Utne Reader is proud to premiere "Bread and Butter" by Sri Lankan-American folk singer Bhi Bhiman from his new album Rhythm and Reason, available May 19.
Combining a witty sense of humor with biting social commentary, Bhi Bhiman has earned well-deserved comparisons to Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen for his brand of socially-conscious folk rock. On his third album, Rhythm and Reason, Bhiman based the album's 10 songs on his childhood in St. Louis, and his experience as the son of immigrants.
Here is the premiere of Bhiman's new single, "Bread and Butter," followed by a brief Q&A that offers some insight into the lyrics:
What was your inspiration for "Bread and Butter"?
It was inspired by people who find happiness and an appreciation for life despite difficult circumstances.
How did you come up with the idea of describing the 7 deadly sins with
The 7 sins appear throughout the lyrics. On that verse in particular, it started with "Don't be jelly, that's my bread and butter." The next thing I knew I had written "That's my jam right there, Cinnamon Sugar Honey / Lady Marmalade, that tart, she owes me money." And I just kept going. I love wordplay and comedy and it's fun to incorporate that into my lyrics.
You sing, "This is what I do, sweat down to the bone / Lifetime of hard work, I've come into my own." Who are you channeling? Who are the
hardest working people you know?
That line is probably about me and the work I've put in as a musician ... my 10,000 hours if you will. But the hardest working people I know are often immigrants. They leave their home and community for an uncertain future in the hopes of opportunity (often taking enormous risks to do so).
What does it feel like to release an album out into the world and relinquish control of the music?
In some ways it feels good, because a lot of hard work was put into it. And it's a great privilege to have your craft be seen or heard. On the other hand it can be intimidating (and sometimes frustrating) to open yourself to scrutiny and critique.
What does Bhi Bhiman eat for breakfast? What sin are you most guilty of?
On a good day, I eat oatmeal with raisins and maple syrup. On an awesome day, it's cold pizza. I'd say my biggest sin is probably gluttony (see eating cold pizza for breakfast).
Rhythm and Reason is out May 19 on BooCoo Music/Thirty Tigers.