To Good Health
A lifetime in the making, Oliver Burdo has completed a body of work both large, and small enough, to fit on a CD.
Burdo, a 2013 Jamestown High School graduate, a former Infinity Visual and Performing Arts student who performs with several area bands and the performer liaison for the Great Blue Heron Festival, will celebrate the release of his debut album, “Slainte,” on Thursday, Jan. 9, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Cibo, 100 E. Third St. in Jamestown. He will also host a second release party on Saturday, Jan. 11, from 6-8 p.m. at the Corner Coffeehouse, 54 W. Main St. in Frewsburg.
According to Burdo, completing the album is an odd feeling that he doesn’t think will truly resonate until he begins handing it out at shows.
“One thing about playing live is that I don’t have to worry about there ever being a physical copy of something that people can constantly listen to,” Burdo said. “But, with there now being something physical makes me a bit anxious.”
CRAFTING A CONCEPT
The album was recorded in a do-it-yourself style in Burdo’s attic, but was mastered by Joe Glarner of Glarner Group Productions.
“It’s an acoustic, raw, concept album, which makes it much weirder,” Burdo said.
The last song on the album is a spoken word section of the last two paragraphs of the first chapter of one of the novels of which Burdo is working. There’s also a three-part intermission, which has spoken word poetry over vocals. And, there’s a song on it that Burdo didn’t want to put on it, so he grabbed a wad of dollar bills to use as a pick.
“Slowly through the song you can hear the wad of dollar bills fall apart,” Burdo said. “It’s very raw as a whole, with hiccups and imperfections – but that was the idea.”
The album’s title, “Slainte,” originates from the Gaelic phrase Slainte Mhath, which roughly translates to, “Cheers, to good health.”
“I don’t know why that came to mind as the title, but once it did it wouldn’t leave,” Burdo said. “It works with the progression of the album, and the more I thought about it, I realized it was so perfect in the raw aspect because it embodies a wasted environment.”
The album’s artwork also has quite the story. It was created by Jake Truax, who took two photos – one on film and one digitally – and superimposed them together. The film version was intentionally ravaged to create a rough, gritty, ghost-like image beyond the crisp, clear digital capture of Burdo and Jeremy Little, a Jamestown Community College student who plays djembe on the album.
“The idea was to mess the film up as much as possible – put scotch tape over it, dip it in bleach, walk on it and then print it,” Burdo said. “We had a digital photograph of Jeremy and I walking, and we switched positions for the film version. So, the ghost-like images you see are actually done on a film camera and placed behind everything – it symbolizes us walking with our burdens, experiences and understanding behind us. I’m walking with Jeremy, and Jeremy is walking with me – it’s how our friends really play a part in our lives. And, how everything happens, but we move forward as ourselves trying to make our own history.
“We also wanted to show humanism and realism, which is why the back cover shows me lighting Jeremy’s cigarette,” Burdo continued. “I didn’t want a nature of coolness. We don’t want anybody to think that we think that we’re better than anyone else – here’s a picture of me killing myself – it’s real and it’s proof that I’m no better than anyone else.”
Although his name is nowhere in the credits, Little’s role in the creation of the work stretches far beyond the beating of a drum, or the lighting of a cigarette.
“Jeremy Little has been my best friend, my brother and everything I could ask for in another human being,” Burdo said. “We’ve helped each other through some stuff, and he’s the one who convinced me to do the album. We did it, and he helped me record it – Jeremy as a whole was truly an inspiration.”
SO IT GOES
In some respects, the album was inspired by, and pays tribute to the work of Kurt Vonnegut. And, fittingly, Burdo’s left wrist reads in dark ink, “So It Goes.”
“He created a religion called Bokonism, which is basically an acceptance and a happiness – I wanted to tweak that to create again a raw nature,” Burdo said. “(Stuff) happens, but it happens in a very real way. It’s okay that (stuff) happens, because you understand, you deal and you learn – you play chess with your life and understand the moves accordingly.”
“Slainte” features 10 tunes, and as a concept album is meant to be listened to from beginning to end, which is why he didn’t want it overly produced, he said. Rather, he intended to weave a tale that flows, gets weird, comes back, gets a little weirder and finally drops back in line as an actual story.
“The whole album tells a story,” Burdo said. “I went through my entire collection of songs, and realized every single one of them tells the same story just in different parts of life and perspectives. In doing so, I picked 10 songs that were lined up perfectly in terms of progression from beginning to end. But, I don’t want to tell anyone the actual story, I really want people to send me their interpretation of the album to email@example.com.”
Although the album doesn’t feature a title track, the second tune “Take Me Heaven,” serves that purpose. Yet, the tune was originally called “Take Me To Heaven,” and albeit a production mistake that he didn’t catch while editing – the imperfection adds value and extra meaning.
“The idea is that we embody heaven, heaven is within our own being and that our reality can be made into our own personal heaven,” Burdo said.
Burdo does, however, hope to eventually release a live recording of the song done in a pub that picks up diegetic sounds. But, ultimately, the album’s opening track, “Hey Little Lady,” is Burdo’s favorite, he said.
A LOOK AHEAD
For Burdo, music is the thing that keeps him from getting anxiety attacks, takes the stress out of his life and gives him something to fall into. Before moving any further forward, he’d like to come to an understanding of who he is as a human being. But, in an ideal world, the album would garner interest and sell enough copies to fuel a website and tour. He’s not looking to get rich from the release, he’d rather be able to share the fruits of his labor of love with those he cares about, he said.
“If the future was ideal, I’d see it selling and people being happy listening to it,” Burdo said. “I’d see Jeremy and Jordan having a better life. My mother finally being able to leave Jamestown to pursue what she wishes to do. My grandmother’s house wouldn’t be sold, and I’d see my uncle having a solid place to live. I’d see my other uncle’s brewery living. I’d see my cousins paid through school. I’d probably buy Danny Shanahan a house and give him enough money to live and play music for the rest of his life. I don’t need a lot to live, and to be happy – but I want to make sure that those around me are okay. So, in an ideal world – the album would sell – but not for me.”
Following the release, Burdo will begin booking shows for a tour, he said. And, hopefully he’ll be joined at future shows by his two best friends, Little on percussion and Jordan Seager on keys.
For more information, search for “Oliver Burdo Music” on Facebook.