Beau Bristow and a chair. An unplanned combination during a pre-album photo shoot in September 2007 proved rich in meaning by December when it became the centerpiece of the new album's artwork. Standing. Still., the title of Beau's third album, is all about endurance and the emphatic rejection of a passive life. As one thumbs through the artwork, the struggle to sit or stand unfolds. By the back cover, Beau's choice is clear.
Beau began touring full-time in 2005, a year after graduating from Nashville's Belmont University with a degree in guitar and music composition. The combination of hard work and real talent produced a hefty tour schedule through 2006. By that fall, though, he faced the emptiness that can come from constant travel, little time for creating new songs, and the living-on-the-edge life of fledgling artistry. For six months he wrestled and doubted and reflected and prayed, and in 2007 he emerged with newly-given clarity as an artist and devoted himself to the writing and recording of Standing. Still. After releasing the album in early 2008, he returned to the road eager to reconnect with his audience.
"I have always been a songwriter," Beau explains, "but the pinnacle of that process is the presentation of the song, the connection and communication it creates with an audience." That communication is much of the reason Beau performs the songs himself rather than handing them off to Nashville's other artists. The desire for communication is also what motivates Beau's willingness to be transparent, from song lyrics to concerts to blog posts. "I want to be very candid as a person and artist because that's what forges a real connection and a real trust. In turn, that's what gives a song power and value: people knowing the person it comes from."
People also appreciate artists like Beau who live in the same world they do. From the fun and challenges of life in a house of five guys to the struggle of maintaining friendships while traveling to the drudgery of occasional odd jobs to answering a call for help from his elderly neighbor, Beau's not interested in extracting himself into a cocoon of artistry that separates him from the way life actually is.
It's this real life that inspires Beau's songs. "I often start with a moment in life, make an observation about it, then tell a semi-fictional story." The entire song typically is not autobiographical, but something in it usually is. For example, "Maybe Love's Just Not Enough" from Standing. Still. is stuffed full of things from a real relationship, but the song's context is created. As Beau describes it, "the setting is something of a 'fictional hallway' that creates a connection between multiple memories or 'rooms.'"
Growing up in the South-Beau is from rural McCalla, Alabama-also works its way into Beau's music.
The Southern soil still nurtures his growth even though he has expanded beyond it, and it gives his music a unique flavor. "I am always pursuing an expanded grasp of life," Beau adds, as evidenced in his song "Stand." Beau describes the song as a call to himself to take hold of even the painful pieces of life, and he plants the lyrics in music rich with the folk influences of his youth.
The growing-up Beau was kind of shy and really liked Ninja Turtles, Ghost Busters, and Transformers. He also had a BB gun that got him in a lot of trouble. In second grade he decided to shed the nickname "Beau," affectionately given to him by his grandpa, Dr. Springer (or "Papa,"), who gave everyone nicknames. On the first day of school Beau told his teacher to call him Donald. He was really named Donald, Jr., after all, and he wanted to be more like his dad.
During college Beau re-embraced his old nickname, which a few close friends had resurrected in late high school. His homage to his name-giver is reflected in the name of his publishing company: Dr. Springer Music. Now 27 and living in Nashville, grown-up Beau has made a recreational transition from BB guns and Ninja Turtles to backpacking and mountain biking.
From hobbies to career, travel is an ever-present reality in Beau's life. In fact much of his life is characterized by motion as he responds to the challenges of being an independent artist. This is paradoxical against the title of his latest album. Nevertheless, Beau has learned that sometimes to truly stand requires motion, an active response to whatever life brings. So, chair tossed aside, Beau is standing. Still.