Analogue Music | Photo Ops

Photo Ops

By Matt Conner

Just like that, the momentum was gone.

We can all understand the feeling, at least to some degree, of what it was like in our own respective ways to have the global pandemic bring all manner of hopes and dreams, plans and processes to a complete and unexpected halt. For Terry Price, it was the cessation of a heartening organic buzz he'd been working so hard to cultivate over the years as Photo Ops.

In the blink of an eye, the wind in the sails that had taken Photo Ops farther than ever was gone. A record deal with Western Vinyl. Live shows with Camera Obscura and Fences. His own DIY tours. And picking up again on the other side proved to be a lot tougher than expected.

Burn Bright is the beautifully tender response to that tragic season, and if anything else, it serves as a reminder of just how good of a songwriter Price is. The opportunities will come and go, but Price's thoughtful songcraft will always serve as a lighthouse for those searching the shores for meaningful music.

We recently sat down with Price in the wake of Burn Bright's release to hear more about his approach, his career, and what he's most proud of on this new album.

Analogue: It’s been a few years since we’ve talked and there was a global pandemic since then. How were you through all of that, musically speaking?

Terry Price: I did a lot of touring in 2019. I got to open for some pretty cool artists. It was half opening for cool bands and half-DIY touring and it led to a deal with Western Vinyl, which I’m not on anymore. It definitely felt like things were moving in a cool direction, though, and there was some organic growth and visibility and then the pandemic happened. It shut it off.

'I think trying to be impressionistic and true are the two things I’m trying to balance."

From there, it’s been confusing to figure out how to move forward. Luckily I hooked up with a label that’s just getting started called Paul is Dead. They’re really enthusiastic and hard-working and I feel really lucky to have them help me. But yeah, it definitely felt like things were moving in a good direction and then it all just died.

Right before he died, I’d also gotten to know Adam Schlesinger. We became friends after he saw me play and he invited me to play a showcase in Hollywood and that was the last time I played before the pandemic. So that was weird.

Of course, the pandemic had all kinds of crazy blowback effects on everyone’s personal and professional lives. We’re all still feeling these effects of people missing out on work. It’s the isolation. It’s all a pressure cooker.

Analogue: How does all that play out on the album specifically?

Terry: So with the album, I wrote it all in the spring of 2021. It was before the vaccine and my mom called me saying my stepdad had gotten COVID and they’re in their late-60s. My stepdad had diabetes and all so it was a really scary time. Then that night, Biden finally got sworn in after the wake of January 6.

For me as a writer, a lot of people are writing about politics and I’m engaged politically, but I try to think about the sort of human-ness in all of us outside of that. Sometimes music is a weapon for political change, which I’m all for, but it can also be a place to bring people together across different backgrounds. So I see it like that.

I’ve been more into impressionistic art in general, so I was just trying to describe, musically and lyrically, the idea of being isolated. And I’d noticed the contrast between being alone and then suddenly being around people again. That was the Burn Bright metaphor—being inside all of the time and then going out into the sun. It’s great but also overwhelming.

The whole album is just a series of those little moments. My grandfather died in the spring of 2021 and I was around a lot of family and we sang songs together outside around a candle. It felt so good to be around people singing again, so I wrote a song about it for the album.

Analogue: You mentioned the tension of coming back out. How is it being back out in the live setting?

Terry: I’ve been playing a lot out here in L.A. and did some shows in Texas last summer and I’m actually pretty comfortable with it. So that I can keep it sustainable for touring, I play a lot of solo shows but sometimes I’m with a band, too. I’m always a little nervous to play shows, but I am pretty comfortable generally right now.

Analogue: Was that at least a ripe time to write more than usual? Or was that hard to do?

Terry: One of my favorite things to do is to sit and just play music and my goal is to play without thinking about what I’m doing, to just get into a zone. By the spring of 2021, I had a lot of musical ideas in my bag and then lyrics always come later. My producer, Patrick [Damphier], said Western Vinyl wanted another album so he said he’d come in June and asked if that gave me enough time to write. I said I’d do it. So sometimes I work well knowing I have to finish like that.

Analogue: So did you have a lot of songs on the cutting room floor here, or were you focused on just fleshing out a specific set?

Terry: This time I was really focused and I knew what I wanted the album to feel like. I did have more songs than what made it onto the album but not as many as normal. It was more of a pressure cooker. This was the most moment-like album I’ve ever had. The other ones are done over time where I have a year and then another three songs. This one was quick and in the moment, which I liked.

Analogue: What are you most proud of on Burn Bright?

Terry: The second song on the album is called “When I Think of Tennessee” and I am really proud of that lyrically and melodically. It came to me quickly. I think trying to be impressionistic and true are the two things I’m trying to balance. I want to pull from a grounded, lived-out experience but I’m picking and choosing the right words with the right melody that also evoke something greater than the sum of its parts. That song does that.

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