Best of 2020: Eric Burton (Black Pumas) Loves Moses Sumney’s Grae

Particularly the song “Bystanders.”

To be honest, I’m still listening to Moses Sumney’s Grae — I don’t even know if I’ve gotten through the entire record because I keep getting stuck on the song “Bystanders.” He has a way of articulating in a very vivid, visceral way. On top of that, it feels very ethereal and conscious and socially active and brave. When I listen to it, I may not be listening to it in such an intimate way where I’m paying attention to every vocal movement, but I’m really attracted to the vibe. He’s able to lift me off of the earthly plane that is everyday living. It’s hard to even conceptualize my perspective of it via words. He’s got a way of taking the listener somewhere far away, yet familiar.

With “Bystanders” it’s the lyrics, it’s the vibe, it’s his approach to delivering the material. He’s got a great diction, he’s very articulate in that way. I think that most specifically, the music speaks to my existential reality, and my coming to terms with being nominated for Grammys in such a short period of time. Coming to terms with settling into a new foreign place, being that I’m from Los Angeles but living in Austin, Texas, where I’m the only one of my bloodline. I don’t have any family or relatives here, so it’s been quite a rollercoaster to get rooted and grounded in my own purpose in Austin. I truly do feel that I’m going to stay here. It’s such a great place for me, and I knew that as soon as I landed here. Given that I came into contact with many bystanders and people who would maybe be waiting at a light while I was busking on the corner of 6th and Congress. I came into contact with many people who were living their own lives, but I could feel this uncanny reciprocation of appreciation. It made me feel at home, even if the appreciation wasn’t necessarily by way of words or tips.

Los Angeles is just as saturated with musicians and music, but it’s still such a large city, such a large area that it’s really easy to get lost in a community of people that are gunning for the top of the hill, if you will. Austin feels like a large city in a small town. So I was able to experience some very warm energy. I feel like I can be more honest in Austin, and that’s part of every artist’s plight who’s trying to make it. It’s an everyday process to be honest with yourself, to present an honest depiction of your experience. I think the biggest thing that I might share with someone of Moses’ caliber is a sense of bravery that I feel in his music.

As told to Josh Modell.

Black Pumas — the duo of frontman/songwriter Eric Burton and producer/guitarist Adrian Quesada — received three 2021 Grammy nominations recently, including two in the ceremony’s biggest categories, Album of the Year (for Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)) and Record of the Year (for “Colors”). “Colors” was additionally nominated for Best American Roots Performance. The nominations are a thrilling culmination to a year that began with the duo attending the 2020 Grammys as Best New Artist nominees and has seen their star rise through massive streaming and radio success, multiple high-profile TV performances, and a passionate and ever-growing fanbase.