“The main goal is to connect with people,” says Justin Osborne, singer, songwriter, and mainman of Charleston, South Carolina-based indie Americana outfit SUSTO. He’s speaking to me from the road and we’re discussing SUSTO’s fourth full-length, Time in the Sun, which was released last year and called by No Depression, “their most pop-infused and rhythmically adventurous album to date.” And while Osborne admits that he’s grateful for the way critics have received the album, he tells me that that’s never been what’s mattered to him: “I love the record, I’m proud of it, our fans have latched onto it, and they’re showing up to our shows and requesting the songs from the record. The best thing for me is the fans’ reactions, and we’ve seen the crowds grow since the record came out.”
The songs of Time in the Sun were largely inspired by the circumstances surrounding the album’s writing and recording. “It was made amid two really big, lifechanging moments in my life,” says Osborne, who goes on to tell me that he began penning the LP’s songs around the time he found out he was going to become a father, and in the middle of recording the album his own father lost his battle with cancer, both of which served as inspiration for the concept of the album: “That definitely affected the lyrical narrative… We decided the record needed to represent the cyclical nature of life.”
Like so many albums to hit the shelves in the past year, the pandemic played a major part in the recording of Time in the Sun, but Osborne tells me that it was mainly in a good way. “The process was pretty starkly different from any other process we’ve had. We recorded it during the pandemic, so we had a lot more time with it,” he says, before going on to say that the government programs available to small businesses, such as the band, actually made the recording easier than what SUSTO had grown accustomed to: “Freedom and financial flexibility played a big role in the album. There was a lot of freedom associated with when it was made.”
The personnel found on Time in the Sun also represent a shift for SUSTO or, more accurately, a return: “The process was similar to our second record (and the first, as well). Whereas for the third record there was a core group of people, for this it was an open-door studio, a really collaborative approach to music. I mean, with the pandemic, there were no more than two or three people at a time, but those people changed a lot.” And while the band included a number of familiar faces, it also featured some new and returning ones: “Dylan Dawkins is new on this one. We grew up together but had never collaborated on my stuff before, and Johnny Delaware hasn’t been in the band since 2016, but I’m continuing to work with my friend and closest collaborator, my producer, Wolfgang Zimmerman.”
Time in the Sun is SUSTO’s New West Records debut, but during our chat Osborne tells me that the pairing felt as though it was a long time coming.
“The New West relationship has been really great. We’ve had a great relationship with them for years, even before we released anything with them. When we were looking for labels for the album it felt like a very obvious fit and, somehow, they got ahold of the demos and reached out to us. It’s been pretty easy to merge our teams… We’re planning to release music with them in the future.”
Justin Osborne and SUSTO just kicked off their first official tour behind Time in the Sun with dates in Raleigh, Farmville, Charlottesville, and Baltimore, which Osborne tells me went exceptionally well.
“They’re all cities and areas we love to go to: North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. It’s not too far from home, but not in our backyard. It was a great start to the tour. It was nice to be back. We haven’t been on the road in a while… It’s nice to get out there and be reminded that we have a fanbase and see them in person. And, at this point, people have had time to sink their teeth into the new record.”
SUSTO will be headlining our very own Johnny Brenda’s on Sunday, February 27th, with a version of the band The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection hasn’t quite seen before: “The live band kind of rotates, so we’re just starting with a newish lineup, but some people we’ve worked with before. Like, Johnny Delaware hasn’t been in the live band since 2016. So, it’s the start of a new iteration of the band.” And when I asked what can be expected of the live show this time around, Osborne tells me that we can expect a SUSTO retrospective of sorts: “There’s a lot of energy. It’s gonna be fun. We’re definitely spanning the catalogue, definitely the new record, but all three of the other records, and even showcasing some new music.”
*Get your tickets here.