The world probably doesn’t need another term for nonmainstream country music, admits Ben Bostick, but the singer-guitarist has his reasons for dubbing what he does as outsider country.
“Obviously, mainstream country is not what I do,” the Southern California-based Bostick begins. “Outlaw country — people get all touchy about that term. Most people think it’s a historical movement from the 1970s, and other people think it has to sound exactly like Waylon Jennings.”
Bostick considered classifying his music as alt-country, but says “that’s sort of its own genre with its own conventions. And then Americana is so broad — anything with real instruments is now Americana.”
So outsider country it is for Bostick, who took a long and winding road to recording his self-titled debut album, due July 7.
“For me, growing up in South Carolina, there was no such thing as a professional musician,” he says. “If you said you were going to be a musician, that was the same as saying you were going to be a sorcerer: ‘OK, good luck.’ ”
After receiving his high school diploma in 2002, Bostick attended the University of South Carolina before transferring to New York University. After graduation, he began working various gigs in various locales. A connection at NYU led Bostick to a job as a rancher in Nevada, then after that, he was a writer for a Seattle newspaper, with each job lasting about six months.
While in Seattle, Bostick met a woman in the movie industry, and he went with her to Los Angeles, where he was a film loader for about two years. He moved to Paris and attended a film school there, then returned to the U.S. in 2008, living in Rhode Island and New York before settling in the Los Angeles area a few years later to write movie scripts.
Bostick’s writing partner also had a rock/R&B band called Public Trust and asked him in 2011 to join as second guitarist. Up to that point, music had been a “passion and release” for Bostick, who’d often pull out his guitar and write a song after a long day on a movie set.
When Public Trust’s bassist offered some positive feedback after hearing a demo of a Bostick original called “Independence Day Eve,” Bostick once again changed careers.
He began his foray as a country singer-songwriter at open-mic nights in the Los Angeles area. Turned off by the prospect of having to wait hours just to play two songs — and in some cases being charged $5 to perform — Bostick decided to try busking.
His first attempt lasted about an hour and took place in 2015 at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. It was memorable, but not in a good way.
“It was really loud,” recalls Bostick. “A drummer with a full drum kit set up about 20 feet away from me.”
A few months later, he tried the Santa Monica Pier, and the results were much better.
“It was amazing. You’d set up and start playing, and a crowd would gather,” Bostick says. “People would come up to me between songs and ask, ‘Do you have any CDs to sell?’ I was like, ‘No, but I wish I did.’ Within a week, I think my life changed. I was going out there and making a living, a decent amount of money, just playing my original songs to strangers on a pier.”
Bostick says he made enough money from busking at the Santa Monica Pier (five days a week, initially at night, around other jobs) to help finance his first EP, My Country, released in 2016.
For his forthcoming album (which contains the aforementioned “Independence Day Eve”), Bostick worked with co-producer John Would, whose studio credits include engineering Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel …, a Bostick favorite.
“I was introduced to him by Nashville singer-songwriter Marchelle Bradanini, who goes by Pony Boy,” says Bostick. “I was looking for a spot to do my record, and I really wanted to do something live in the studio [with my backing band].”
Would’s facility turned out to be very close to where Bostick lived, and last November, they got the ball rolling on the new album by recording “Sweet Thursday.” As the sessions progressed, Bostick says Would was open to trying things out and casually offered suggestions as well.
“He has no interest in ‘putting his stamp’ on the record,” says Bostick. “He’s there to record the act.”
And in this case, it’s what the world will come to know as an outsider country act.
— By Chris M. Junior
Ben Bostick on tour (schedule subject to change):
• June 25: Spoke Bicycle Café — Los Angeles
• June 25: The Escondite — Los Angeles
• July 2: The Escondite — Los Angeles
• July 8: Lengthwise Pub — Bakersfield, California
• July 9: The Escondite — Los Angeles