WITCHPOLICE RADIO: Welcome to Witchpolice Radio. I'm here with a returning guest. It's been a while, though. I think you've been on a couple times before over the years. And I think this is sort of the most recent one we've done in, what, two years, maybe three years? And so it's always nice to have you back on the show. I know you have new music out, you've been busy. So I think let's just start this off the usual way, which is if you want to introduce yourself and give a bit of background about who you are as an artist.
SEAN BURNS: I'm Sean Burns. I live right here in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Been here for ten years. I've been playing country music for my whole life and with a very passionate and focused approach to the country music over the last six or seven years or so. My new record, Lost Country comes out on October 27. And making records, solo records like this one, and with my band, which is also called Lost Country, we're not hard to find.
WR: Right. And I do I definitely want to talk about the new record. But what you just said about sort of the level of, I guess, like, passion and depth and information you have on sort of country music and its history is, I think, even for people who are really into country music, you're like next level with that stuff.
I mean, a lot of that is because you've done radio shows and podcasts and things over the years sort of delving into that history. But what is sort of the ongoing obsession with this? I know there's so much there. There's so much rich, deep history to go over and all these different regional sounds, and artists have these ridiculously deep catalogs. But what keeps you this into country music?
SB: I have loved country music, like, traditional country music I've loved since I was very young. So there's just something about and different layers and different subgenres of country music. There is a lot to unpack. It is deeply layered.
More so than people give it credit for, I think. So I like that part about it. I like that all these themes that are universal can be explored with different subjects. Yeah, I don't know. There's something about the sound of the music that's always moved me. Even if it's a song, if there's a really good singer in a really good band and it's like an old school bar room honky tonk shuffle, it doesn't even matter what you're singing about to me at that point.
And then sometimes it's like, oh, those are some hard hitting lyrics. You got it all, you got it all. And I thought that I loved it and I thought that I knew about it until I started hosting Boots and Saddle on CKUW, which I did for five and a half years. And that's when it really changed. That's when it really changed and I found how deep the well could go.
WR: And there's no bottom to that well, right? I mean, this is one of those, especially because you're talking about, for the most part, a historical era. There's so much that you just probably can never find out about that. The quest to find out more and hear these records that are whispered about in books and things like that.
SB: It's almost 100 years ago that Jimmy Rogers and the Carter Family were recorded.
WR: Yeah, which is crazy to think that it's been that long. But I'm saying that as if I was there. Oh, it's been such a long time. You know what I mean?
Why does that stuff still hit so well when there's a lot of music from that era, from that era to now that has just been of all genres has been just erased off the map, essentially, that just has no staying power whatsoever.
A lot of that stuff I mean, The Carter Family, for example, people still listen to that actively today, not just super nerds about it. People are putting those records on now and still enjoying that. And like you said, it's 100 years old. What is its staying power? Because country has all these subgenres and what's popular on the radio has very little connection to what we're talking about here. But that traditional stuff always has an audience.
SB: Well, to me, it's like Shakespeare, man. What's the staying power? There's themes and there's feelings and there's imagery in it. And it's the same to me with that early era American roots music and wherever it came from, it's like, yeah, maybe they wrote some of it. Maybe they wrote all of it. Maybe they found some of those songs in the hills and ripped them off of someone else. Where did that person learn those songs? But the framework of American roots music, that is powerful.
And I think that you can find something in almost all of those songs that is a relatable thing. These are regular people, too, remember? Right. They're not recording stars. These are regular people. And then that gave hope to a lot of other regular people.
WR: And those regular people who made timeless records, right?
SB: Timeless records and perfect records and were massive influences in their regions and helpful to their people. And stuff. It's a rich history, and there's also ugly parts of it.
WR: Of course, it's like anything else, right? But listening to your stuff and hearing your new stuff, your old stuff, most of the music you've done sort of throughout your career as a musician, you're definitely keying into that traditional sound, and it sounds like an old record, but you're obviously still naturally filtering that through 21st century Winnipeg. All of these things. Is that difficult to do, to remain sort of you while also making sure that you're sort of not making sure, but hitting all of the bases, sort of that go with this style of country.
SB: Like as a singer or as a musician?
WR: Well, both, even, really, because you're approaching it from a different perspective than obviously the people who wrote it originally would have been seeing things because you have the benefit of history and time and hindsight and everything to sort of take in the genre as a whole when you're interpreting this stuff for your own music.
SB: I think that for years I thought I was trying to sing like certain people, and then sometimes audience members would say things like, oh, you really made that sound like your own. And I was like, well, that sucks. I was trying to sound like the record. Yeah, but then there's a whole other series of influences. I think we're probably around the same age, you and I. So I grew up in the still listen to certain styles of 90s alternative rock. And I grew up I still listen to a ton of 90s California punk rock. You know what I mean?
WR: That stuff stays with you.
SB: Yeah. And that's the stuff that was what were you listening to when you were 15? So all that stuff has been with me, but I was also listening to a ton of Merle Haggard when I was 15. So it's all kind of in there as a singer, but I try not to take any liberties that would be disrespectful to the tradition of the songs and the style. And musically, I come from a musical family. My father was a musician. He was very kind of militant about certain parts of being a musician. So it was always important for me to not play too many notes when you're playing bass in a country music band or not to have a guitar player who's going to play over top of the singer.
And there's those conversations that happen on stage between a guitar player and a pedal steel player. It's like you're not playing at the same time. Everything's moving together.
I've always been kind of hardcore, I think, about the band sounding period correct? Sure. But I'm going to sing things a little bit differently and then yeah, then it kind of becomes my own.
WR: And that was kind of what I was going to ask you next, is about the name of the album, the name of the band. Obviously, Lost Country has been a theme with you for a while. Is that what it's referring to, these kind of lost records that you sort of want to make people see again after all these years?
SB: Absolutely. So the original Lost Country band was a band in 1977 that my father was in. So when he passed away, I started calling my band Lost Country. And it was kind of like a lot of, like, we're going to play some music that's kind of antiquated or not on the forefront.
And it's like you said, reminding people of the people that used to be there. So with this record, though, it's truly lost country. When I was on the radio, these are the songs that I would call know from these regional record labels. In not the master tapes were destroyed or they've gone missing. They're not digitally available. You can find some stuff on YouTube that someone has run their vinyl into their computer or whatever. It's hard to find the stuff. You can find vinyl copies of it online. Sometimes they're expensive. And I've spent so much money on that stuff because I want to hear it.
They're lost. And a lot of these people that we covered on this record never played a big room or never left their area code.
WR: Yeah. And that's some of the best stuff, too. When you discover that and then realize that it's been there not a century, but in some cases, yeah, maybe a century, and it just hasn't seen the light of day, and then you discover and it's just like, holy shit. Why didn't this work? Why didn't people pick this up?
SB: Yeah. And it's like I mean, there was a ton of it too, right? It was pretty rich. It was happening in the, in Ontario and Toronto, which is like where this record is sort of centered out of. The musicians are from Ontario. We recorded it in Ontario. A lot of the people that we recorded, if they're not from Ontario, ended up in Ontario because that's where people were. That's where the gigs were. You could play six nights a week, every week. You didn't have to leave town.
WR: That makes sense.
SB: So some of those people did that. It's a very specific sort of style of bar room honky tonk music. And the musicians are lost too. Those guys are in their sixty s and seventy s. Cool. They were all there at the time that this was going on. So it kind of really kind of really works.
WR: Is there any kind of definitive sort of resource for this stuff? I know, obviously you've been collecting it over the years of I'm sure when you tour in cities that are kind of relevant to this kind of music, you'll seek out records and things like that. But is there anywhere people can how does someone get started into digging into this lost music? Is there sort of an entry point? Or is it just something you have to an all consuming obsession that you sort of have to jump right into?
SB: YouTube is a good source because like I said, there is a lot of people that have been cataloging their vinyl records, like their old stuff, old forty five s. And there's some great YouTube channels with regional records and Canadian and American. So that's where I found a lot of it, really. And then I don't know if you ever use Discogs.
WR: Yeah, all the time, every day.
SB: Discogs is like such a good resource for me when I was in the radio, because I really like to know who played on the record, who produced the record, where'd they make the record, all that stuff. I was interested in that, so I would use that as a resource. And then I started buying records, and then I started taking chances and buying records and doing it like that. So that to me, was it. And then I was really on that trip. When I was the last year or so of hosting Boots and Saddle, I played a lot of stuff like that on the radio. And there was some other shows out there that did too. Not as much, but I would say YouTube's the ticket for that, for the deep cuts, the deep hidden stuff.
WR: Well, because someone's found it. I've seen a lot of those videos where you just see the record spinning and it's literally just plugged into the computer and the sound quality is terrible. But it doesn't matter because you're hearing this thing that you've only heard about in like an interview once that came out in 1963 or something, right?
SB: Yeah. I also had the benefit of my dad was there, of course, friends and the bands that he used to go see before he was playing. It's like, I knew all those people. I played with those people when I was coming up, and then so it was easy to track them down and get them play on the record and then open up more stories. And I'm asking these guys questions all the time. Did a lot of research and then I started interviewing some of these people when I was doing the podcast regularly, and in that it was like everyone was a resource to more information and more spots. So, yeah, I learned a lot. And every time I think that I know what I'm talking about, I meet someone who knows way more and I'm like, I got to do some more work.
WR: Yeah, you got to borrow some records from that guy.
WR: Cool. So is Lost Country, then, as far as the band name, is that sort of just a floating name that will apply to whoever you're playing with at the time?
SB: I've been saying this on stage lately, it's not a lot. I won't play band shows without Joanna Miller on, like, so I can call it Lost Country if Joanna, as long as...
WR: Long as she's there, yeah.
SB: Ideally, Grant Siemens is there as well, but sometimes Grant's not know. So if he's not there, it can still be Lost Country, but it would never know. When I go out on tour solo and then I pick up a band, say, I got a band in Lethbridge, or I got a band, I don't call those people Lost Country, so that's just Sean Burns.
WR: That makes sense.
SB: Yeah. And then we've been doing it as a trio for the most of the year here with Grant and Joanna and I, Lost Country, so we sort of calling ourselves the LC3. So people kind of think we're like a rock and roll band, like the MC5.
Some shades of some punk rock, but we're still playing country.
WR: I know what you mean. Do you have a preference?
Would you rather have the full band, or are some songs just better suited to a trio or better suited to you solo or whatever?
SB: It's probably going to sound like cliche or BS, but that trio is, like, the most special thing I've ever done on stage. Grant and Joanna have been playing music together on and off for almost 25 years.
SB: They came up together as people in their late teens and Winnipeg and clubs, so they have this musical conversation and relationship that I've never seen with anyone else. It's like she picks up on every little thing he does and she knows what he's going to do. So, for me, I just get to listen to these two people who are really world class. I get to listen to them play with each other and I just have to make sure that I'm keeping my heart down. And so I'm just trying to play bass and sing the songs and we have no fear like the songs that are on the records with two guitars or a steel guitar.
We'll still do that stuff and we do it and it's different and it's like love. It's like the Grateful Dead. It just feels like it's just love in the air.
We all really care about music and about each other and about how we're working.
But before we did that trio, I would have told you five piece country music, band guitar, guitar, acoustic guitar, bass and drum. That's the honky tonk band setup. And I still love that as a listener. But we hit something really cool with this trio.
That's kind of the trip we're on right now when we're local. Except for the release show. We're gonna we'll have a steel player for the release show.
WR: Well, the steel. The steel I noticed the steel is very prominent on the record. And, I mean, I know that's kind of a hallmark of that sound, but more than any other instrument, it's really in your face. On this new album.
SB: The star of the record, he and my father were roommates. They were on the road together for when they were home when it came and picked me and my mom up. So it was important he was on the record and man, he's such a good player. All the guy does is just play guitar all day.
WR: That's awesome.
SB: And he's playing better than ever. And I really hope that the record to steal guitar players that he should be heard.
He played in the same band for twelve years that didn't play any less than 50 weeks a year and that was the only band he played in. And man, that's so many nights on stage.
WR: That's a lot of playing.
SB: He was already good when he got the gig. He took the lead, man. He took the lead on the record. And it's a treat to hear him play.
WR: Yeah, it sounds great. Obviously it's prominent, but not there's nothing negative about that. Having that right in your face is a great sound.
SB: Really cool.
WR: What are the release details? Because, I mean, I know you said it's coming out later in October.
You referred to a release show. What are the plans around that?
SB: The record and the release show are both happening on Friday, October 27. Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club on Friday night. Our friend Amy Nelson from Calgary, she's coming out to open with her group. She's fantastic performer and singer. The record is going to come out that day. There's been a couple of singles released so far. The next one is coming out next week. I don't know when you're going to put this out.
WR: By the time it comes out, it'll probably be coming out.
SB: There's one more single on October 20. Yeah. And then the record on the 27th. Then we shot live videos for all of them. We had one at times changed. We had one up at the Shoestring Picker warehouse on Higgins Avenue.
SB: Did one at Park Alleys and we did one at the Royal George Hotel. So we checked all the boxes, all the important local businesses right on.
WR: That's really cool. Yeah. And then as far as your other music, I mean, I know, like we've referred to before, you have a pretty you have a good sized catalog at this point. You've put out a lot of records, you've played on people's records. You've been very active for a number of years. What's the best way to find that stuff? I mean, if someone hears, maybe they hear this new record and they want to dig back and look at your history as a musician and do kind of what you've been doing with some of these other artists. What's the best way to find your stuff?
SB: Yeah, I'm really easy to find on all the streaming spots on Spotify and Apple and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But Bandcamp is a good spot because there's some stuff on there that's only on there. And Sean Burns. I'm pretty easy to a this one's coming out October and then we recorded a record with Corb in June that's coming out in February. So that's exciting. And there's a single coming out in a couple of weeks off of that, too. So we're all over that. Grant and I are all over that.
WR: And yeah, you've been busy with that on tour, playing bass for him.
SB: Right. That's become my main job. Yeah, I got that job in beginning of 2022 and it was supposed to be a temporary thing, and then it became a full time thing. And so that's my main gig. So my record comes out on October 27, and then on the 31st, I leave for three and a half weeks of Corb Lund touring. So that's my job. And it's a great job.
WR: Yeah. I bet.
SB: I'm lucky to have it. I'm lucky to have it and I really enjoy it. And everyone in that band holds each other accountable and are very good musicians and they're very experienced guys. So I'm learning a lot every night. Every night means something in that band.
WR: And I'm sure that adds to your own repertoire as a musician, too, just having that regular experience. I mean, not that you weren't playing a lot of shows before, but just that heavy touring with those guys.
SB: Yeah. And sometimes in sort of like what seemed like high pressure situations or big shows or touring with bigger bands and just playing big spots that mean something. Especially for him, who's still trying to build his name in certain regions of the United States.
It's like you got to ring the bell. It's not like an established area in some of those spots in the States. It depends where we are. But that's really made me understand what real commitment is, working for him and knowing what that means. Every detail. Every detail is important. And that's why people I think that's why people become successful, because they're driven in that fashion.
WR: Yeah. There's that hustle that just never-ending hustles, regardless of what happens in your career.
SB: Yeah, I thought I was committed. I thought that I was the most committed musician in the world until I met him and some other people in the last year or so where I'm like, wow, that is a commitment to being an artist and being a writer. And that's admirable. That's admirable. Yeah, for sure.
I love performing. I don't write a ton of tunes. I like to perform. And doing these theme records, the Bakersfield, the trucking record, now this Lost Country stuff, these are important themes for me. And to have a catalog there's. Theme records were very important in early era, mid century country music.
They had theme records, prison songs and gospel records, trucking records. And everyone had a tribute to Hank Williams. It was like all that's train songs, whatever it was, but no different than today. They're churning out content, they're putting out records twice a year, so you had to find ways to do it. But some of that stuff's great, and that's kind of always kept me really interested.
WR: And then as far as I know, you're not doing the radio show anymore. But what's the deal with the podcast? Because you had that like you said, you were pretty active for a while with that. Is that still a thing that's happening?
SB: Yeah, well, I actually did an interview last night and the first one in a year.
WR: Oh, wow.
SB: So I'm going to do a few here in the next couple of weeks with some people that were sort of associated with the record, one of the musicians and one of the guys we covered. And then I'll do a couple with some local people. I'd like to get ten more episodes of the podcast, so if I can put a couple a month out starting in October maybe. So you could probably look for an episode of The Northern Report by October, definitely by November. So I'd like to get about ten more out, like, as a season.
And as far as Boots and Saddle goes, I am going to be doing a Boots and Saddle on Tuesday, October 24, at the highly coveted 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. time slot that I held for five and a half years. So I'm going to be there. It's going to serve as some promotion for my release show. But also I need to see how long it takes me to put together a two-hour radio show, Sam, because I haven't done it in a long time, and time is the thing that I'm having the hardest time finding.
I have a very young child, so it's like all those things kind of took a backseat when I started touring heavily, more heavily, and then baby and then so the radio and the podcast had to break. But, man, I got so excited. I had this great chat last night with one of the songwriters and I was like, so happy after. And I was like, I got to do this, I got to do it. Because, yeah, something about it. But yeah, I hope to have Boots and. Saddle back in some fashion, hopefully in the new year. I really love doing it.