Justin Osborne needed a break. He’d been writing music and making albums since he was 15, and by the age of 26, he felt like he was spinning his wheels. He knew he needed a change, so he ended his old band Sequoyah Prep School and moved to Cuba. He thought he might be done with music for a while, but the songs just kept coming.
“I had this idea in my mind that I was going to try and join some kind of Latin American Leftist movement. I wanted to jump off a cliff,” Osborne says. “Once I got there I immediately started hanging out with musicians and going to shows. I started showing them the songs from this project that was kind of just an idea in my head.
“They were like, ‘man, don’t throw away your passport, go home and continue to make music,'” he says. “I was encouraged by them to try again.”
Osborne was already writing the songs for what would be SUSTO’s 2014 self-titled debut when his producer Wolfgang Zimmerman introduced him to Johnny Delaware, a guitarist and songwriter who had moved to Charleston, South Carolina to make an album with the producer.
SUSTO is a Spanish word referring to a folk illness in Latin America that Osborne learned as anthropology student, meaning “when your soul is separated from your body,” and also roughly translates to a panic attack. For Osborne, the music of SUSTO was something he had to get out into the world.
SUSTO released their debut album independently and toured relentlessly to get the word out. They were an immediate hit in their hometown, packing venues, getting airplay at all the bars and even making a fan of Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell. “I got an e-mail from him, telling me he loved the record and wanted to meet with me and Johnny,” he says. “That was actually the day I wrote my professor, and I said, ‘I’m not coming in.’”
The members of the live band that Osborne and Delaware recruited — Corey Campbell (guitar, keys, backing vocals), Jenna Desmond (bass), and Marshall Hudson (drums, percussion) contributed to SUSTO’s new album & I’m Fine Today, which will be released via Caroline. “We just wanted to go further. We started something with the first record, and we want to keep going in that direction,” Osborne says of the album, which finds them taking the spacey country rock of their debut into the stratosphere, piling on layers of sighing keyboards, galloping rhythms and frayed, noisy guitar solos atop wistful melodies and lyrics that examine growing up and growing into yourself. “We put the first record out, and we worked hard, and it just feels like a good place to be,” he says, noting that while the first record focused on his own struggles, & I’m Fine Today is more concerned with looking at the world beyond the struggles in your head.
The band covers vast sonic ground on their new album, swaying between country-tinged rock (“Cosmic Cowboy”), contemplative pop ballads (“Mountain Top”), and any number of other genres that exist somewhere within the expansive fabric of Southern music.
& I’m Fine Today was recorded at The Space in Charleston, SC. Of the record, founder and frontman Justin Osborne says, “Something to take away from it is just understanding and appreciating when you’re not always fine. This album is about coming to terms with yourself and feeling okay with your place in the universe.”
& I’m Fine Today will be in-stock at Horizon Records on CD & vinyl LP on Friday, January 13th!