When David Ramirez calls you at 3 a.m., you pick up. Veteran producer and Medicine Man Revival artist Jason Burt had recently sent a song to Ramirez, his favorite songwriter. But two days had passed, and he had yet to hear back from the Americana artist. Then, while Burt was vacationing in Colorado, his phone lit up with an early-morning text from Ramirez.
“I now know that if you get a call from David between 3 and 5, something’s going down,” Burt says.
Ramirez’s response was simple: “This is the shit. We gotta cut it for sure.”
After a long journey of writing, refining, trying and failing to get together, the song has been cut and released. “Blue Magnolia” dropped March 18 alongside “Pho,” a single Burt released with Sarah Jaffe. Both songs are Burt’s first under the moniker “Electrophunck,” a new solo project for the artist who has worked with the likes of Leon Bridges, the Texas Gentlemen and Paul Cauthen.
On the surface, the two new tracks have little in common. “Blue Magnolia” is a melancholy rock tune anchored by a Spanish guitar, while ”Pho” finds Jaffe stretching her powerful vocals over a meandering, funky beat. And both were born from very different creative processes. “Blue Magnolia” took over a year to conceive, cut and release, while “Pho” cooked fast. But Burt insists the songs are closely related.
“These two mash in a cool, sonic way,” he says. “With both, I provided a space for these people I admire to really get weird. And it was wild.”
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After the 3 a.m. text conversation, Ramirez and Burt spent months trying to find the time and studio space to cut the record. They tried and failed to record at Modern Electric, Burt’s traditional stomping grounds, before eventually connecting at a studio in Austin. Once there, things moved fast. Burt and Ramirez cut the song in an afternoon, and the song that began as a shoddy voice memo bloomed into “Blue Magnolia.” The song isn’t just a new direction for Burt, but it’s also a new style for Ramirez.
“I’ve been looking to make a left turn ... and Jason was the perfect fit,” Ramirez says. “As soon as I heard it, I knew it was something I had to play.”
As Electrophunck, Burt is eager to create work that defies what people might expect from him or from artists like Ramirez.
“People classify things according to what they’re used to, so they pin David as a singer-songwriter and nothing more,” Burt says. “I wanted to create something sonically weird, something that pushed the boundaries of his vocals.”
Burt was also eager to experiment with Jaffe. “Pho” marks the first collaboration between the two artists, but thanks to the rapport between Burt and Jaffe, it won’t be the last.
“When Jason invited me to Modern Electric, it was just pure fun,” Jaffe says. “There’s such a good energy when you go into any studio that’s stock full of pros without ego. You’re gonna come out with a piece of something great, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Burt and Jaffe were halfway through production on “Pho” when they decided to make a drastic change.
“We were sitting there trying to figure out what we didn’t like, and we just decided to delete the chorus,” Burt says. “That’s kind of like ripping half a book apart and rewriting it.”
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Like “Blue Magnolia,” “Pho” is a departure for Jaffe — and an experience she’s eager to repeat.
“We started another track pretty shortly after ‘Pho’ and I imagine we will finish that one soon,” she says. “It bangs.”
Burt will also continue to work with Ramirez. He’s producing the artist’s next album and will continue to release songs as Electrophunck.
“I’ve been a studio rat just thankful to play guitar in front of a microphone, but it’s time for something new,” he says. “This next year is going to be fucking ridiculous.”