Tré Burt is no stranger to coincidence. Much of the Sacramento-based musician’s career has been marked by chance encounters and happy accidents, the kind of stuff you see in movies but rarely experience in real life. It’d be easy to chalk such happenstance up to luck, then; but for Burt, being in the right place at the right time is a phenomenon born from his lifelong passion for music and his unwavering adherence to living authentically as an artist.
In 2018, Burt self-released his debut album, Caught It From the Rye. The album, which showcases his literary songwriting and lo-fi, rootsy aesthetic, landed him a handful tour dates and some positive press, but Burt had no idea just how far it would get him: to a spot on the roster at John Prine’s Oh Boy Records.
Burt was drawn to music from an early age. He was raised with his grandfather’s passion for soul music, like the Temptations, Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. A school project on Woody Guthrie opened his eyes to the power of folk songwriting. And he discovered one of his songwriting heroes, Neil Young, through his older brother, Joey.
Burt studied at San Francisco State University but dropped out his first year after he realized he learned more while busking on the street than he did sitting in a classroom. It was there he had one of several serendipitous encounters, with a particularly generous stranger who dropped $1,000 into his guitar case while he was performing one afternoon. That act of kindness would send Burt’s life in a wildly different direction and would lead him to a new home in Portland, Oregon.
While living in Portland, Burt worked a handful of odd jobs, his favorite of which was as a maintenance technician for condo buildings around the city. Burt began work on what would become Caught It From the Rye during this particularly fruitful period of time, writing on the buildings’ rooftops when he wasn’t working.
After Portland, Burt headed to Australia. He made the move to follow a girlfriend, with whom he parted ways shortly after arriving in his new home. And while the relationship didn’t work out, the new environment did wonders for his songwriting: Burt rented a small “dungeon” apartment behind a friend’s house and songs — which would eventually become Caught It From the Rye — began pouring out of him.
Caught It From the Rye is a natural successor to Burt’s debut EP, Takes From the Dungeon. Trading in his iPhone voice memo app for Ben Burney’s Los Angeles Primitive Ear Studios, he was able to flesh out his lo-fi sound with harmony vocals and lush, acoustic instrumentation. Tracks like “Real You” and “What Good” bristle with hard-earned wisdom, while the title track shows Burt to be a masterful student of three of his songwriting heroes: Prine, Young and Bob Dylan.
Caught It From the Rye is an urgent missive from an important new voice in songwriting. Like his label mate and hero John Prine, Tré Burt lives his life in service of song and the rest of us are fortunate to bear witness.