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Thursday, December 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 34.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Singer-songwriter Briar Rabbit gets cerebral on From Your Bones
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Gut-wrenching sadness meets self-deprecating humor.
Credit:Carolyn Farth

I had Briar Rabbit pegged as a bookworm long before he told me he was once a teenage English nerd. Wry, witty and quick to laugh, the Berklee-educated artist adds self-deprecating humor to lyrics that are both gut-wrenchingly sad and pleasantly cathartic.

One of his saddest songs, "Lock Up Before You Leave," was recorded right after a breakup.

"It was three days after her birthday, and the sound engineer was in a booth 25 feet in the air, and it was just me and my guitar, and it was snowing,” Rabbit recalls.

Sharing such personal pain onstage is hard, but it isn't as harrowing as it might seem, he explains.

"You're still in the moment, but the moment is connecting with the audience," he says. "You're not in a vacuum with your thought."

Though he happens to be B.B. King's nephew, Rabbit says he's as influenced by Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan and Death Cab for Cutie as he is by the Motown and soul music of his Detroit upbringing. An avid reader who's been digging into Anthony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, he draws inspiration from authors, too.

"If me and my sorrow are moving down the street, are we walking down the street, are we pacing, are we running? It's all about those little words," he says.

But writers tend to interpret truths rather than discovering them, he adds.

"I think the key of writing is to try to make people think about things in a new way," he says.

Perhaps that's why Rabbit describes his sound as "thought-pop."

His latest album, From Your Bones, is his most polished and accessible combination of creativity and cerebral topics. Since the record drops Jan. 21, fans at his Jan. 17 concert at Redamte Coffee House will be among the first to enjoy its songs -- and Rabbit's newfound sense of accomplishment.

"I feel like I finally got my footing, not being overly brainy but making lyrics more intelligible than guttural noises and 'This hurts,'" he says with a laugh.

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