It’s a good thing Jason Burt has a knack for making music, because he’s not sure what else he would do.
“Honestly, I was fired from every job I ever had,” he says, and he’s only half joking. There wasn’t anything else Burt cared about as much as he cares about music. “It was always going to be this."
And that’s lucky for the Dallas music scene. In the last three years, Burt has established himself as a Dallas-based producer who likes to push the envelope. He also writes original work and he plays in various Dallas bands, including Color TV and the Trophy Wives.
But if he’s truly a master at any one of those things, it’s producing. That’s his moneymaker, and it’s what he has always been the most passionate about.
“He likes to fuck things up,” says Daniel Creamer, of the Misteries. “He wants to be different and not predictable at all. He always totally pulls it off. The people who work with him really trust him a lot, and you really have to because he goes far out with his work. He does a lot of things other people wouldn’t do – in a good way.”
Burt wasn’t formally trained. Everything he knows he picked up somewhere along the way, which is partially why he’s so uninhibited. He taught himself to play guitar at 17 and immediately started mixing beats and sounds.
“I hadn’t played any music, but I just picked it up and fell in love with it,” Burt says. “I just plugged a guitar into the computer and wrote stuff. It was this backwards way of learning to compose before learning to play. It was just kind of like, ‘Shit, look at all the crazy stuff I can do with this.’”
Like many musicians in Dallas, his talent grew in church. “Like hardcore, suit to church, part your hair, don’t go to the restroom, don’t leave the pew, definitely don’t fall asleep, you know?” he says. “We were at the church when it was open, all the time, but I think that played a big part in me getting into music. That’s where the best music is.”
Burt cut his teeth on country and gospel while playing for churches. After a few years, he was established enough in the Dallas music scene to start getting other gigs.
He began working with Dallas producer Beau Patrick Bedford and Bedford’s crew of musicians, the Texas Gentlemen. He made an album with them called Sloppy Seconds, and that helped him land his first paid producing gig for Dead Flowers in 2013. “And then I just made more and more records after that,” he says. That’s when he knew he’d made it, or at least “that’s when my mom stopped worrying about me” — and that counts for something.
Now he has produced more than a dozen records, and although he doesn’t stick to any one particular style or sound, he’s known for “pushing the envelope on soundscape and going for weird stuff,” he says.
Sure, he can do the normal stuff too, but he does his best work when he’s totally unleashed.
“Jason isn’t afraid to take risks in the studio and it really translates into larger-than-life sounds,” says Bedford, whose Modern Electric Sound Recorders serves as Burt's recording home base. “One of the first times we worked together, I asked him to help engineer with me, and Jason did something most audio engineers would say is wrong: He put the bass into complete overdrive. When I listened to it in the context of the song, it was just phenomenal. It defined the song.”
Mentally, Burt lives record to record. Whatever he’s working on at the time, that’s the sound he’s obsessed with. He immerses himself it in. “I’m like the actor that becomes the Joker,” he says. “I don’t want a niche. I want to just fly the map.”
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He often produces, engineers, mixes and plays on a record. “It’s interesting because the artist may or may not have a vision, and if they do have a vision then you have to go with their vision. And if they don’t have a vision, then you have to create one that they like,” he says. It sounds exhausting, but he loves it.
These days, Burt's schedule is full. He travels a lot from Dallas to Austin, as well as other music-centric cities throughout the United States. He attributes a lot of his success to his crew. “Behind every great producer is a great band,” he says. “That’s the first thing you should learn. If you don’t hire amazing players that’ll do what you like, then you’ll never make anything cool.”
Eventually, he wants to move to other cities to immerse himself in other styles, but for now he’s just enjoying where he’s at. “I hope things continue just like they are,” he says. “It’s pretty incredible just to even be at this point. It’s ridiculous to even be able to do this for a living. It’s seriously stupid. It just unfolded this way.”
His motto is simple: “Take care of your brothers and don’t make bad music.” The rest, he says, will take care of itself.