The Nashville-based singer-songwriter, who caught the attention of Canvasback Music (Atlantic Records) back in 2017 after his self-released EP Big Shot, won over the hearts of several local fans and counting with his charming acoustic renditions and rock n’ roll jam songs, grounded in a lyrical prowess full of heart. His self-written releases that followed – Carnival (2018), Indiana (2019), and Miracle (2020) – slowly made Maroney a force to be reckoned with, especially in fan-favorites “Caroline” and “Freakin’ out on the Interstate”, but there was always one thing missing: a full-length album.
Nearly eight years after first attaining a dash of recognition when auditioning for American Idol at the ripe young age of 14, Maroney is finally getting to feel the adrenaline rush of releasing a beloved project to the world, one that takes an experimental dive into his life from then to now.
Working alongside top-notch talents with the likes of Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull, acclaimed songwriter Dan Wilson, and trusted producer John Congleton, Maroney created a record representative of his journey so far, from being a young busker in Knoxville to playing gigs, securing self-recovery, and arriving today – after all the trials and errors – at a much deeper understanding of self. It’s everything he is and more.
Tracks “Sinkin’” and “Bottle Rocket” sum up the theme of taking control of your life with fierce abandon, using fuzzy guitars and punchy drums as a consistent source of vibrant self-assurance. Metaphorical elements stay relevant throughout the record, specifically in the laid-back, melancholy-esque tune “Deep Sea Diver” and raucous, hard-hitter “Rollercoaster”, both holding vastly different styles but still ever tied together in their profound deliveries.
Maroney shows out with his witty romantic odes in “It’s Still Cool if You Don’t” and “Freeway”, composed in pop-infused layers dawned in effortlessly sweet declarations. “Cinnamon”, a longing for the one you love while on the road, and “Say My Name”, a weighted surrender to letting go, are where you’ll find familiar stripped-down arrangements led by Maroney’s raw melodic performance.
“Why” is a rocky explosion of lovesick frustration, lush with pulsating drums and crunchy guitar chords that make this song the perfect scream-in-your-car anthem. Similarly, “The Kids” can be best embraced during a golden hour drive, windows rolled down in a coming-of-age freedom, savoring every moment as the wind breezes through your hair.
The 10-song album was accompanied by a 45-minute film foreseen by the artist himself and longtime visual collaborator Joey Brodnax. Delving into the question, “What makes something beautiful?” viewers follow Maroney as he describes five sources that create it and five sources that diminish it, featuring the singer participating in various activities, such as paddle-boarding in a dark, red-lit cave; head-banging in a corn-field; and running naked in the grass. Oh, and there’s an interactive hypnosis included in the experience as well. It’s a closer look into the lens of Maroney’s heart and mind, a colorful display of inspiration.
Rich in wisdom, Sunflower manages to finesse its way into every aspect of human existence, insightful and sophisticated reflections on reality’s balance of hardship and joy. Maroney writes from a place of extreme maturity, a soul poetically ingrained in the beauty of growth that’s illuminated by an invigorating harmony of self-expression. Tender and authentic. Bold and unyielding. Briston Maroney knows what he’s doing.