Christian Burghardt Talks ‘Safe Place To Land’ EP, His Debut Album & Upcoming Duet: Idolator Interview

Mike Wass | June 22, 2015 8:30 am
Christian Burghardt's "Safe Place To Land" Video
Christian Burghardt impresses with debut single "Safe Place To Land."

Christian Burghardt is part of Dr. Luke’s growing stable of artists at Kemosabe Records. (His label-mates include Becky G, LunchMoney Lewis and Elliphant). Signed two and a half years ago, the singer/songwriter released his debut EP in late 2014 and recently dropped his first music video. With a Cady Groves collaboration and his debut album on the way, expect to see and hear a lot more of the newcomer in the next few months.

I recently caught up with the Portland-based singer to talk about his Safe Place To Land EP, the summery visual and the direction of his LP. Christian revealed that he’s been in the studio with pop/dance producers, but still plans to stay true to his acoustic guitar roots. He also spoke about his worst gig, generous fans and the state of his Twitter DMs. Find out more about the freckle-faced crooner below.

How did you get started in music?
I’ve always just loved music and loved singing and I never really thought it would be a career path until my sports dreams kind of went down the drain.

What sports dreams?
I was playing football in college, and then that ended abruptly from an injury and that’s when I got really serious about this. But I didn’t even see this record deal coming, it was kind of a surprise. I was shooting for the major leagues the whole time but I didn’t know when it was going to come or if it ever would. I got the opportunity to showcase for Dr. Luke when I was 24 and he flew me up here to perform at his place in Malibu.

It was in this room at the beach with four or five executives. People all around me on a couch and I was sitting on a stool and I played three or four songs and I honestly didn’t know if I even performed or played well. I wasn’t sure, I was so nervous, but I got a call the next day and they offered me a record deal.

You must have put on a good show! How did the showcase come about?
Well I used to perform all the time in Portland. Not really in LA too much but in Portland and Washington. I played with a lot of people who toured, but I never toured. These guys, this guy I know named Dan Reed was playing in New York and he’s got friends at the label. They were asking, “Do you know of anybody in Portland, any young kids coming up?”

And he happened to mention me and they checked me out on Myspace and Soundcloud and all that stuff and that’s how I got invited for that showcase. It’s crazy what the internet, Youtube and all that kind of stuff can do.

I bet you’re happy that you put all that shit out there.
I mean, I look back at some of that stuff now and I’m like, “wow I was terrible”… but I think that’s how it is for all artists. They look back at their previous work and think, “Man, I’m so over that stuff.”

That was two and a half years ago. What happened between then and releasing the EP last year?
I’ve written so many songs within that time period that I think right now we’re just trying to whittle it down to what we want to put on this full length record. I put out a five song EP called The Safe Place To Land EP and it’s got my current single on it, but really that was more of a tester — kind of finding my lane. We’re going to put out the full length album hopefully this year.

That’ll be the full experience of who Christian Burghardt is. I’m really excited to share it, because as you know it’s been a long time coming.

Have you worked with Dr. Luke in the studio?
He has a little bit of a hands off approach, but I work, I write and record in some of his studios and he’ll pop in the room sometimes and take a listen and offer his two cents, which is really cool. There are some songs that he’s interested in having a part in, there’s no commitment to it yet but, who knows man. Down the line you might hear a Dr. Luke/Christian Burghardt collaboration!

That sounds good to me.
That would be pretty interesting, right? Considering I’m more of an acoustic based artist, who knows what that would yield?

You mentioned “Safe Place To Land,” which I think is a really catchy song. Is there a story behind it?
I was talking to somebody about this earlier. In most of my interviews I have to talk about this song and what it’s about and it’s always a little weird for me because it’s about my ex girlfriend and I’m like, “Ah I have to talk about my ex girlfriend again! I have to bring up this!” But before getting signed I was with this girl for a while and I was really serious about her and our relationship was falling apart once I got signed because I was gone all the time.

This was one of the many songs I wrote about her, trying to let her know that I still want to be there for her and I’m still the guy that she can depend on. This song, you know, it’s really emotional for me. I’m over the relationship now and it’s been a long time, but every time I hear it, it still brings up those old feelings and that’s why I think it communicates like it does.

It must suck having to talk about your ex girlfriend all the time.
No, me and her are cool now. We’re friends now.

Is the EP reflective of your album?
You know, the EP is the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more I’ve cooked up and the sound… it’s so hard to explain this stuff. Talking about music and trying to put it into words is one of the most difficult things. I think it’s a good sampler, but it’s gonna be a lot deeper. I mean, a lot of my inspiration comes from the initial phases of meeting somebody and that initial spark.

Growing up I was a really shy kid, and I was always really nervous around girls and didn’t really quite know how to approach it and my feelings were always really strong. So a lot of my songs are like about that, those initial feelings and that initial phase of getting to know somebody and falling in love. I think there’s going to be, I think it’s fair to expect a lot of that. And a lot of that angst, and that nervousness, and that anticipation.

A lot of that comes through in my new music. I’m super excited to get it out there, like I said. It’s the best way I can explain it in words, without you guys hearing it.

Which producers have you been working with?
For the EP, it was produced by Gregg Wattenberg and this guy named Josh Grant. I just wrote a song with the guys from Captain Cuts. They produced WALK THE MOON’s “Shut Up And Dance.” I’ve also been working with Jacob Kasher. It’s all over the place. People on the pop side and then also people on the adult contemporary side as well.

Captain Cuts and Jacob Kasher are known for their upbeat pop sound. Is your music headed in that direction?
You know, there’s slight elements of that, but I still stay true to myself as an acoustic guitar player so it’s going to be really interesting combination and blend of the two. I don’t want to pigeon hole myself as just an acoustic artist, so with this new music it’s kind of a fusion of things and I think it’s really different and I think it’s going to shake things up for people.

Let’s talk about the “Safe Place To Land” video. Are you really into surfing?
You know what, I have never surfed before. I’m serious. I mean, I’m enamored by it and I’ve always wanted to. I’ve done paddle boarding and pretty much every other water sport, extreme sport you can think of, except for surfing but I think that’s why I thought, “Yeah, I’d love for that to be part of an element to my video.” And the thing about the video is that the story behind the video doesn’t actually represent what the song is saying.

The video represents me meeting the girl that the song ends up being about. It’s about when we first set eyes on each other, and the reason why we chose that is I wanted the song to have a very positive scenic type of approach in the video. We really didn’t know how to portray a break-up, and someone saying: “I’m still there for you.” We didn’t want to bring in airports or airplanes because that would have been way too cliche so we felt like this would be the best way to showcase myself for the first time and introduce some positive vibes at the same time.

Who had the idea to bring the pro surfers?
It was a combination between me and my A&Rs. We were looking for girls, but we didn’t want just a really hot girl, we wanted them to be… have some other element to them — so the surfers and the beach just seemed like a match made in heaven. It had to happen. Finding the right one was a whole different story, that took a minute, but we’re super happy we got Quincy Davis to take the lead.

What’s coming up next for you?
I don’t have a timeline for when the album’s coming up, but I have a duet with Cady Groves called “Whiskey and Wine” that I just shot a video for and that’s mostly just as a single release, just for fun. That’ll be within the next month or two. I’m really excited about it, it’s a really cute organic pop song. All real instrumentation. It’s a love song and plays on the metaphor of whiskey and wine and I’m really excited to share it with you guys.

Are you starting to get recognized?
I’m just experiencing the very beginning of having fans and fan clubs and it’s an amazing feeling to have people appreciate and support you like that. It’s crazy. I don’t know, it hasn’t really gotten to my head or affected me in that way. I’m more just grateful to have fans and to actually, when I play shows to have people in the crowd that are singing my songs and super excited to see me and know the music. That alone makes it all worth it and like I said, I’m at the very beginning so I don’t even know what the full experience is yet but I can only imagine.

What’s the weirdest thing a fan has tweeted you?
I definitely get the girls with the pick-up lines and like the funny memes. I’ve gotten quite a few interesting private messages as well which we won’t share in the interview.

Do you reply?
I reply kindly and respectfully. Professionally, you know? Because I don’t want to be like, a dick about it. They’re still fans of my music and I’m very grateful for that. I try to handle it as a professional. One of the things that I’ve been appreciative about is that I’ve been getting fan mail.

As in snail mail?
Yeah, birthday gifts and stuff. Really thoughtful things like that, and that’s been really cool. For my birthday a lady bought me a pair of shoes. I has posted a pic of a pair of shoes I wanted to buy but they were too expensive and I was like “ahh, I wish I could have cuffed these” and they showed up at my doorstep for my birthday and that was really awesome. Random things like that happening is really cool.

Tell me about your worst gig.
You know what? I got a good one. When I was on tour with Phillip Phillips in September I was playing a song on my EP called “Only I Could Know” and I have to sit on the stool for this one because it’s got a really intricate guitar part. For some reason the mic stand wasn’t tightened so I’m playing this song and get this. The mic is like, slowly, slowly dropping and nobody notices.

Every time I have a minute to just let a chord ring out, I’d fix it. By the time I get halfway through the song there are no more moments like that within the song and it just keeps going. So eventually I’m on my back, still singing this song. I get to the very end where like, I finally get to release the guitar and the sound guy notices and he runs out and fixes it and I’m like “pfft, dude it’s over. The song is over.” But the crowd was so into it and they were loving that I was able to keep it going.

Sounds great! One lucky last question — what’s your Song Of The Summer?
I have an answer on deck for this! I’m a fan of Andy Grammer’s and that song “Honey, I’m Good.” I had his record right when it came out, a year ago, and nobody really knew about it yet and I heard that song and was like dude, this is the cut, this is gonna break through. It’s taken a long time but now it’s just starting to climb up the charts and I’m just like, “Told you so guys.”

I knew it all along. It’s just really unique. I’ve been a fan since “Fine By Me,” so I’m super happy for the guy.

[All photos by Josh Fogel].

Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.