Move (slightly) aside Spoon, Austin has a new rock sweetheart — and they performed for the president last night. Last night on the post-inauguration event Celebrating America, nestled between rock legends like Bruce Springsteen and pop stars Katy Perry and Demi Lovato, came Austin psychedelic soul band Black Pumas with a performance of their song “Colors” from their 2019 self-titled album. The duo virtually performed straight from the heart of Texas at ACL Live in Austin. For many viewers, this was the first time they’d heard of Black Pumas, unlike their household name lineup counterparts. The Grammy-nominated band has been beloved in their hometown since its inception just over three years ago, but for those who now find themselves searching for more information on the Lone Star musicians, here’s the rundown.
So, who are they?
Black Pumas are made up of vocalist Eric Burton, 31, and guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada who met and formed the band in 2018. Quesada, a forty-something, worked with the likes of Prince and Daniel Johnston, as well as Austin Latin funk band Grupo Fantasma before itching to start his own project in 2017. The magic started when a mutual friend connected Quesada to Burton, who at the time was busking in downtown Austin. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2019, and “Colors” hit number one on Billboard’s adult alternative chart in February 2020.
Black Pumas’s sound encompasses the gritty blues and rock Austin is known for, joined with soul and psych tones that bring new life and underscore Burton’s silky smooth vocals. It’s the sweet balance of modern and retro at the same time, akin to Grammy-nominated Coming Home by fellow Texan Leon Bridges or Grammy-winning Sound and Color by Alabama Shakes. In 2019 they were swiftly nominated for Best New Artist, losing out to Billie Eilish, but come on, so did nearly everyone else.
Which Grammys are they nominated for this year?
The deluxe edition of their self-titled album is nominated for two Grammys, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for “Colors.” They are also nominated for Best American Roots Performance for “Colors.” Quesada and Burton recently broke down the hit track from Quesada’s studio Electric Deluxe Recorders, giving insight to their writing process behind the track that arose as Burton woke up from a midday nap and admired the sky from his uncle’s roof.
Where can you watch more of their performances?
Black Pumas popularity originated from their energizing and captivating live performances. They warmed up for Celebrating America on January 19 at The Late Show with Colbert, offering a technicolor take on “Colors.” This was their second time on Colbert this year, after covering Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” back in June. Another riveting cover in their repertoire is The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” an experimental version they discussed in their “Sweet Conversations” Youtube series. Last month the group recorded a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert, with a setlist that shows off more from their debut work, including “Red Rover,” “Fire,” “OCT 33,” and “Colors.” Get to viewing!