Christian Burghardt on His New EP, Gavin DeGraw and the Girl That Got Away
If you're looking for some super chill acoustic vibes to help you usher in spring, look no further than Christian Burghardt's Safe Place to Land EP, which is filled with the singer's John Mayer-esque voice and soothing melodies. We recently chatted with Christian about his music, where he draws his song inspirations (hint: some of it may be from Twitter!), touring with Gavin DeGraw and much more. Check it out below.
How did you get started in music?
I started on music when my mom forced me into playing saxophone in like fifth grade [and] got me into jazz band. At first I was really resentful toward it, because being jazz band back in middle school was kind of nerdy, I guess [laughs]. At least I thought so — and I was all into sports and stuff. I was kind of bummed about it, [but then] I started falling in love with the music and all of the endless possibilities of creating music. In eighth grade I switched over to guitar and started teaching myself on YouTube and learning my favorite songs. I didn't really start taking it seriously until I was in college and got hurt playing football. I was unable to walk and was on crutches. That's when I started playing guitar like crazy and trying to write songs and record.
And ultimately you were signed by Dr. Luke! What has it been like working with him?
It's been really cool! Dr. Luke is more like— he hasn't been necessarily hands on with my project, he's more like my boss, the top, head honcho guy for me. He's the CEO for my label. On my label, Kemosabe Records, I'm probably one of the only acoustic, really stripped-down acts, you know? I'm a lot different than the other acts on my label. More so Dr. Luke oversees things and listens to my songs when they're finished and decides which ones are the cream of the crop.
People come up with these genius lines and they don't even know that they could be songs. It's up to guys like me and other songwriters to identify those things.
Speaking of your sound, I hear a lot of John Mayer in your music and especially in your voice. Who are some of your influences?
John Mayer is definitely one of them! I went through a bunch of different singer-songwriter phases in college. I just listened to one guy for like a month or something — John Mayer was definitely one of those guys. I think he influenced my voice and some of my guitar-playing during that time period. I also went through a really long Goo Goo Dolls phase where I was really into Johnny Rzeznik. I went through a really deep Coldplay phase as well. Super into OneRepublic. Growing up I listened to a lot of R&B. I was a huge Usher fan in my preteens. My influences are kind of all over the board.
When writing songs, where do you draw inspiration?
A lot of singer-songwriters will say it's a lot of personal experience and that is true for me. I draw my influences and my inspiration from all sorts of things — movies and TV shows and different things that have happened, different situations. I can put myself into those situations and write songs about them. I can find myself just cruising around on Twitter and see somebody say something, an interesting perspective on a relationship situation, and I can jump into that. It comes from all over the place at this point.
Has there been something specific that you've seen on Twitter that you've actually turned into a song?
Yeah, there is! Last fall, some girl that I know through my brother and sister was going through a breakup. She said a line that was literally almost like the title of song that I wrote [laughs]. It was so poetically perfect. I stopped and I told her about it. Sometimes that kind of stuff happens, people come up with these genius lines and they don't even know that they could be songs. It's up to guys like me and other songwriters to identify those things.
You've toured with Phillip Phillips, Gavin DeGraw, Matt Nathanson… What is the best advice they've given you?
When I went on tour with Matt and Gavin it was my first experience playing huge shows — over 2,000, 3,000 people. Before the very first one (Tucson, Arizona), I was backstage with Gavin. I was having a conversation with him before soundcheck. He was like, "Christian, the best advice I can give you as a young performer is learn how to connect with your audience. Not just on a musical level, but on a personal level. Be yourself up there. Just try to be as comfortable as possible and kind of find your comfort zone. If you can carry it to those people standing on the ground and in their seats, you're gonna have a long career." It's some of the best advice I've ever gotten from anyone I've toured with because he's totally right. Growing up as a kid, going to shows, it was the artists who were able to connect with me on a personal level and say things that I could really relate to that I got attached to.
What did you learn from watching them perform?
Aw geez, so much! [Laughs] I mean, going into and getting my record deal, I was kind of a noob when it came to the big scene. I kind of ducked out of the bar scene and smaller venues, coffee shops. Gavin DeGraw, out of all of the performers I've met, he's probably one of my biggest influences. The dude [performs] so well on stage. He's one of the best performers in my genre that I've ever seen live. His confidence up there is incredible, the swagger he brings! I don't know if that's necessarily something I'd adopt for my sound, but the way he holds himself onstage is incredible. A huge influence.
[Gavin DeGraw] was like, 'Christian, the best advice I can give you as a young performer is learn how to connect with your audience. Not just on a musical level, but on a personal level.'[/pullquotes]Which song is the most meaningful to you?
Probably "Only I Could Know." It's about a love that I lost that I was really serious about. A lot of these songs are actually about the same girl that I was dating for a long period of time in the beginning phase of my record deal. The song — once it gets to the end — I think it's the bridge, "Only I could know / What I took for granted." It's basically about the mistakes I've made in my relationships and the understanding of that after the fact. That song I wrote completely on my own and produced the track in my home studio.
Did you tell her that the album was inspired by her?
Yes! We're pretty good friends. She's actually also a musician and sometimes we've collaborated and worked together. It's all good now, but for a while there it was a pretty rocky road between us, so I'm happy to say that we're friends now.
Any plans for a full-length album?
Yes, definitely! I don't know when it's coming out because right now we're still waiting to see what happens with the single "Safe Place to Land." It actually just started going to radio. We're shooting the music video here this month. We've got a bunch of songs recorded for the record, but we haven't chosen what we wanted on there yet.
Do you know which direction the music video will take?
As far as I know right now, it's kind of beach, surfing related. It's gonna be a lot of sunshine and good vibes going on. It should be really cool.
What's next for you?
As soon as this music video's done I'm out there promoting the single, I've done a lot of radio stuff. We're supposed to put together a tour really soon — a national tour. I don't know who we're going to be on with, but I'm really stoked to get back on the road with my full band. You can expect Christian Burghardt to be on the road, maybe in your state, within the next year!