Adrian Quesada, right, and Eric Burton, of Black Pumas, pose for a portrait in Austin, Texas on Feb. 5, 2021. Their deluxe debut album is nominated for album of the year at the 2021 Grammy Awards and their single “Colors” is nominated for record of the year and best American roots performance. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Adrian Quesada, right, and Eric Burton, of Black Pumas, pose for a portrait in Austin, Texas on Feb. 5, 2021. Their deluxe debut album is nominated for album of the year at the 2021 Grammy Awards and their single “Colors” is nominated for record of the year and best American roots performance. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Black Pumas grab Grammy attention with fusion of rock, soul

NASHVILLE — When Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada first started playing together in an Austin studio in 2017, they had just met each other and weren’t even entertaining the idea that one day they’d be performing live.

“We weren’t really a band. We were a studio project,” said Quesada, a veteran guitarist-producer who had been honing his craft for years in about a half dozen bands.

“I just knew that it was going to be something enchanting and very beautiful just between the both of us,” said Burton, who sings, writes and plays guitar. “I don’t think that we could ever have guessed that we’d end up playing the inauguration and being nominated for four Grammys.”

But creativity sparked in Quesada’s analog studio and this cross-cultural fusion of retro and modern, psychedelic rock and soul became Black Pumas, going from under the radar to breakout band in just a few short years.

After releasing their self-titled album in 2019, Black Pumas earned their first nomination for best new artist at last year’s Grammy Awards, but they lost when Billie Eilish swept the awards show. They are back again with three nominations for album of the year, record of the year and best American roots performance.

Quesada, 43, is used to getting the question about the “overnight” success of their band, but back-to-back nominations in the top Grammy categories makes him think of all the hard work they both had put in before they met each other.

“It’s definitely humbling. And then sometimes I have to remind myself of how many ups and downs I have been through, how many ups and downs Eric has been through,” said Quesada, who has two decades of experience in music. There were times when he had to take a job delivering pizzas to make money for his family while also working as a musician.

Burton, 30, was raised in the San Fernando Valley and grew up singing in church, then moved on to musical theatre. He busked at the Santa Monica pier to raise a little money before making his way to Austin where he sang at the corner of 6th Street and Congress.

Quesada is a man of multitudes: he was part of the Grammy-winning Latin funk band Grupo Fantasma who also had gigs as a backing band for Prince and later played in bands such as Brownout and Echocentrics. Before Black Pumas, Quesada produced an album in 2019 of Chicano-Texas soul music that brought new light on the contributions of Latino artists and music.

“It’s like this perfect intersection of Black, brown, white, all kinds of different people,” he said of soul music. “What I love about it is it’s actually the most inclusive.”

They were playing in Europe when the pandemic hit and shut down touring, so they did what came natural to them. They went back into the studio and recorded new songs and live versions for a 2020 deluxe edition of their debut record that includes fantastic covers of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman.

Their song “Colors” has been a No. 1 hit on Triple A stations and got some love from Top 40 and rock radio as well, but they are an underdog in the record of the year category alongside platinum hits by Eilish, DaBaby, Doja Cat, Post Malone, Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion.

But the momentum of the band earned them a chance to perform the uplifting anthem as a part of President Joe Biden’s inauguration night TV special.

The duo doesn’t easily fit into genre lines with songs inspired by gospel, funk and ‘60s era rock, but anchored by a tight percussive and modern beat. The pair, who won emerging act of the year at the 2020 Americana Honors and Awards, said they let their label decide what genre categories to nominate them in.

“One thing we have in common is we also didn’t want to be just a soul band,” said Quesada, who said they both are heavily influenced by hip-hop rhythms as well. “We like it kinda being rock ‘n’ roll.”

Burton said their first album together felt like a handshake and now they really know each other’s musical tastes as they go back in the studio to start on their second album, which he promises will be different than the first.

“My favourite thing about what we do is that we have successfully made something that feels very familiar yet relevant and new and fresh,” said Burton.

By The Associated Press

Music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

EDMONTON — Alberta’s COVID-19-era budget made a hard landing Thursday with an… Continue reading

The expansion of the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has been discussed for over a decade. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital expansion gets about $6 million in 2021 provincial budget

According to the government’s three-year plan, the project will get $59 million by 2024.

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Red Deer Rebels forward Josh Tarzwell is hoping to pick up where he left off last season as the 2020-21 WHL season kicks off Friday in Red Deer against the Medicine Hat Tigers. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels set to host Tigers in WHL season opener

24-game WHL Alberta only season kicks off night Friday at the Centrium

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano tries to help goaltender David Rittich stop a shot from Ottawa Senators right wing Drake Batherson during first-period NHL action Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Colin White scores two goals to lead Ottawa Senators to a 6-1 win over Calgary Flames

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

‘Black box’ in Woods SUV could yield clues to cause of wreck

Team Saskatchewan skip Sherry Anderson reacts to her shot against Team Quebec at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

Peterson’s wild-card team edges N.W.T. skip Galusha to qualify for championship pool

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

No-size-fits-all residence approach a reality for Canadian Hockey League teams

FILE - New York Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist reacts after a save during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in New York, in this Sunday, March 1, 2020, file photo. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 5-3. Star goalie Henrik Lundqvist will sit out the upcoming NHL season because of a heart condition, announcing the news a little more than two months after joining the Washington Capitals. Lundqvist posted a written statement and a videotaped one on social media Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, saying it was a "pretty tough and emotional day." The 38-year-old from Sweden was bought out by the New York Rangers after 15 seasons and signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with Washington in October. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Lundqvist back on ice, ‘months’ away from deciding future

Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa holds up water collected from Neskantaga First Nation, where residents were evacuated over tainted water in October, during a rally at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

Feds didn’t supply enough resources to end water advisories on First Nations: auditor

Most Read