The Art of Making It

Talking with The Pollies.

By Lindsey Lowe Osborne

What’s the secret to “making it”? I can tell you that over the past four years, I’ve asked a lot of musicians that, and most of them have come up with the same answer: You gotta love it so much that just making music means you’re making it. Put in a lot of hard work, they say, but the rest is luck.

Jay Burgess, lead singer and songwriter of The Pollies, certainly had luck on his side in one way. He was raised in Greenhill, Alabama, close enough to Muscle Shoals, Alabama—known for producing the “Muscle Shoals Sound”—to be influenced by the musical polestar as a teenager. “When I was 16, me and a couple of friends would go to La Fonda’s on the weekends to watch he Iguana Party. At the time we had no clue who some of the people were that were playing. Later on, I found out that majority of these people had played on some amazing records,” Burgess says. “However, they’ve always been regular folks. You wouldn’t know who they were unless they told you. Watching them and getting to sit in with them taught me a lot. They made me better every time. I think because it’s such a small area with the best of the best musicians, you have to bring your A game.”

The Pollies—who produce a soulful blend of rock and storytelling—are certainly bringing their A game. Burgess is joined by Spencer Duncan on bass, Jon Davis on drums, Andrew Davis on guitar, and Clint Chandler on piano (also known as the band’s “tickler of ivories”), and the group released their first album, Where the Lies Begin, in 2012. Their second and most recent, 2015’s Not Here, is their first with Single Lock Records, based in Florence, Alabama. A third record is set to hit this summer. “I started writing and recording a song a week at my studio in Greenhill,” Burgess says. “We’re now finishing up our third record and starting to work on Dylan Leblanc’s (an artist also based Muscle Shoals) record. In the last two to three years we’ve been super busy, but it doesn’t feel like it. We’re just having fun in the present.”

Burgess is a well-rounded musician, but perhaps his greatest strength is the lyrical prowess he brings to songwriting, demonstrated mightily on Not Here (check out “Lost,” which Burgess says he dreamt up after being a confidante for a friend whose marriage was failing.) He says that while he hopes the songs he writes are portkeys to a place of belonging, the greatest motivator for him to write is because he must. “I think it matters (that listeners connect to the music), but that’s not why I write it,” he explains. “For some reason, this is what I gravitated to when I was five. Most of the family could sing. A handful could play an instrument and there was a piano at just about every family member’s house. When I got older, I picked up guitar and with some luck, met some friends that had the same aspirations as I. I don’t know what else I would do. It’s always been the thing I want to do.

“I do hope that (my music) gives others the feeling that I get when I listen to music.”

The Pollies, whom you can catch at Saturn on March 23, join the likes of Jason Isbell, The Civil Wars, and the Drive-By Truckers in a class of musicians being born again in Muscle Shoals. These guys are, quite simply, making it. 



3/19: Lo Moon at Workplay. First Listen: “This Is It.” 

4/18: Modest Mouse at Sloss Furnaces. First Listen: “Float On” (a classic!) 

5/14: Spoon at Iron City. First Listen: “Can I Sit Next to You.”

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