Briston Maroney Unearths Himself in Sophomore Album 'Ultrapure' [Q&A]

Acclaimed Nashville-based artist Briston Maroney has released his highly-anticipated sophomore album, Ultrapure. Produced by 2x GRAMMY-winner Daniel Tashian (Kacey Musgraves) and engineered by Konrad Snyder (Noah Kahan, Rainbow Kitten Surprise), the 13-track LP was crafted in Maroney's adopted hometown of Nashville, TN and showcases the artist playing every instrument.

Ultrapure is an album that goes deeper into Maroney's personal story than ever before. It's bursting at the seams with heart and passion, each song containing an entire world of emotion. The album covers relationships with parents, friends, partners, hometowns, and so much more. Without a doubt, this album is an 'ultra-pure' distillation of Maroney as a person.

Ones To Watch had the chance to talk with the rising star about the record, the importance of having a support system, and his upcoming North American tour.

Ones To Watch: How are you feeling on this crisp, early fall day?

Briston Maroney: Not to be dramatic, but the second the air doesn't feel like it's on fire when you're breathing it in, I become the happiest person on the planet for, like, two weeks. I'm in my two-week window where I'm generally pretty positive and happy.

Alongside it being a new month and the cusp of a new season, how does it feel to put out your latest single "Body?"

It feels crazy. Yeah, it's insane. It's been really, really wild to put out this whole group of singles so far. There was a lot of conversation around, like, what the singles were going to be, and I just have so much anxiety around that specific conversation. It's been really, really rewarding to just see people being so sweet about the songs that we chose to share from the album; it means a lot. It's crazy to try to tell the whole story in a couple of pieces, and just in the musical climate of needing to put out singles and doing the whole game, it's really daunting. But today, felt really good with this song coming out, and I'm really happy that we chose this part of the story of the album to tell.

What do you feel is the story of Ultra Pure?

I think it's taken me a second to kind of understand. I had a general outline of what I was hoping to address when we started recording, but I think now, I'm really seeing that all of these songs are just about my relationship to relationships. The different ways that I think I've built the idea of what friends look like, what a romantic partner looks like, and what my relationship with my family looks like, kind of addressing these ideas of how those mold my whole life. So I think that the album is me starting to kind of question some of those things in a way that was kind of scary to do but ended up being really rewarding.

What was it about the creation process that felt scary at any point?

I mean, there were different levels of complexities as far as the elements that were scary. It does not take much to scare me. I'm a pretty sensitive, little individual, so I think just the concept of making a second record was scary to me. Getting an opportunity like this felt like I had to show up and tell another story, and I knew it was going to require me digging deeper. So I think that was the biggest element of fear going into it. It was just that I was at a point where I've gotten to make music long enough now that I knew in order to make something meaningful for myself, I was going to need to confront some personal experiences and ways of being that I don't think I'd really been critical of before. 

I imagine it can be daunting to unearth yourself. With that thought in mind, you tackled many heavy topics in the writing process. In those moments where you must dig deep, how do you stay grounded and focus on "this is what I want to say" versus getting overwhelmed and lost in the emotions?

For me personally, I just had to rely on and lean on a couple of really, really close friends and close collaborators and family. I definitely hit walls so frequently while making this record—just not wanting to go into some of those places mentally out of fear of being exactly what you said. Like, "Oh, shit, am I about to get completely overwhelmed, and just swept away in this whole thing?" I don't know, there's such a fine line. I'm sure you know, the feeling of you wanting to give all of yourself to an artistic endeavor, but it's also sometimes not realistic to let yourself be fully impacted by the emotions of something. I think there's a there's a level of self-preservation that I'm really aware of sometimes, just out of fear of getting too dark in my own heart or mind. So to have people be around me that were like, "No, we got you. We will hold on to this raft while you go out and figure this stuff out, and if you get too dark, we'll help you out." There were just a handful of really, really amazing friends who just pushed me to get close to the edge and promised not to let me fall. That was really inspiring and other people are truly the core of this record, and this record would not have happened without a lot of really awesome people involved.

I'm so glad you have that kind of support system. That's so important not only in the arts and in the creation process but also in life in general.

Yeah. It's hard sometimes.

What is one song on this record that you are excited for people to hear for the first time?

That's a really fun question. I have no fucking clue. Like I was saying earlier, I struggled so much with picking the singles. I almost have an aversion to picking the songs that seem to be one that people relate to, I just have no gauge of what is a good representation of the record or of me. It's like genuinely one of my worst qualities, I have no ability to know what people are going to connect with or whatever. I'm really excited about the title track, the last song on the tracklist is just called "Ultra Pure" and I'm really, really excited about people hearing that one. There's another song called "Breathe," it's a lot heavier. It's a lot more upbeat and kind of similar to the last record a little bit with more guitar-driven stuff, so I'm stoked to have a really fun track as well. Then there's the last single coming up, it's called "Chaos Party," and I'm stoked about that one too, because it's kind of tongue in-cheek, silly. I'm stoked to have just another fun release moment on the record.

Which ones are you most excited to play live? How do you prepare yourself to execute these songs in that format?

It's gonna be really interesting. I think, we're definitely going to have to crack it open in rehearsals before this tour, and almost kind of start fresh, because the approach with the songs is going to be really different. There's just a lot more to put it simply. There's a lot more instrumentation that we don't really have live. We just play as a four-piece, and the band, they're literally the greatest people in the fucking world and so talented. But it's going to be really interesting to see how we are going to have to figure out how to adopt some of this stuff, because I don't want to lose any of the elements that kind of gave this album character. It's also gonna be interesting, because a lot of the songs are just slower and a lot more dynamic. and the shows in the past have definitely been some really rowdy nights. I'm interested to see how we're going to kind of do that dance by trying to tell these kind of quieter stories. Also, I'm not really a person who is critical of a crowd if they're loud, I totally get it you know what I mean? People come to show for different reasons, and I'm not going to tell another human being to shut up unless they're being a complete asshole. For the most part, if we come out and I can tell the crowd is pretty like revved up, we will try to adjust to that level because I want people to have a good time. 

Speaking on the band you will be working with and the people you produced this record with, you worked with some fantastic people on this album, namely Daniel Tashian and Konrad Snyder. What is the most essential thing that should be there when working with a creative collaborator outside of yourself?

I think exactly what you just said is maybe the most important detail. I really value working with people who, for one are cool with me, like exploring my own ideas and stuff. But I also love working with people who have their own really strong identities and who also are down to explore and just let shit happen. Daniel and Conrad are literally the perfect examples of people who are just like that. They are so sure of themselves, and they have such a strong identity that there's no ego battle whatsoever. We just had a lot of respect for each other and they were just so supportive of me. So I think that was the trait I was looking for when I met them. I remember hanging with him for the first time and tracking some stuff and I was just apprehensive because I had just been meeting with a lot of people, working on a lot of music, and I just kept running into people with really strong egos. So I was just like, "Dude, I can't, this shit sucks. I'm not here to like, try to, I don't know. I just want to make music that I love and I just want to make music with people that like what they do," and instantly they were just so straight up in love with the idea of recording music. It was about making music, not to sound like an old timer, but dude, it was just cool to hang with people who are just there to create cool shit.

Just do the damn thing, you know?

Exactly. I don't know, maybe that sounds like more intense than I am as a person but I just obsessively love. If I'm in a studio, it's impossible for me to not be touching something or making the sound you know what I mean? I just am so fascinated by that. So being around people who also are just excited about music is what I'm looking for, personally.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an artist at this stage of your career?

I think the toughest part is the expectation for you to not be just a person. There's an expectation from the music industry and just the way that culture is set up now. There's so much pressure to the point where you can't be uncertain, but there's also no way of knowing how anything is gonna go. The biggest part of this job that has paid off—and I'm saying job loosely—seems to be continuously showing up. I literally was talking to my mom about this issue when she asked me how I was doing with the new songs coming out and everything. She's always telling me that I look tired, so she was just checking in, but I think the hardest part is that the highs are so high and the most unique challenge is that you can go from a peak to very quickly feeling like you have no idea what the fuck is gonna happen next. So, yeah, I think the most unique challenge about being a person who makes music is the inconsistency and the amount of faith that you have to have in yourself constantly. I'm very lucky to have a lot of people who are really supportive of our team and I have a lot of folks who let me get down on myself. But it's hard, and it's really tough to trust on the days where nothing magical is happening, that there will be another day where something good happens. It's really hard to trust. The process, I would say is the most unique challenge to this.

What are you looking forward to for the rest of 2023?

That's a great question. I'm dead ass serious when I say I'm so excited to wear hoodies and listen to the Charlie Brown soundtrack. Because as soon as it starts to get fall vibes, every time I get in my stupid little truck, fire up the "Great Pumpkin Waltz," drive around, and just breathe in some fall air. That's what keeping me going right now, so I'm stoked to travel and do all that. I'm really just so excited about getting a bagel and listening to the Charlie Brown soundtrack in my car.

If you could go back in time and talk to the version of you that was at the beginning of your artist journey, what would you say to them?

I think if I gave some advice to little me. It's pretty cliche, but I would say, "If you can keep or preserve the part of you that people are critical of, if you can hold on to that part of you and make sure that you analyze it and see the beauty that is in those traits that make you stand out and fight to preserve those things, then do that with all of your heart." That is what I would have said to little me. All the things that I did that made me weird, I wish I had never questioned those things, because those are the things that I like about myself now.

Got hit in the heart there. Okay, we have a minute left, do you have any things you'd like to say to your fans? 

Just the big old thank you. Just to anyone listening and reading this and thanks for the interview. I really appreciate it.

Briston Maroney's Ultrapure is available now

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