With its jagged mountains, wild rivers, and alpine prairies, Wallowa County is home to some of Oregon’s most breathtaking views. But this sparsely populated region in the extreme northeast corner of the state isn’t particularly well-known for its music. That’s starting to change with the emergence of singer/songwriter Bart Budwig.
From his home in Enterprise, Oregon, Budwig has established himself as one of the region’s most promising young country musicians. That progression continues with Budwig’s new album, Paint By Numbers Jesus, an ambitious concept album due out on April 1st that blends outlaw swagger with cosmic sensibilities.
Listen to the album’s first single, “Goliath Got Stoned,” exclusively right here at opbmusic and check out our interview with Budwig below.
Jerad Walker: Where was the new album recorded?
Bart Budwig: OK Theatre in Enterprise Oregon. The album was recorded in two days live with 3-7 musicians (Nevada Sowle, Seth Kinzie, Forrest VanTuyl, John Nuhn, Simon Kornelis and myself) playing on each song. We learned and recorded the songs in those two days. After the fact, I added trumpet on two tracks and Luke Ydstie and Katie Claborn, both members of Blind Pilot, added harmonies and Wurlitzer to “Goliath Got Stoned” at their house in Astoria.
JW: What’s it like making art in a geographically isolated place like Enterprise? I’m sure it has its pros and cons.
BB: Enterprise is wonderful for creativity. It is beautiful and there is time to process things. Space and time is great for creativity and practicing skills but can also lead to frustration and loneliness. Being more isolated makes collaboration more difficult but more focused when it happens.
JW: I absolutely love the lyrics in the track that we’re premiering, “Goliath Got Stoned”— especially the line “Goliath got stoned / You just got drunk and drove.” Can you tell me about that song?
BB: This song was inspired by a summer in a van with a close friend of mine. [It] was also partially inspired by David as a youth killing Goliath and as an adult and his affair with Bathsheba.
JW: You’re billing Paint By Numbers Jesus up-front as a concept album. What’s the unifying thread?
BB: Originally I included the sub-title “Sacred and Sacrilegious Songs.” A few years ago a friend gave me a completed paint by numbers Jesus [painting] that he picked up at a yard sale. It’s been hanging at my various apartments since. Often people ask me why it’s there. It often made them uncomfortable or they just wanted to learn a little bit about me. The theme for this album came partially from the many songs written by other people that feature Jesus as a main character or a smaller part, all these songs portrayed Jesus in different ways adding to or taking away from who Jesus was to me. They were a part of me processing who I am now and who I was when I was young. I’ve been thinking about that stuff a lot lately. As the album slowly formed in my head I wrote some originals that fit the theme as well— “Goliath Got Stoned,” “The Age of Reason,” and “Nebraska 2.” Three songs that didn’t make the cut but help make sense of the concept are “I Love You and Buddha Too” by Mason Jennings, “Two Hands” by Townes Van Zandt, and “I Saw the Light” by Hank Williams. Note that two of those writers died of alcohol and/or drug abuse. Looking at songwriters’ lifestyles next to their lyrics can be interesting. The one song that sits a bit outside of the concept lyrically is “You’re Not Alone” by Jeff Tweedy. It’s essentially an atheist song of comfort set to gospel music originally sung by the amazing Mavis Staples.