- - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Sometimes you discover new music through a friend who has taken a personal interest in a song or album and wants to share that joy with you. Those discoveries tend to be the most meaningful. Such is the case of the new CD “Unfamiliar Skin” by the artist known simply as RIVVRS. The blending of folk rhythms and rock sensibility really hit a note with me and makes for one of the best new albums this year.

In advance of a tour that sees Brandon Zahursky — who goes by RIVVRS on stage — playing Hill Country Live Thursday, I spoke with him about his sound, name and not-so-secret desire to be Tom Petty.

Question: I know your stage name is RIVVRS, but what does your mom call you?

Answer: Brandon. My legal name is Brandon Zahursky. With a Z. So you can see the inclination to want to change it.

Q: Where does the name RIVVRS come from?

A: One of the first projects I started was called River Shiver. That was kind of a collaboration between a drummer friend of mine and myself when I was 19 or 20. Then we parted ways. Then I kind of was in limbo trying to decide if I wanted to start a new project under a different name of just going by Brandon Zahursky, which is what I did before River Shiver.

I thought, “I really like that name River Shiver, but I wanted it to be a single name, a standalone thing. So RIVVRS ended up being the shortened version of that name.

Q: Is this a band project or solo?

A: It’s a solo project. I don’t actually have a band. I would love one if I could find the right people.

I’ve just moved to L.A., and I’ve been searching for that. But I haven’t really found it. When I do tour, I have a set group of guys that I’ve been practicing with and playing shows with. But for this upcoming show, I’m going solo. It’s expensive to go on the road with a band for the first time.

Q: Is it easier creatively to work alone?

A: I would say it’s easier in terms of compromise. Just in terms of writing things. When I write alone I don’t really have to change a lyric or something that somebody doesn’t like. But I also do a lot of co-writing with people. And I really like that because collaboration is where I get the best stuff. It’s kinda cool because I get to work with all these different people. It’s a cast of characters instead of the same three or four dudes. So it keeps the music open.

Q: Who inspired you to start making music?

A: I would say probably Tom Petty in terms of musicians. But if it’s gonna be someone in my personal life, I would have to say the musical influence is my father. I grew up in a single-parent household, so my dad raised my brother and I on his own. He basically fed us classic rock from age 10 on. The first bands I was listening to were AC/DC and Black Sabbath.

Then I discovered [Bob] Dylan and went down the Bob Dylan path. My dad at that point said, “I hate Bob Dylan!” I said, “OK, well, cool. I like this stuff and I’m gonna keep listening to it.”

He stayed in his classic rock world. I went on discovering new music. Tom Petty and Bob Dylan … led to the discovering of the singer/songwriters from my youth in the 2000s. Fleet Foxes and Bright Eyes. That stuff really inspired the music writing I’m at now.

Q: You’ve been compared to Ed Sheeran. How does that comparison sit with you?

A: I’ll take any comparison, because I’ve realized pretty quickly that I’m wrong most of the time. Mostly in terms of musical comparisons.

I think we all want to sound like our idols. When people ask me, “What do you sound like?” I’m inclined to say, “Do you like kinda Tom Petty-ish stuff?” And even though my sound isn’t really Tom Petty at all, I say that because I like Tom Petty and want people to think I sound like him.

But most of the time I’m really compared to people like Ed Sheeran or Vance Joy. Those guys I guess are the Tom Pettys of our times. Big compliment to me.

Q: What can people expect when they come to see you live?

A: I’m gonna put as much energy as I can into the solo performance. You’re gonna see a lot of the songs from the record stripped down. I’m also gonna play a lot of songs that haven’t been released yet. A lot of new music. The show is half that and half the new record.

Q: What will you do with your downtime in D.C.?

A: Last time I was there was on a trip in 8th grade. So I’m looking forward to coming back. I don’t know if I will have downtown because the East Coast run of this tour is so tightly packed. I have to go from New York to D.C., then Philadelphia.

I’m [in the District on Thursday], which is two days after the election. So If I do have time, I wanna go feel the energy of Washington, D.C., which is gonna be completely fresh off of that election.

I want to kind of feel what that’s about, because I’m really curious to see how things pan out. I’m not detached from it. But being in California, we have a safe distance from what goes on there. So I really wanna see what that’s about.

RIVVRS plays Hill Country Live along with The Walcotts Thursday at 8:30 p.m. There is no cover charge.

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