Over the past year or so, I’ve spilled a ton of virtual ink covering the Grammy Award-nominated Austin, TX-based soul act and JOVM mainstays, Black Pumas over the past year. Led by Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter, guitarist and producer Adrian Quesada and San Fernando Valley-born singer/songwriter and guitarist Eric Burton, the acclaimed act can trace their origins back to 2017.
Burton, who grew up singing in church and in musical theater, started busking at the Santa Monica pier, where he brought in a few hundred dollars a day while developing the stage presence, that would later win attention both nationally and internationally. He then traveled across the Western US, eventually relocating to Austin, where he set up a busking spot on 6th Street and Congress, a prime location in the city’s busy downtown neighborhood for maximum exposure.
Meanwhile Quesada was looking to collaborate with someone new. He had been reaching out to friends in Los Angeles and London but nothing seemed to fit. Serendipitously, a mutual friend recommended Burton to Quesada, with that friend telling Quesada that Bruton was the best vocalist he had ever heard. As the story goes, Quesada had reached out to Burton, but it took the San Fernando Valley-born, Austin-based singer/songwriter a while to respond. “My friends were like ‘Dude, you’re a mad man, you need to hit that guy back!’” Burton recalls. When Burton did call Quesada, he sang to him over the phone. “I loved his energy, his vibe, and I knew it would be incredible on record,” Quesada says. “From the moment I heard him on the phone, I was all about it.”
Last year, the duo along with a talented cast of collaborators released their breakthrough full-length debut. And since the self-titled debut’s release, the album has sold 155,000+ album equivalents worldwide, with smash hit “Colors” hitting #1 on Adult Album Alternative (AAA) radio and has been streamed over 60 million times. They also maintained a relentless tour schedule across North America that brought their uplifting and powerful live show to New York three times: The Knitting Factory, last May; Mercury Lounge, last July; and Brooklyn Bowl last September. Additionally, the band began to make stops across the nationally televised, talk show circuit, playing Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Ellen Show and others.
And adding to a breakthrough year, Black Pumas earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist along with fellow JOVM mainstay Yola — with both acts anti-climatically losing out to Billie Eilish.
This year has seen the release of a deluxe version of their breakthrough self-titled album — and it features new artwork, previously unpublished in-studio and live performance photographs and a bonus 7 inch featuring three previously unreleased originals, live in-studio versions of popular album singles “Colors,” “October 33,” and “Confines;” a live version of “Know You Better,” recorded at C-Boys Heart & Soul, the Austin club, where the band first made a name for themselves, as well as attention-grabbing covers of The Beatles‘ “Eleanor Rigby,” (a staple of their live shows), Death’s “Politicians in My Eyes,” Bobby “Blue” Bland‘s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” and Tracy Chapman‘s “Fast Car,” which they premiered on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Continuing upon an enviable run of success, Black Pumas recently received three nominations for the 2021 Grammys — Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best American Roots Performance for “Colors.” And they’ve capped off the year with an NPR Tiny Desk (At Home) session that featured album singles “Fire,” “Oct 33,” and “Colors,” as well as set opener “Red Rover.” And although they’re performing in an empty studio — it’s a pandemic after all — the NPR set is fueled by the same passionate and soulful spirit of their live sets.