If the name Ki:Theory (or Joel Burleson) rings a bell, you aren’t just imagining things as chances are, you’ve probably heard some of his work before. From Suits to How to Get Away with Murder and adverts with Audi, Nike and GoPro, Burleson’s uplifting hybrid of sounds has found its way into many outlets in the media world. His most recent work also features on the soundtrack to Ghost In The Shell. For all he’s done for television, he still has a home in traditional sense of a recording artist and is now set to release his new LP Silence on May 5th. We got the chance to talk with him about how he got into music, the reason the album is titled Silence, the process behind the record and much more.
Starting off on a more light-hearted note, we like to get to know the people we talk to and what makes them tick. That being said, what was it that drew you to music and do you feel like it’s your true calling or are there other careers you were interested in?
I grew up watching my grandfather strum his acoustic on the porch, got my first keyboard in 3rd grade, started guitar lessons at 12, sang in choirs all along the way and studied voice in college. I would say music is my true calling since I’m still doing it, and especially now professionally. I never thought… “I’m gong to be a musician when I grow up!”. I suppose it’s always just been a natural fit.
Throughout your career, you’ve had tracks that have had playtime on multiple TV shows and adverts as well as recently being featured on a soundtrack for a movie. Did you ever imagine making music that would reach such a wide audience and be utilized in a different way than most people who consume the platform, ie for personal use?
The film/TV aspect of my career was never something I set out intentionally to do. My roots are solidly planted in a more traditional recording artist / rock band narrative. I think the music I make has an emotional component that lends well to picture and so I’ve been lucky enough to get some opportunities in that realm that lead to more opportunities and so on.
Staying on the topic of your music in various television and film outlets, is there a particular piece that you enjoy the most or are most proud of?
I’d have to say the recent ‘Ghost In the Shell’ promo featuring my version of “Enjoy the Silence”. It’s just a really great trailer.
On top of the recent soundtrack feature, you’ve also announced your new album, Silence. Where your sound is far from silent, what was the reasoning for picking that particular album title and can you delve into the inspiration behind the album itself?
There are many factors in play as to why the record is called ‘Silence’. The word itself conveys a maturity I liked for this since I think the vibe of the record is very much Ki:Theory, but perhaps more evolved from my last record in tone and production. Also, with the title I am putting forth an observation on the current political climate and the behavior and issues that lead to the situation we find ourselves in. And finally, there are two songs on the album with titles that contain the word “silence”…’Breaking The Silence’ and my version of ‘Enjoy The Silence’.
On March 29, you released the single “Bringing Me Down” which features Ruelle. What was it like not only working with Ruelle, but the other collaborators on the album as well?
Working with Ruelle was great…She is super talented. I reached out to her with a few demos and she came back on “Bringing Me Down” as one that spoke to her. We had a few back and forths to discuss lyrical content and then she recorded her vocals with a producer in Nashville and sent them over. Armed with that I was able to flesh out the rest of the song here in Richmond. The other vocalist on the record is Maura Davis. She also sang on my last record ‘KITTY HAWK’, and I’ve known her and admired her music for a quite a while before that. She lives here in Richmond, VA, so it’s more of just a swing by the studio and we cut vocals in a few hours and that’s that.
From the new album ‘Silence’, available for pre-order at http://www.kitheory.com Bringing Me Down It’s just like you To go and wear me down Down to core and all that’s left is an empty battleground It’s just like me I’m always keeping score Back and forth until it hurts and you can’t take it back now Oh you’re bringing me down She’s nothing to me You’re bringing me down You are all I need I’m begging please You’re bringing me down…
When it came to the creation process for Silence, did it differ from how you have composed your previous work and if so, how? Furthermore, do you have a different process for how you create music in regards to personal releases versus say a film or television spot?
For Silence I used some different software than on previous records. I’ve always been a Pro-Tools user, but I’ve been delving into NI Maschine and some of the software that is available for that platform but still using Avid PTS as my DAW. I also used Moog and Teenage Engineering synths as well lots of live instruments like piano, guitar, drums and banjo. My process is generally the same no matter what I’m working on. My licensing model is to create music that I like….release it…and simultaneously try to find placement for it in film.TV…etc.
What do you feel separates the upcoming album from what you’ve previously created? Is it purely a level of growth and maturity in songwriting capability or were there new aspects and styles incorporated for the first time?
I would say Silence leans more heavily on electronic and cinematic textures. There’s is rock here but it takes a slightly more backseat role than on my last record KITTY HAWK. This in itself is I think part of a natural growth and maturity as my interests and influences have changed.
Following that up, what are you most excited for people to hear off of Silence and what are you hoping people take from the album?
Of course, I’m proud of the whole record, but some highlights for me are ‘If you Don’t Care / Fake It’, ‘Breaking The Silence’, ’Surprise Me’ and “Used To Like You’ which kicks the LP off.
Where is someplace that you haven’t toured/played yet that you would like to perform at?
I’ve never done a European tour, which I want to think could be a good fit but I’ve never been brave enough to just make happen.
Is there any advice that you’ve been given from other artists that has really stuck with you? Any advice you would give to other musicians/bands who are just now stepping into the music industry?
Be a musician because you love playing/making music…not because you want to be successful at it, is some advice that fits both of those questions. Unless the stars align and you suddenly blow-up w/out much effort (it happens, but kinda like winning the lottery) it’s going to be very tough to be a successful musician. So, if you don’t truly love it…chances are you won’t be able to put forth the effort or make the sacrifices required to make headway.
Now to move on to a more personal topic that is clearly on the minds of a majority of people, you seem passionate about the most recent presidential election based off of some of your Facebook posts. In one post, you stated “Love must conquer fear. #NoBanNoWall.” Can you tell us what you feel is the most important thing for our country right now? Any advice for those who may be experiencing fear?
I definitely don’t consider myself a reputable voice on matters of politics, but on the topic of fear, I’d just say don’t be afraid…go do something about that which concerns you. Get involved. Also, Trump is an idiot.
Before we end this, is there anything else you’d like to share? This is your platform to tell the world whatever is on your mind! Also, thanks for taking the time out of your day to do this interview with us and we look forward to Silence.
Just excited for the Silence album launch 5/5!…Digital and Vinyl pre-orders are available now at kitheory.com.