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Q&A: Atlanta singer/songwriter Sam Burchfield finds connection in his roots

Amid his North American tour, rising Atlanta singer-songwriter Sam Burchfield prepares to release his EP Graveyard Flower in addition to his latest singles “Waking Up” and “Blue Ridge June.” The project captures his Appalachian roots as well as his passion to reconnect with nature in order to escape our screen-obsessed society. The tour will bring Burchfield home with a free August 16 concert at City Springs in the City Green Live series.

After growing up in the foothills of South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Burchfield became active in the Athens music scene during his time at the University of Georgia, where he took courses in the college’s music business program. Burchfield auditioned for the 13th season of American Idol on a whim and made the cut to the Hollywood Round. But Burchfield opted not to participate and instead focus on his own music. He now lives in Atlanta.

ArtsATL sat down with Burchfield to discuss his music, his aspirations for his new EP and the importance he places on artistic integrity.

ArtsATL: Where did you discover your specific sound?

Sam Burchfield: It’s been sort of a roundabout. I grew up in rural South Carolina, so I grew up listening to a lot of folk, country, Appalachian, bluegrass. That’s naturally what I wrote, and then I got away from that when I went to college and I started playing with a band. More rock ‘n’ roll, and I got into funk, then I came to Atlanta and got into jazz. Finally, I came back to the roots of what I grew up listening to. This project, Graveyard Flower, is really about reconnecting to that for me but also reconnecting all of us back to nature. You look at everything going on in the world right now — we’re all in our screen modes. It’s easy to get caught up and forget the land around us. These songs are all tied into reconnecting nature or reconnecting to each other.

ArtsATL: How would you describe your sound?

Burchfield: The folk world can be pretty defined, and I think sound-wise this new project is definitely focused less on the band and more on the song. I recorded this with just myself and my friend who was producing it. Anything on there was one of the two of us playing, overdubbing it and building it up. This project is folk — it has a few elements of electronic music, which comes from my wife, who does electronic music — that sort of blend into my music. I would like to think the uniqueness in it is the songwriting and the honesty in the songs.

Burchfield and the Trongone Band perform at City Springs Friday night.

ArtsATL: What inspires you to write music?

Burchfield: I want to convey a deep emotion — that’s where I start. I’ll sort of freestyle it in my head and focus on an emotion. It’s a truth, something that resonates with people. It could be a love song, but if it doesn’t have the truth to it, then it doesn’t mean anything. I want it to be grounded in something real in my life. If it’s a love song, I want it to be a love song about my wife, because that’s a real thing. If it’s a feeling about nature, I want to ground it in a specific vision. The Blue Ridge Mountains was easy because I grew up there. A lot of pop music can focus on the hook. You’ll hear it and you’ll remember it, but what is it actually saying? What’s the content of it? A lot of times it’s something shallow, something vapid.

ArtsATL: Is there a song that you feel closest to on the EP?

Burchfield: The ones that are my personal experiences are definitely the ones that are more intense. The song “Strawberry Blonde” is about when my wife and I were dating. We did a road trip up to New York, and I proposed to her at the end of it. So I was writing this song as we were traveling. Songs like that, where I had to get an emotion out, just track my life. I can go back to that song and live it. And then songs like “Blue Ridge June” — that is an emotion of home. This new project, Graveyard Flower, is full of those songs. There’s another song on it, “Cradle You,” about coping with anxiety and how to be a partner to someone that has anxiety. Sometimes you don’t have an answer, and you just have to be with someone.

ArtsATL: What do you hope your audience will take away from your music?

Burchfield: From a live show, the most important thing is feeling connected — connected with one other person in the room or connected with me or connected with a song. Looking at a world that is very fractured — whether it’s politically or people being fractured from nature or from each other — music is one of those things that connects us all together. Everybody singing a song together is magic, so people feeling connected is the biggest thing. A live show is where I can really dig into the truth of the song. I would hope that my songs carry some deeper truth to them that people can feel and be encouraged by.