Stealing Memories: An Interview With Joshua Burnside


From September 14th, Joshua Burnside will set off on his biggest tour to date. Including an unmissable show alongside Junior Brother at Empire Music Hall on November 1st as part of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival, the Belfast folk maestro will play shows in cities including New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin. Ahead of that, we talk to Burnside about travel, success, his forthcoming second album and more.

Go here to buy tickets to Joshua Burnside at Empire Music Hall

Hi Joshua. You’re about to head off on a world tour, which includes dates in New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin. How vital is travel to you as an artist? Do you find it’s conducive to inspiration and your songwriting process generally?

Yeah, it’s definitely vital. Unfortunately, I’m not a great flyer. Which isn’t a useful attribute for a touring musician. If I could get a Stenaline to New York I would, I don’t care how long it would take. But apart from all that I love getting to see places and meeting people that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise if it wasn’t for the music.

It’s a milestone in your career to date. So many artists struggle to stop, take a breath and recognise what they’ve achieved to date. Do you recognise that in yourself or are you able to appreciate what you personally consider “success” as it happens?

I think defining what you consider to be success, early on, and reminding yourself of what that is now and again is a healthy habit. But I think it’s even more important to regularly consider all the other people that have helped you, and are helping you, even if it’s just in small ways, to achieve whatever those goals are.

You also perform alongside the brilliant Junior Brother at this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival in November. How are you feeling about that show, in terms of where it lies in the tour and playing on the same bill as Ronan?

I’m excited to kick off the UK tour in Belfast, especially in The Empire as it’s one of my favourite places to play. And Junior Brother was the first act that came to mind when we were planning the show as I’d been listening to Pull the Right Rope a lot and it’s just such a brilliant, weird and exciting album.

You’ll be playing sets comprising both new and older material. From a creative perspective, is it important for you to bridge the past with the present like?

It’s really just a matter of choosing the songs that not only work well live with the current band, but ones that I really enjoy playing, so it could be old ones or new ones. When it comes to writing songs I would sometimes reach for a history book for inspiration, to see if I can find any unusual stories or imagery that I can steal for a song. Writing songs is mainly theft, from the past, from stories, from other music, from your own memories. Can you steal your own memories?

Speaking of new material, have you been working on new songs? And if so, have you found any patterns developing?

I’ve just finished my second album. It ended up a long way off from where I started. And yeah there are a few patterns I’ve noticed. Since moving back into the city I’ve started using a lot more urban imagery, unsurprisingly, and I’ve been messing around with some less straight forward rhythms. As I’ve been producing and mixing most of this record I’ve been experimenting a bit and sort of leaning into my faults as a producer/engineer/mixer a bit, so instead of trying to make things ‘better’, actually mucking it up even more to try and see what comes of it.

Your award-winning debut album Ephrata is set for a vinyl reissue from September 13th. Tell us more about the reissue and what it means to you to repress it, and offer it back up to the world?

It means a lot because it was an album that has done a lot for me over the past couple of years. Also that we managed to sell enough of them that we need to repress it isn’t a bad sign!

As you well know, there’s an incredible surge of great new music across the country at the moment. Off the top of your head, which artists are grabbing your ear most?

Seamus Fogarty, Lemoncello, Robocobra Quartet and Anna Mieke.


is the editor of The Thin Air. Talk to him about Philip Glass and/or follow him on Twitter @brianconey.