Listen: Boris McCutcheon

“Cactusman? Oh, that came from a recurring dream where I was a green superhero with poisonous barbs that could shoot out of my body, always fighting the blue demon,” Boris McCutcheon, also known as Cactusman, quips when asked about the origins of his name. He adds jokingly, “Did I win? I did, actually.” Jokes and potential sci-fi made-for-TV movie plots aside, the above levity and wit paired with an immeasurable love for the Southwest and an eclectic list of influences come together to create McCutcheon’s irresistible brand of rich Americana.

At the young age of 19, McCutcheon was paid by Folkways Records founder and ethnomusicologist Ralph Rinzler to drive his blues cylinders collection across the country. Needless to say, McCutcheon ended up with a lot more than a job from Rinzler, as a strong friendship blossomed. “He gave me guitar lessons when I was young and brazen, when I didn’t know anything at all,” McCutcheon says. The sights and the allure of the open road certainly served as an inspiration to create music, but Rinzler was the true spark.

As far as sonic influences are concerned, he proudly channels the greats of folk and rootsy Americana, but his lyrical ones are the true differentiators. Citing a seemingly incongruous group of people as influences, ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Walt Whitman, McCutcheon emphasizes the importance of lyrical content in his music, as opposed to a sole focus on the guitar and other instrumentation. “Sure it’s different, but it’s really important to have some decent lyrical material under the music, holding the music together. Those are the people that definitely influenced my writing.”

Although his primary genre may be Americana, don’t be expecting another run-of-the-mill, contrived wanderluster. McCutcheon’s songs are his life on paper. The cross-country road trip, the long afternoons spent on the farm, and the affair with the mountains all happened, and it’s this sincerity that sets his music apart from the mundanities of typical singer/songwriters. “To live your songs, for me, is the most important thing for an Americana singer to do,”  McCutcheon firmly reiterates. He does this with unparalleled grace and eloquence. Although he was born on the eastern seaboard, traveled extensively, and spent a fair amount of time in California, nowhere felt like home save the Southwest. He now writes his music from his farm in the mountains of New Mexico, living a bucolic, simple life full of family, work, and an undying admiration for nature. “I’ve surrounded myself with beautiful, scenic places and a lot of salty characters. It’s inspirational to have all of this life around you all of the time.”

The undeniable vivacity of McCutcheon’s life permeates every aspect of his music. Vivid imagery alongside irresistible melodies create a listening experience that puts you in the passenger seat of his car, living life to its fullest in, as he puts it, “the rustic reality.”

McCutcheon has four full-lengths to his name, with his immensely talented band, The Saltlicks. Garnering widespread acclaim throughout Europe landed his most recent work a number one spot on the Euro-Americana charts this past November and upcoming slated performances at festivals in the Netherlands. Success at home, though, has been a slow battle. Although frustrating, McCutcheon perseveres undauntedly, optimistic about the future. “I’ve always picked really hard things to do with my life – farming and music,” McCutcheon admits. With a chuckle, he adds, “Farming’s probably harder.”


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