comedy in his humanist hallelujahs that makes Budwig a gravitational force and industry chimera. The studio general, the clown prince, the sensitive songwriter with a rugged voice.”

I’m not sure who said this, but this occupies the About snippet on Oregon-based indie Americana artist Bart Budwig’s Facebook. Poetic and intriguing, no doubt.

It was Budwig’s track, “Rolling Stoned,” featuring John Craigie that caught our ear and prompted us to investigate further into just who this Moscow, Idaho-born musician is. The track (go figure) kicks off with a riff and rhythm reminiscent to that of Keith Richards in The Stones Exile On Main Street or maybe Some Girls days. And if you’re savvy enough, you might just catch some other Rolling Stones nods in the track- one tune in particular. But we all know there’s only one Mick Jagger, and Budwig in no way tries to emulate that. The lyrics may pay homage, but Budwig’s voice is cool as ranch with a tickle of grit and rasp. I might even dare say I catch a little Dan Auerbach in the vocals.

Budwig’s latest release is his album, Another Burn On the AstroTurf, which was released on Portland-based label Fluff & Gravy. He has released 10 albums to date.

We had the chance to pitch some questions across the Mississippi to Budwig who hit us back with some answers regarding the single, his roots, Oregon musical heroes, pandemic reflections, and more.

So where did you grow up, and who or what got you into playing and writing music?

I grew up in Moscow, Idaho, 120 miles north of where I live currently in Enterprise, Oregon. I believe my mother and father met at the Salvation Army playing horns. My grandfather is an incredible cornet player which got me into playing trumpet as a very young child. I played Christmas carols with my parents around the holidays and in the elementary/high school jazz band growing up. I started to write, sing, and play my mother’s guitar when I was 18. My mother passed away when I was 12 (she was hit by a vehicle while biking to work).

What’s your songwriting process like? Is it highly regimented or more sporadic and random?

More sporadic and random. A result of my feelings and an attempt to make sense of things. 

Can you talk about what you’re doing with your video collection entitled “Hard Times” and the idea behind that?

My band was in Europe when Corona hit and we had to leave mid-tour. When I got home I decided I wanted to create something different than a live stream because internet in a 2000 person town is mediocre at best. I got together with my guitarist (Ben Walden), bassist (Nevada Sowle), and friend (Meredith Brann, her family owns the theater that I live in). We each chose one song to sing and the rest of us learned the songs and recorded them into one microphone and a 360 degree video camera. The donations raised from the video were split between the 4 of us. My hope as travel restrictions ease is to be able to make a few more of these with musician friends around the Northwest. While losing income from shows is difficult for many musicians, I find that losing my ability to make music with friends and release it into the unknown leaves me feeling lost, and I know that is true for many of my friends as well.

What messages and feelings do you hope to convey in your music to listeners?

I hope to bring people together with music. My music is just me making sense of things with my friends. It helps me and maybe it helps other folks too.

So your song “Rolling Stoned” ft. John Craigie is what caught our ear initially. What’s the influence and inspiration behind this number?

This is one of my less serious songs. An homage to the Rolling Stone’s track “Beast of Burden”. A song I played on repeat all the time a few years ago. Many people assume a single person will be happier with a lover. If they’re a good one maybe that’s true. If I’m good enough to fall in love with, am I better off being alone?

I see it was released at the beginning of the year. Is it on or going to be on an EP or LP?

The full 10-track record “Another Burn on the AstroTurf”  is out now on vinyl, CD, and digitally at bartbudwig.com and most other places you find music as well.

Where did you record it and who was involved in its production?

The album was recorded where I live at the OK Theater in Enterprise, Oregon, with around 15 friends in one week. Nevada Sowle recorded the record, I mixed it, and a small independent record label in Portland “Fluff & Gravy Records” released it. The songs were performed live with all musicians (sometimes more than 8) performing at the same time in the main room of the Theater. 

Who are some of your Oregonian heroes or perhaps fellow Oregon musicians folks should know about?

Oregonian songwriters to check out: Michael Hurley (one of the most legendary living songwriters in my opinion), Jeffrey Martin, John Craigie. My band, Ben Walden, Nevada Sowle, Cooper Trail (bands: Desolation Horse, Mise), Kati Claborn (bands: The Hackles, Blind Pilot), Luke Ydstie (bands: The Hackles, Blind Pilot), Margo Cilker, Forrest VanTuyl (band: An American Forrest), Seth Kinzie (band: Kinzie Steele).

What local establishments are you eager to frequent and support again once it’s deemed safe and acceptable?

Shows at the OK Theater once we can host them, and the local bar Range Rider.

Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process?

I’ve been focusing on my health and saving money which has been hugely beneficial, as well as not dealing with the stress of travel. I hope to jump into creativity whenever it strikes. 🙂

Other than working on music, how else have you been spending time during the pandemic?

Napping, learning about audio and video (the technical side of things), cooking, getting green curry from the Thai place across the street, a camp fire with a couple friends on my birthday, outdoor chats, smoking more than usual, drinking less than usual, too much time for computer work and games, learning songs I love, feeling uninspired by my own guitar playing, enjoying music and audio books more than usual, hating how divided our country seems, worried we don’t know how to communicate with people who think or look different, but also encouraged by all the love I feel and see around me. Trying to live each day one at a time and not get lost in the future or worry.

What might the latter half of the year have in store for Bart Budwig?

I hope to write and record some records for friends. I normally make (recording and/or mixing) one record every other month or so with bands from around the NW and further.

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