Burr Oak (aka Savanna Dickhut of Elk Walking) was kind enough to take the time on the day of her Single Release show at Schubas to answer a few of our questions. With her debut track “Southsider” the long time scenester takes a shot at the dreamier side of indie rock and ends up knocking it out of the park. Be on the lookout for more tracks from this talented local artist.
SD: Savanna Dickhut
"Southsider" is your first single under the Burr Oak moniker. Can you give us some insight on the project and a bit of personal history you'd like our readers to know?
SD: Launching Burr Oak has been a creative endeavor for me that I think instinctively I had to do. I had been going through a pretty rough time, dealing with some personal and relationship issues, so I needed an outlet [for] all of that (negative) energy so I wouldn’t self destruct... haha!
I have been playing guitar since I was 14 and writing song since as long as I can remember- even before I knew how to play any instrument. “Southsider” is relatively new, but I have a catalogue of “older” songs that I’ve never released because it never really felt right, or I guess I wasn’t ready until now to start putting this music out there.
You've been a member of Elk Walking for several years now. What prompted you to take on a side project?
SD: Elk Walking has been my main creative focus for about four years now - Julian Daniell and I started the project during our time at Columbia College. We have grown into our sound so much more this past year, and I had been writing these newer songs that both Julian and I agreed wouldn’t work for the group while he has been writing more for Elk. In the past when I had written a song or two that I knew wouldn’t work, I’ve just been keeping them in my journal and notes on my iPhone, but this time I think I felt ready and confident enough to begin to put them out there, and that’s how Burr Oak came to be.
Where do you draw inspiration from, musically? Elk Walking has such a different aesthetic than Burr Oak which leaves us wondering where the dichotomy comes from?
SD: I love how different the two projects are because it really gives both Julian and I space to write for that band and for our own solo projects. The dichotomy comes from the fact that Julian is doing a lot of the writing in Elk Walking and therefore, the sound is half his when it comes to lyrics and melodies. Jeff Sullivan (guitar) and David Thrift (bass) contribute immensely as well to the overall sound of Elk Walking; while in contrast, Burr Oak is more my general vision so it sounds mostly like whatever is stirring around in my head on a daily basis.
I grew up listening to tons of folk music and the classics (Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel). My dad showed me great music very young, but of course I was stubborn and wanted to listen to Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne. Avril was my hero when i was 11 - I wanted to be just like her. I think I’m inspired by many different people and things, but lately I have been using my songs as a way to get all of these pent-up emotions out of my system. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about things, so I write about them.
For you, does songwriting come lyrics first or do you begin with the tune?
SD: It really depends on how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes I will hear a melody and start humming without any words, but funny enough, I’m usually doing some mindless task such as cleaning my house or taking a shower, and I’ll start to blurt out random sentences- spontaneous combustion of sorts (with some sort of melody). If I feel like it might go somewhere, I’ll record into my iPhone, or if I’m at home, I’ll sit down with my acoustic guitar and try to match the vibe of what I’m feeling with chords I like.
Who are you listening to right now? Are there any bands you think should be getting more attention?
SD: Squirrel Flower, Sean Green, Weyes Blood, and Faye Webster have been on my rotation this past week.
There is quite a bit of great music coming out of the scene right now such as Sean. His latest single “Driver” has been stuck in my head. (I just bought a Dan Electro from him) that I will be using at the show tonight. I am very excited.
Luke Henry is probably my favorite singer-songwriter in the scene since Elk Walking played our album release show with him awhile back. I’m really confused as to why he is not playing Pitchfork.
What's next for Burr Oak? After "Southsider," are there more plans for the project?
SD: My second single, “Rosemary” is coming out in mid August. I have shows lined up into the fall locally and plan on recording an EP that will most likely come out sometime next year followed by a tour.