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Billy Pilgrim's "Time Machine" return, 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

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Billy Pilgrim seemed fated to never release its planned third album. Until now.

The duo of Andrew Hyra and Kristian Bush is releasing "In the Time Machine" on Friday, Sept. 4 -- more than 20 years after they recorded it. After modest success during the 90s with singles such as "Hurricane Season" and "Insomniac," the two split up in 2001 and went their own ways: Bush eventually forming the country group Sugarland; and Hyra, a brother of actress Meg Ryan and a onetime resident of Royal Oak, released solo albums, started another band, the Smokin' Novas, and also began working as a carpenter in Connecticut. He now considers himself a musical "hobbyist."

Circumstances -- namely the coronavirus pandemic -- brought Bush and Hyra back together and back into the "Time Machine," literally. How active Billy Pilgrim becomes again remains to be seen, but both are happy to have turned back time and reconnected with their past, and each other...

• Bush and Hyra acknowledge during a joint phone conversation that they did not speak for many years -- more than a decade -- after Billy Pilgrim's demise. "About four years ago we were both playing a songwriter festival in Florida," Bush recalls, "and I was doing a writer’s round one night and I started playing a Billy Pilgrim song, 'Time Will Tell.' Andrew walked up on stage and we sang -- so we sang before we talked. Afterwards I was, 'Hey man...,' big hugs. How interestingly poetic it was for a conversation to begin by singing together."

• Bush says that having Sugarland's new album and tour postponed by the pandemic led him to do some musical housecleaning and created an opportunity to revisit the "In the Time Machine" tapes. "My attitude is there's always got to be a good side to everything that happens; You've just got to sit long enough and look at it," Bush says. "We've been talking about putting out 'Time Machine' for awhile, we just hadn't really had a good push from the people who manage me. But a good window of opportunity opened because of the pause that was going on in the (music) business. We just felt like now's the time to do what we've been wanting to." Hyra adds that, "We always thought it was one of the strongest things we ever did. I think it deserves the same footing as the other (two) albums we released."

• Because the master tapes to "Time Machine" had been lost in a fire, the version of the album is largely what would have been released during back when Billy Pilgrim made it. "We would have loved to remix and mastered it," Hyra says. "It would have been fun. We just did what we could with the tapes we had." Bush adds that, "We were just grateful that we had a master copy of the recording. It's great to have something to be able to go back and revisit -- and finally let people hear it."

• As much as finding the music, Bush and Hyra say they've been happy to reconnect with each other and revive their friendship. "There are two types of friends, and one is the kind you sit down and pick up right where you left off," Bush says. "With Andrew it's like that -- not only friendship wise, but creatively we can just pick right up like it was yesterday." Hyra adds that, "There's nothing that forges a bond like when you're in a band with somebody. It's a blood forge. He and I did it -- in a really remarkable and intense way, too. We went from playing at Eddie's Attic in front of 50 people to opening for Melissa Etheridge in front of 20,000, with just our two guitars. That's a lifetime imprint that will be there forever."

• And while Sugarland beckons once the group can get back to work, both Bush and Hyra anticipate we haven't heard the last of Billy Pilgrim. "We're starting to innovate on what we're doing and getting excited about making new music," Bush says. "The more we've talked about it the more curious we are about what we can do now. I know I have a whole set of skills more than I had back then, in the studio and also getting on stage. I'd love to do more together."

• Billy Pilgrim's new album, "In the Time Machine" -- its first in 24 years -- comes out Friday, Sept. 4.

• The duo performs at 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, on Paste magazine's Facebook page. Kristian Bush's other band, Dark Water, plays on the page at 1 p.m.

• Billy Pilgrim plays again at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, from Eddie's Attic in Decatur, Ga. via the group's Facebook and YouTube pages.

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