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Over the past year, Bartees Cox Jr., better known as Bartees Strange, has become the latest rising independent star and was recently announced as the newest signee to 4AD Records. From collaborations with artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Samia, Dave Hause and Hit Like a Girl, to his own work that can’t be confined to just one singular genre, he’s made a name for himself.
In 2020 he released ‘Say Goodbye to Pretty Boy’, his renditions of songs from The National; many of his favorite bands debuted as opening acts. To this day, “About Today” remains one of his favorite covers he’s done, and recording this EP remains one of his favorite things. If you managed to catch Bartees in early 2021, you might have seen his “Live At Studio 4” livestream, where he finished his full set with “Lemonworld.”
As a new signee to 4AD Records, he is excited for the journey ahead.
“I always knew deep down that 4AD was the one I really wanted. [to be on]. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the label. My favorite bands are from this label, and I’m still in shock when I realize again and again that I’m also on this label.
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In a few months, he’ll be opening for The National in Utah, which to him is “the craziest thing in the world,” and it left him speechless. It means the world to him, and he’s thrilled to have the chance to play alongside Matt Berninger and Aaron and Bryce Dessner.
Until then, he enjoyed his time as the Car Seat Headrest usher. When he makes his stopover in Charlottesville on Monday, it will be his first time playing in the city, which he describes as “cute and fun”, having passed through it several times.
He’s no stranger to Virginia, having recently performed at the Camel in Richmond – a small, intimate venue that doesn’t quite have the feel of the Jefferson Theatre. He’s so used to performing in small venues that he finds great fun thinking about how to own bigger stages, how to organize his live band, what instruments to bring, and have the creative control to make the stage his own. .
He said he’s come a long way since that “Live at Studio 4” livestream, and even since his February 2021 NPR Tiny Desk (At Home) performance, which was recorded in his basement in Falls Church. His recent performances are not to be missed, so getting to the venue early is crucial.
Bartees’ rise to stardom could be compared to the rise of fellow Virginians Lucy Dacus and McKinley Dixon, or even Baltimore’s Turnstile. The aforementioned artists may belong to different genres, but they are genres close to his heart. During his younger years, he began writing and playing with hardcore bands, as well as emo artists, while finding his footing in the indie world. He misses writing songs in the vein of those particular genres, but he had a lot of fun exploring other sounds to blend into his unique sound, including jazz, funk, and R&B.
When he was a teenager, he never thought he would be where he is today, and has been humble throughout the experience. He just did what he always did.
During his teenage years, Bartees read about bands and artists he really liked, such as Thursday, Circa Survive, At The Drive-In, and Dance Gavin Dance, among others. He hopes he can be a role model for today’s youngsters, just as Geoff Rickley, Anthony Green and Cedric Bixler-Zavala were for him, to name a few. He feels grateful that artists know who he is, and that he can also reach out and learn from them, as they are great people he has met over the past few years.
“The way I see it – none of this is promised to last forever. It’s great to have this little opportunity to have a music career,” he said, “I want it to last this long and [as] sustainably as possible.
He’s been asked to work on collaborations with some of the artists he grew up idolizing, but he feels bad that he doesn’t have the time to do so right now. However, he had a pretty humble experience on his rise to fame, as he knows how hard it was to get to where he is today – just like how hard his favorite artists have worked over the years. years to get where they are. For him, the trip was just “humiliating”.
He has made many recordings over the years, with “Heavy Heart” as his last release. He worked with Conor Murphy of Foxing, who provided the horns for this track.
For him, every work of art he produces and works on is “everything, all the time”. That’s how he likes to make records.
“I had a lot of things I wanted to try. I’m curious what people will think, but overall I’m very proud of what I was able to put together. Dedication to my little community; we we swung towards the fences.
Bartees will open for Car Seat Headrest for a sold-out show at The Jefferson on Monday.