James Sutherland, music journalist for BBC-UK, American Chronicle, Glasswerks UK, and Rolling Stone in Germany
chats with Kevin Casey, founder of the Burlington Family, a genre busting folk/country musical group from Los
Angeles, CA. in a 2009 interview about the Burlington Family and the state of Country music.
Ch.L.: Country Music has many new fans in Europe, who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you
describe yourself and the music you play to someone who‟s never seen or heard you before.
Answer: Simple and stripped down, “Alt Country ” or “Americana” are perhaps accurate terms, but are really such
vague phrases, I think they have become simply code words for Country, the real kind, as opposed to much of what
is really just mainstream pop, when you take away the hat and the boots.
Ch.L.: How was the last year for you? What were the highlights?
Answer: 2009 was a transition year for the Burlington Family, with a change in personnel and a refocus on the rawer
elements that characterized us in the beginning.
Ch.L.: What’s your latest CD and how’s it doing?
Answer: Our latest recording is a sampler of tunes culled from past records and new material.
Ch.L.: How did you choose the title for the CD, is there a story behind it?
Answer It‟s called “the Best of” I wanted to be cheeky and call it “Smash Hits”, inspired by the similarly titled Jimi
Hendrix album, but was persuaded, probably wisely, not to.
Ch.L.: Do you write the songs yourself and if not, how do you go about finding the songs for the
Answer: All the songs are Burlington Family originals with the exception of “Ain‟t no Grave,” a gospel cover.
Ch.L.: Please tell us about the songs on your album.
Answer: “Is it Me?” Is a new song written and performed with our current lineup. “Hello Darling” was recorded on
our last album. It has a more pop feel, and its sunny sound belies the songs irony. “Love Is” was recorded live at a
dingy dive bar near downtown Los Angeles. Formally a hang for the locals, it‟s since become something of a hipster
joint. “495” is from our second recording. Its title comes from a bus line that runs from downtown Los Angeles to
South Pasadena. I used to ride the line from my urban hovel to visit my girlfriend in the more genteel confines of
South Pasadena. “Ain’t no Grave” is a gospel song covered on our first record, and has received the most attention,
having been played regularly on the much missed former Indie 103‟s Watusi Rodeo, a Los Angeles based roots rock
Americana radio show that played an eclectic mix of country, blues, folk, rock n roll, and punk. As an aside Mr. Steve
Jones was a daytime DJ on the Station. An earlier pre White Stripes version of “Ain’t no Grave” is also included on
this CD, as is a spoken word sample from Stosh Machek, our current harmonica player.
Ch.L.: What’s the difference between your last CD and the current one?
Answer: This latest CD is meant to represent the Burlington Family in its totality. Songs from each incarnation of the
„Family” are included.
Ch.L.: What will your next single be?
Answer: Like most things it‟s dependent on funding. Ideally we‟d like to record several of our new songs with Michael
Deming, the producer responsible for our 3rd record.
Ch.L.: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Answer: Of course it‟s all about our own songs, but I really enjoy recording favorite covers and making them our own.
In the past we‟ve covered songs by the Stones, Jimmie Rodgers, the Velvet Underground, the Turtles, and Steve
Earle, to name a few.
Ch.L.: What’s your favorite song among all the songs you’ve recorded and what’s the story behind it?
Answer: “Hello Darling” is a favorite. I enjoyed recording all the songs on our 3rd record. It was the first time working
under the tutelage of a producer, and the results show. The whole experience was great. It was recorded in
Connecticut and we got to visit New York while we were there.
Ch.L.: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Answer: At this point the Burlington Family has complete control of our music. Any creative differences seem to
come from within.
Ch.L.: Who do you look up to musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Answer: Wow! The Burlington Family‟s musical heroes are many. The Rolling Stones come to mind right away,
Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Buck Owens, and the Velvet Underground are some of the biggies, other great but slightly less iconic influences that come to mind are X, Jonathan Richman, Billy Bragg, and the Brian Jonestown
Massacre. Individually, I‟m influenced by a lot of the more obscure Sun Records rockabilly artists. Stosh, our
harmonica man, is a Woody Guthrie man, and gets great inspiration from Captain Beefheart. Our guitarist believe it
or not lists Tool as an inspiration, scary. We still like him.
Ch.L.: What do you think about today’s Country Music versus its roots and where do you see it
going in the future?
Answer: I‟m optimistic about the future of Country Music. The mainstream stuff is easy to dismiss, but I‟m noticing
that so many younger artists seem to be connecting not just with giants like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle
Haggard, George Jones, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, and Bill Monroe, et al.., but are delving deeper into
other genres, gospel, blues, hillbilly, and folk. It may have been unique for Johnny Cash or Ray Charles to hop
genres, but the trail they blazed is common today. The White Stripes are a good example for me.
Ch.L.: In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between “traditional“ and “new“ country music?
Answer: Depends on what you define as “new country”. For a “new” country artist like Mike Stinson, a Los Angeles
honky tonk treasure, there is no difference. Songs that say something and make you feel are not as far removed
from the traditional as you think, you just gotta look.
Ch.L.: If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Answer: It is unfortunate that with all the money that gets thrown around that so many talented and deserving
singers, songwriters, and musicians go unnoticed and uncompensated. Appealing to the broadest possible audience
in order to get the most bang for your buck only cheapens the music, dampens any originality, and acclimates the
listening public to inferior music to the point where no one can tell the difference anymore.
Ch.L.: As an artist you have to do so many different things such as recording, touring, doing
interviews etc. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?
Answer: I dig all aspects, this in spite of the tedium of recording, stage freight, and the arguments that can occur in
rehearsal. In general the whole act of self expression is what‟s important to me. Music is my canvas.
Ch.L.: Are you doing anything to take country music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?
Answer : The very existence of our sound takes country music beyond its current borders.
Ch.L.: What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Answer: “Big break?” still waiting. Please let me know when it happens. I do remember dancing around alone with a
broom in my hand when I first heard myself on the radio. (I was emptying the cat box).
Ch.L.: What inspired you to become an artist?
Answer: I don‟t have a choice. To not have an outlet for self expression is to not live.
Ch.L.: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Answer: I feel like I‟ve got something to say.
Ch.L.: What drives you?
Ch.L.: What does it take to be a country star?
Answer: Uhh, I don‟t know, luck, a nice butt in jeans, a big hat.
Ch.L.: What’s unique about you that differentiates you from other artists?
Answer: I don‟t believe many other “country” artists include both Jimmie Rodgers and the Ramones in their cover
Ch.L.: What has been your greatest challenge in the music business?
Answer: Receiving just compensation for all the effort put forth.
Ch.L.: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you’re proud
Answer: Recording with Producer Michael Deming, hearing myself on the radio, sharing gigs with so many talented
artists, the great I See Hawks in LA, Honky Tonk hero Mike Stinson, and rockabilly legend Danny B. Harvey, to name
Ch.L.: Who’s your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Answer: Myself, immediately after every show I feel like putting my head in the sand until I get feedback.
Ch.L.: Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?
Answer: Musically no, personally yes.
Ch.L.: What private hopes and desires do you have?
Answer: Living up to my potential. The Biblical “parable of the talent” both inspires and terrifies me.
Ch.L.: What has been the biggest disappointment in your life?
Answer: Disappointment is a constant companion, I‟m used to it. That said, I‟m proud to have grown or learned from
Ch.L.: Is there anyplace you haven’t played that you would like to?
Answer: Grand Ole Opry, Apollo Theater.
Ch.L.: What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?
Answer: Something different.
Ch.L.: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Answer: Someone once said that we sounded like the Monkees playing Appalachian music.
Ch.L.: What’s your favorite song that you wish you could have recorded?
Answer: Danny Says by the Ramones
Ch.L.. What message would you like to send your European fans?
Answer: Given the love/hate relationship that many Europeans seem to have with Americans. Please love us more
than you hate us.
Ch.L.: Describe what a perfect day is like for you.
Answer: Get up, have coffee, read the paper, work out, eat a big breakfast, perhaps peruse a newsstand or take in a
movie, rehearse, see or perform live music.
Ch.L.: Most careers don’t last as long as yours, what’s given your career the staying power?
Answer: Stubbornness and a refusal to give up.