As the year winds down to a close, we’re sure you’re inundated by the regular events of Listmas where every music publication under the sun tells you what they think is the best art of the year. That’s definitely important, and ours is coming soon — but we also wanted to check in with artists we love that have had big years to get their take on the strange year of 2021.
Briston Maroney’s been tipped for stardom since the release of “Freakin’ Out on the Interstate” in 2018. The Nashville-based artist has quickly become one of indie-rock’s brightest new voices, and his 2021 was markedly one to remember, as Maroney held down supporting slots with major artists like Mt. Joy, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, and Manchester Orchestra, released his debut album Sunflower, and led a nationwide, sold-out headlining tour. Briston’s on a hot streak right now, and talking to him as the year wound down was a enjoyable, friendly experience — he’s remarkably humble as he talks about his achievements in the year, but also incredibly decisive as he previewed what’s coming next:
How are things feeling as we approach the end of the year?
This is the slowest part of the year which has been greatly welcomed. We were so not busy for two years and then, snap your fingers, and we didn’t fuckin stop. I’ve been in this weird state where we were so excited to play again, and we like, cherished shows for what they were that I’d stupidly get really bummed and feel like I haven’t achieved anything (laughs). But we toured like crazy, and that gig with Manchester Orchestra was two weeks ago which was a dream come true. I’ve been in a state of trying to catch my breath but also not wanting to fully rest.
Yeah, I feel like you’ve been touring pretty much the whole year, which is pretty rare for artists right now. You had that run with Mt. Joy in May when everyone was still doing the drive-in shows.
The pandemic has totally fucked up the typical routine of touring. It’s kind of cool, though — it’s almost like because live music has been gone for so long that people are willing to rewire their whole lives around it right now. Nashville is slammed with shows right now and it’s like we can get enough catharsis for a week by going out to our venues every night.
Amidst all of the touring, was there a moment in 2021 that was a real standout?
The September run in general was really wild. They were the first headlining shows we’d done in a long time, and this was the first time that people had been singing along with the songs. That energy carried through the whole tour — we made a really incredible tour documentary that we just put out that really encapsulated the magic of that run. I felt young again in the ways that made it easier to do what we do – we knew enough from all of the support runs to feel prepared and give people a great show, but because we had that knowledge and history, we were able to chill out about certain things. That whole run was really special; I remember we finished at that festival in New Jersey: Sea.Hear.Now.
Isn’t that surf-themed?
Yeah, there was literally a surf competition on the beach in Atlantic City. I have a really terrible sad indie-boy story from that weekend (laughs).
Oh, this is going to be good (laughs).
Yeah, so the legendary Patti Smith was playing that night on the beach after we played, and I was out and about in the festival just taking it in when I realized that I hadn’t been around that many people in a long time because of the pandemic. So, I had a mild panic attack and had to bail out (laughs). Just some sad indie-boy shit.
(laughs) I had a similar experience at my first festival back too. It’s a weird thing to get used to.
A lot of your year has been based around collaboration. there were the writing sessions with Andy Hull and Rob McDowell of Manchester Orchestra that led to a few songs on your record, your recent track with Adam Melchor, and I feel like you’ve been particularly collaborative with all of the folks you’ve brought on tour. Do you have any dream collaborations going into 2022?
I really want to work with people who have a singular view. Obviously, we had an all-star lineup on the first record that had unique vision, and I want to define a new, singular perspective for whatever happens next. I love working with people who can do weird shit — that was the coolest thing about working with Andy and Rob was that the scope of what they can do is just so massive. I want to try more things aside from showing up with a guitar to a write with pen and paper – I find more joy in doing that alone, but I really want to push into exploration with friends. As far as specific people, my dream collaborations would be other kids our age – Clairo, Indigo de Souza, Dijon—
Oh god, I loved that Dijon record so much.
I feel like we’re going through a very interesting time with what music is hitting the mainstream and what is popular and accessible, and I think that Dijon record opened up this impulsive, beautiful record that was something very precious and also very immediate. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and I still somehow missed out on tickets to his Nashville show.
You obviously listed some artists above, but what records caught your ear the most this year?
Sling by Clairo is probably what I’ve listened to the most. That record just gives and gives the more you listen to it. Like I said, that Dijon record is insane and I really enjoyed the new Lana Del Rey album too. She could hit me with a bus and I’d be okay with it. I’ve also got a friend, Katy Kirby, who put out her debut records that’s won a lot of well-deserved love. And…I’d be remiss to not say my incredible girlfriend’s EP, who I’ve just got a stupid crush on. She’s so talented.
I hate to fall back on this cliché, but I think you two could be considered an indie-rock power couple at this point.
(laughs) I hate that, but I love her so much. She’s just so insanely great at what she does, and I’m just lucky to have her in my orbit.
Last question, and probably the most important one — what are your thoughts on Squid Game?
Man, fuck that shit! I didn’t like how it made me feel. When I first watched it, I was sick laying on my bed, so I don’t have great memories…but it made me feel like I needed to shower.
Yeah, I felt similarly — like, I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again because of how it made me feel.
Dude, if you ever feel a need to watch it again just, like, call me. We’ll take a walk and, like, breathe in fresh air or something.