Black Pumas grab Grammy attention with fusion of rock, soul

Black Pumas went from a studio project between strangers to earning four Grammy nominations in a few short years

When Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada first started playing together in an Austin studio in 2017, they had just met each other and weren’t even entertaining the idea that one day they’d be performing live.

“We weren’t really a band We were a studio project,” said Quesada, a Grammy Award-winning guitarist-producer who had been honing his craft for years in about a half dozen bands.

“I just knew that it was going to be something enchanting and very beautiful just between the both of us,” said Burton, who sings, writes and plays guitar. “I don’t think that we could ever have guessed that we’d end up playing the inauguration and being nominated for four Grammys.”

But creativity sparked in Quesada’s analog studio and this cross-cultural fusion of retro and modern, psychedelic rock and soul became Black Pumas going from under the radar to breakout band in just a few short years.

After releasing their self-titled album in 2019, Black Pumas earned their first nomination for best new artist at last year’s Grammy Awards, but they lost when Billie Eilish swept the awards show last February. They are back again with three nominations for album of the year, record of the year and best American roots performance.

Quesada, 43, is used to getting the question about the “overnight” success of their band, but back-to-back nominations in the top Grammy categories makes him think of all the hard work they both had put in before they met each other.

“It’s definitely humbling. And then sometimes I have to remind myself of how many ups and downs I have been through, how many ups and downs Eric has been through,” said Quesada, who has two decades of experience in music. There were times when he had to take a job delivering pizzas to make money for his family while also working as a musician.

Burton, 30, was raised in the San Fernando Valley and grew up singing in church, then moved on to musical theater. He busked at the Santa Monica pier to raise a little money before making his way to Austin where he sang at the corner of 6th Street and Congress.

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