'Chronicles of a Diamond' is out now
After releasing a successful debut album, Black Pumas, like most artists, were under pressure to make their follow-up record even better than the first. But once they cast that pressure aside, they unearthed Chronicles of a Diamond.
"There was absolutely no pressure on the first one. So compared to that, this was really, really new territory for us," Adrian Quesada, 46, tells PEOPLE. "I tend to operate pretty well under pressure and don't mind it, but I'm not going to say it didn't mess with me or keep me up at night."
Black Pumas, which consists of guitarist/producer Quesada and lead vocalist Eric Burton, released their self-titled debut album in 2020 and earned three Grammy nominations for it. Soon after, the duo began working on what would become Chronicles of a Diamond.
"As Eric started to come up with song titles, I remember thinking, 'Man, it sounds like a book.' What a cool way to tell everybody, to paint or present this as the chronicles of everything we've been through," Quesada explains. "We've been through so much since we met. So it was just the chronicles of everything happening the last few years."
He adds, "A friend of mine actually pointed out, like, 'I don't think this was the intention behind [Burton's] lyrics, but to me, this has another level of meaning to it.' Diamonds are created under intense pressure. And it sort of went back to this idea of the pressure of the sophomore album."
Burton, 34, who wrote the majority of the album's lyrics, also felt that pressure, but ultimately trusted their work and pursued themes of individuality on the LP.
"It's very, very inspiring and cool to be yourself. A lot of the songs came from some really interesting places as snapshots of our life on this journey," he says. "I feel like we were making material and songs from a place that wasn't necessarily following the rules and or standards that the music industry might have on artists who are a part of cultivating popular music."
For Burton, those interesting places were largely recalling his days busking on the Santa Monica pier — which he doesn't consider much different from playing in the band.
"On the Santa Monica Pier, the tools that I had was my voice and my guitar," he says.
"It feels like life is pretty infinite in opportunities and places to be and go," he continues. "It's been such a bizarre trip, and so I just hope to continue to be myself and be moved in my own excitability towards cultivating and concluding ideas for people to then palate just as well as I was when I was busking."
Several songs on the album have hidden messages of hope and inspiration, but "Angel" is particularly special to Burton as it's about building a bridge between darkness and light — like he did in his own life.
"It's beautiful. Being able to conclude that song is reflective of how important it is to follow through regardless of what your situation might be," he says. "You might be busking in a subway of Los Angeles not knowing where your train is going to lead, to then playing that same song for thousands upon thousands of people in South America for Lollapalooza who are there to hear that song and not just walking by and minding their own business. It's been beautiful."
The duo — who met in 2017 via a mutual friend — also opened up about growing together as a band and developing a "sixth sense" in music.
"When you're on tour, you're working together, living together, partying together, laughing together, crying together, all the things," Quesada says. "And if we're working on a song, I can tell when it's bringing out the best in Eric and I can tell when he's trying to bring out the best in me. We have that sixth sense of just spending so much time working together that I think was really good for this album."
And though the group's debut was a successful one, Burton stresses that it was rooted in years of hard work and pursuing their greatest love — music.
"What happened for Black Pumas was very fortunate in our first album, but the fact that stands is that we're not coming from just becoming a band within a year and a half to also see a Grammy nomination that makes us something of a reality in other people's eyes," he says.
Burton adds, "We're coming from history. We're coming from families who love and appreciate music, who are also hard workers. And our union is something of an anomaly to ourselves."
Chronicles of a Diamond is out now.
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