Carey Burgess / The Daily Gamecock

SUSTO brings sophomore album to Columbia

Justin Osborne and his band SUTSO are no strangers to Columbia, and this Saturday they're making their way back to Music Farm as part of his "& I'm Fine Today" tour.

Originally from Florence, South Carolina, Osborne is based in Charleston, but enjoys putting on shows for the college towns that are close to home.

"When I started playing music, playing in bands, I always would go to New Brookland Tavern to see shows and start playing in shows," Osborne said, "So I've been playing in Columbia most of my musical life."

According to the band's bio, SUSTO's most recent album launched their music from "the spacey country rock of their debut into the stratosphere." For Osborne, the record was about exploring different genres.

"Musically it's kind of all over the place," Osborne said. "That's one of the reasons '& I'm Fine Today' is what it is." 

His primary influences when crafting the record were his personal experiences, most specifically the time he spent in South America. 

When Osborne was 26, he left his band Sequoyah Prep School and moved to Cuba. His experiences there with Hispanic culture influence his songwriting today. While there, he was exposed to what's called "trova", a Cuban, confessionalist style of songwriting.

Osborne says trova is a way of being able to "touch on subjects that may be a little, I don't know, hard for people to digest." Being around trova musicians, he was inspired to be more brave in his songwriting and not hold back.  He observed that it was a style that allowed Cubans to express honest sentiments regarding the leadership in their country. 

"Sometimes art is one of the only avenues people have to criticize things that they think are wrong about their government and it's kind of a bold thing to do that," Osborne said.

When Osbrone saw Cubans making music solely to express their true feelings, it helped him stay motivated. 

"Just people loving music for music's sake and not trying to get famous. People just love to make music in Cuba and that really re-inspired me."

Osborne also draws inspiration from more modern music.  Some of SUSTO's contemporary influences include Band of Horses and the Grateful Dead. Though Osborne never intentionally mimics other bands, he says it is natural for aspects of influential music to find their way into his work.

"Sometimes those little influences can be very subtle, but that's one of the fun things about making music, is taking this palette of whatever your influence is or whatever you're into and making your own little collage out of all of it with your own story," Osborne said.

As for the lyrics of the album, Osborne says he focused on the idea of accepting life for what it is. 

"The whole takeaway for the record, I think, is coming to terms with life being the yin and yang," Osborne said. "You gotta take the good with the bad, the bad with the good and kind of keep your head up through all of it."

The title of the album, "& I'm Fine Today" is also lyric from their song "Jah Werx," and succinctly captures this idea.   

"You go through all this stuff and these situations and if you make it through, I think it makes you stronger," Osborne said.

Lyrics and music aren't the only challenges that come with a new album, however. Though Osborne has made numerous friends in the process of touring, he finds the separation from his family and home difficult. 

"One of the things about being in a band is that you have to spend a few years kind of really getting your name out there," Osborne said, "So we're kind of in that phase right now. For the next few years we're just gonna have to be on the road a lot."

Osborne hopes to continue to build SUSTO's fanbase abroad and balance his time in Charleston and time away, but for now he's looking forward to being close to home.

"For me, Columbia is a really special place, it's where I grew up going to shows and playing my first shows," Osborne said. "It's gonna be fun to be back." 

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