SUSTO

Biography

Justin Osborne needed a break.

He’d been writing music and making albums since he was 15, and by the age

of 26, he felt like he was spinning his wheels. He knew he needed a change,

so he ended his old band Sequoyah Prep School […]

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Justin Osborne needed a break.

He’d been writing music and making albums since he was 15, and by the age

of 26, he felt like he was spinning his wheels. He knew he needed a change,

so he ended his old band Sequoyah Prep School and moved to Cuba. He

thought he might be done with music for a while, but the songs just kept

coming.

“I had this idea in my mind that I was going to try and join some kind of Latin

American Leftist movement. I wanted to jump off a cliff,” Osborne says. “Once

I got there I immediately started hanging out with musicians and going to

shows. I started showing them the songs from this project that was kind of just

an idea in my head.

“They were like, ‘man, don’t throw away your passport, go home and continue

to make music,'” he says. “I was encouraged by them to try again.”

Osborne ended the relationship he was in, started touring and writing

constantly and eventually dropped out of school with just one paper and exam

left to finish. He also made an aesthetic upgrade, getting the words “Acid

Boys” tattooed across his knuckles.

“I was always afraid of committing fully to the idea of trying to make it. I think

in some ways, that’s what held my old band back. I thought maybe I’ll go to

school and I’ll be an anthropologist and go live abroad,” he says. “Then I did

all that, and I realized no, I need to go back to what I’m good at. I got the

knuckle tattoos to keep me out of everything else.”

Osborne was already writing the songs for what would be SUSTO’s 2014 self-

titled debut when his producer Wolfgang Zimmerman introduced him to

Johnny Delaware, a guitarist and songwriter who had moved to Charleston,

South Carolina to make an album with the producer.

“We started meshing and gelling really well. We liked aspects of what each

other did, so as the record started to really take shape in the studio, Johnny

came in and really played a key role in that,” Osborne says. “At that point, it

became one step closer to being a band thing.”

SUSTO is a Spanish word referring to a folk illness in Latin America that

Osborne learned as anthropology student, meaning “when your soul is

separated from your body,” and also roughly translates to a panic attack. For

Osborne, the music of SUSTO was something he had to get out into the

world.

“Going through my life I was just lost, and I didn’t have direction, and I wanted

direction,” he says. Raised in Puddin’ Swamp, South Carolina, Osborne

moved to Charleston to attend military school, and didn’t really get to

experience much of the city — one of the main artistic hubs of the South —

until he left his junior year to tour with his first band.

“I did acid for the first time. I started to gradually grow away from religion. I

started to become my own person when I moved to Charleston,” he says,

adding that it’s an especially great place to play music because “people are

into all kinds of stuff. They go out to shows. I wouldn’t say Charleston is a

country music town or an indie rock town, it’s just a town where people like

cool shit, so I think that people appreciate creativity when it comes to creating

a genre instead of working within one that exists.”

SUSTO released their debut album independently and toured relentlessly to

get the word out. They were an immediate hit in their hometown, packing

venues, getting airplay at all the bars and even making a fan of Band of

Horses’ Ben Bridwell. “I got an e-mail from him, telling me he loved the record

and wanted to meet with me and Johnny,” he says. “That was actually the day

I wrote my professor, and I said, ‘I’m not coming in.’”

But that wasn’t enough. “I was like, ‘we can’t just make it in Charleston.’ My

friends in the band Shovels & Ropes told me once, ‘it’s a big country and we

got to get out there and get everybody.’”

The members of the live band that Osborne and Delaware recruited — Corey

Campbell (guitar, keys, backing vocals), Jenna Desmond (bass), and

Marshall Hudson (drums, percussion) contributed to SUSTO’s new album &

I’m Fine Today, which will be released via Caroline. “We just wanted to go

further. We started something with the first record, and we want to keep going

in that direction,” Osborne says of the album, which finds them taking the

spacey country rock of their debut into the stratosphere, piling on layers of

sighing keyboards, galloping rhythms and frayed, noisy guitar solos atop

wistful melodies and lyrics that examine growing up and growing into yourself.

Much of the album was recorded by Osborne, Delaware and Zimmerman,

with the other members contributing as needed.

On “Hard Drugs,” Osborne muses about reconnecting with an estranged

friend during a personal crisis (“I’m thankful that I have some friends that are

totally fine with me telling some stories about things we’ve all been through

together”) and on “Mystery Man,” Delaware writes about “the feeling of

appreciation for someone coming into your life, someone like yourself.” On

“Wasted Mind,” one of the most personal songs on the album, Osborne, and

Delaware reflect on the journey they’ve been through together.

“We wrote that [song] about finally having a voice that was being heard, and

about trying and failing and then finally getting some ears to listen to you,” he

says. “It’s about the ups and downs of that, and how you get to travel, and

you’re just kind of in and out of people’s lives, and it’s hard but beautiful, and

also how you start to come out of the haze of partying and start thinking about

your life’s value.”

In many ways, “Wasted Mind” is & I’m Fine Today in miniature, as the album

circles around the theme of punching through life’s difficulties and learning to

be comfortable with the person you’ve grown into. “I feel like I am better. We

put the first record out, and we worked hard, and it just feels like a good place

to be,” he says, noting that while the first record focused on his own struggles,

& I’m Fine Today is more concerned with looking at the world beyond the

struggles in your head.

“I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that I just get to be here. It’s all

perspective,” he says. “This album is about coming to terms with yourself and

feeling okay with your place in the universe.”

Members

  • Justin Osborne - vocals, guitar
  • Corey Campbell - guitar, keys
  • Marshall Hudson - drums
  • Jenna Desmond - bass
  • Dries Vandenberg - guitar

Contacts

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Shows

Date Location Venue Details  
September 9, 2017 Raleigh, NC Hopscotch Music Festival --
September 12, 2017 Nashville, TN AmericanaFest --
September 15, 2017 Bristol, TN Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion --
September 16, 2017 Bristol, TN Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion --
September 29, 2017 Harmony, NC Carolina Jubilee --
September 30, 2017 Roseland, VA Devils Backbone Hoopla --