Long before Billy Burke ever “stumbled onto a film set” as he put’s it, he began writing and performing original music. By today’s standards he might have been a late bloomer having learned his first guitar chords at the ripe old age of 17. Having grown up to the sounds of Elton John and Billy Joel, he felt “obligated” to learn to play piano as well. Instructing himself completely by ear, he soon became (again, in his words) “adept enough to get by, write songs and fake my way through accompanying myself”. Before he was old enough to legally patronize them he was playing in bars and nightspots, first in his hometown of Bellingham, Washington and later in the bigger city that would soon become indy music mecca, Seattle.
His first “real” band, “embarrassingly called” Hand In Hand, after being together for less than a year, found it’s way into the final four of a national battle of the bands competition. Burke says, “The band that actually won has never been heard from. I take solace in that”. He later formed another group around what he called a “caricature of himself” and named it Billy Black’s Outcast Theater. Doing as they’re moniker suggested, they soon had a distinctly prominent yet largely underground following.
Dissatisfied withe the moderate success and sensing the groundswell of a new movement that was beginning to overtake the Seattle music scene, Burke headed for Los Angeles to give a solo career a shot. There, having been granted a demo deal from Warner Brothers Records, he was paired with legendary producer Phil Ramone, (who as fate would have it, had hit records with both Billy Joel and Elton John). They recorded four of Billy’s original songs at Phil’s home studio in upstate New York only to later be given the heartbreaking news that the deal with Warner Brothers would not be going any further. To add a little insult to his injury, a subsequent return to Seattle to “get the band back together”, would manifest further disappointment. As Billy had foreseen, the so-called “Grunge” train had since left the station and there was appetite for little else.
However, music was not the sole artistic aspiration for Billy. In those few short years between Hand In Hand and the Warner Brothers let down, his gifts as an actor had won him roles in Daredreamer and To Cross The Rubicon, two independent feature films that were shot in Seattle. With those under his belt, he decided to “give himself a 25th birthday present” and move to L.A. once again to pursue some more acting and perhaps put another band together. As years went by, jobs in film and television began to flourish but left only sporadic pockets of time for him to concentrate on the outlet he once had dedicated his soul to.
Now, with 19 years worth of battle scars and small victories as his muse, employing the talents of visionary, journeyman producer Dave Darling (Brian Setzer, Meredith Brooks), Billy Burke is about to release his debut album. Dripping with dark, yet intensely satisfying melodies, rich with textures that harken his early as well as ongoing influences and adorned with tragically beautiful, ironic poetry, these explorative yet surprisingly accessible songs will carry the listener all the way from of the desperation of the city, down the back roads and onto the comfort and familiarity of the back porch.
At 43 years of age, with a successful film and TV career, many would ask why this “late bloomer” would want to subject himself to the obvious challenge that lies before him in this venture. With great passion and conviction Billy would say to them… “It’s what I do”.