At this unsettling period in our history, when many of us wish we could time travel to a simpler past, old friends and collaborators Kristian Bush and Andrew Hyra reconvene to do just that with their music. As folk-rock duo Billy Pilgrim, Bush and Hyra are set to release the album In the Time Machine this fall. The breathtakingly delicate and redemptive first single “Call It Even” premieres Thursday with a lyric video.
Bush says the song is a “reflection on forgiveness.” “Gotta get out of this race, can’t run anymore, stay out of my face, back away from my door/Paid my dues and I’m still breathing, c’mon have a heart, call it even,” he and Hyra sing in the gentle guitar tune’s opening verse. Supplementing the lyric video’s poignant message is a series of inspirational messages, one of which says, “It’s quite a thing to sabotage your opportunities. As you get older, it’s quite a bit more of a thing to realize that you sabotaged others.”
Taking their band name from the time-traveling character in the Kurt Vonnegut novel Slaughterhouse Five, Billy Pilgrim were signed to major label Atlantic, releasing a pair of LPs in the Nineties and gaining further exposure when their music was featured in a number of TV shows including Melrose Place and My So-Called Life. Moving on to separate projects in 2000, Bush would record solo LPs and famously team with Jennifer Nettles in the country duo Sugarland. Hyra found work as a carpenter in Atlanta and also performed with his band Smokin’ Novas before moving to Connecticut. Never officially disbanding, Billy Pilgrim reunited onstage in 2016 at Atlanta’s Eddie’s Attic.
“It is time,” Bush and Hyra tell Rolling Stone Country of the reunion and its greater mission. “It is time to play more music together, share a bunch that was left in store. It is time to activate what we started many years ago. It’s time to use our voices and hands to bring the conversation back to peace, love, harmony and forgiveness. The world outside our windows is strange, splintered and cracked and we, Billy Pilgrim, are here to remind you of who we all were back when, and who we all can be now.”
Slated for a fall release, the album includes previously unreleased tracks that were recorded two decades ago, only to have the master tapes lost in a Decatur, Georgia, studio fire.