Debut album brightens fears of growing up

Tennessee-based artist Briston Maroney released his debut album, a collection of 10 songs resulting from work that spanned over a decade, on April 9.

Maroney’s first brush with fame happened with his 2013 “American Idol” audition when he was only 15-years-old. He made it to the top 30 semifinals.

Now, eight years later, the 23-year-old artist is working alongside Grammy-winning songwriter Dan Wilson to produce tracks like his 2020 single “Deep Sea Diver.”

“Sunflower” follows three EP’s and countless singles released by Maroney. These include “Carnival” which featured the song “Freakin’ out on the Interstate,” a viral hit that earned praise from musicians and critics such as Taylor Swift.

While his 2018 EP challenges Maroney musically and vocally, “Sunflower” works to exhibit his narrative skills and to create a cohesive story. His album ties his Knoxville roots, with acoustic-driven songs and a mix of Southern alternative rock.

“Why” shows off his more well-known style, heavy with drums and guitar riffs, yet it blends seamlessly with his new sound, his story.

Lyrics like, “Why can’t I just be someone else tonight?/ Oh I’d give anything to make this right” pulls the perfect amount of angst to verbalize the frustration of not being able to go back and change the past.

Songs like “Rollercoaster” have been in development for quite some time. Maroney wrote the track in high school and it sits as one of the heavier tracks on the album.

There’s a vulnerability in his admittance to being a “rollercoaster, stuck at the top.” He’s out of control to a point where no one can keep up. The song showcases just how well his beautiful voice can pair with a high intensity song.

“Cinnamon,” an unexpected ballad, suspends listeners in the feeling of having loved someone. Maroney dives into a melancholic sound. Longing for the past, while wanting to embrace what is to come.

It sits as my favorite in the album for its references to the Grateful Dead and Elton John. There’s a beauty in finding a way to immerse someone in an experience as personal as the beauty of being in love.

His final two tracks, “The Kids” and “Say My Name,” wrap up the journey. All the complexities Maroney has been exploring is neatly packed in an understanding within these two songs. Understanding life is unattainable, there are highs and lows that no one understands.

There is no answer to how one moves on, accepting that life as they know it is changing, but “Say My Name” offers hope with lines like “But maybe that’s alright/ Another flower grows,” reminding listeners that they never know what’s coming next.

Overall, the indie album “Sunflower” allows Maroney a medium to explain the anxieties and confusion in growing up, losing one’s childhood and embracing life. I couldn’t recommend it enough.