'Unknown Rider' sings about military life


Brian Boland performs at Ghost Harbor brewing company in Elizabeth City, Friday, Feb. 9.


By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor

Friday, February 23, 2018

In his first album called "Unknown Rider," Brian Boland gives listeners an insider's look into his day-to-day life as a Coast Guard pilot.

His songs are honest about life in the military, without being super patriotic like some music floating around, said Boland, who is stationed in Elizabeth City.

His lyrics talk about chasing down drug smugglers, the death of a fellow flight school graduate, gazing at familiar beaches at Cape Hatteras from far out at sea, and being away from family.

One of his songs "Mexico" reflects his inner thoughts as he flew a counter narcotics mission to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

Here are several lines:

The calvary is talking to me and I told them where you went

You can run and hide on the rising tide

But I'll find you day or night

Your trip will end and I'm not your friend

And there's gonna be a gunfight

He will be performing on March 16, along with another band Sensi Trails, at Ghost Harbor Brewing Company, 606 B East Colonial Ave. Music will kick off at 6 p.m.

Boland plays the acoustic guitar and sings the lead on his album. He had help from musician friends, active duty Air Force in the Raleigh area, with instrument back-ups and recording.

He said their sound does not fit exactly into any one genre. If he had to describe it, he would call it "Southern Rock & Roll" with its mix of steel guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, organ, piano, drums. In "Mexico," Boland half-sings, half-talks in a Johnny Cash-style song. Boland said he was doing some final clean-ups on the vocals for the album when he tried the variation for fun and ended up liking it.

Since the CD was released in May, Boland has been performing at local night spots in Elizabeth City and Tidewater, Va. He said his songs about military life have pleased audiences, and he's hoping to enlist more musicians with military experience to perform with him.

"There's not a lot of songs out there that are geared to the military," he said.

Boland, 37, said his music career began late without any prior band experiences. He grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., where he spent a lot of time on the water. He went into the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with early intentions to serve on a ship. A couple of years later, he decided to attend flight school, and now with 10 years of flying experience, he helps train new pilots arriving in Elizabeth City. He and his wife Beth are parents to daughter Elli.

He started playing guitar after his wife bought him a starter instrument for Christmas 2010.

"A few years ago, I put three chords together in a hotel room in Central America and wrote a song. At the time, I had no idea what I was doing, and in a lot of ways I still don't," his CD jacket reads. "A man just gets it in his head at some point that he has something to say, a story to tell, and the vague notion that someone else might actually understand and appreciate the intended point."

He got the idea to record a full album, and some buddies from Raleigh provided the expertise he lacked in executing the project. Everybody worked at different times on the back-up tracks and came together over a few weeks, using a house as a studio, to create the recording.

The title of the CD "Unknown Rider" is a term that air traffic controllers use when addressing an unidentified aircraft. Because of the nature of their work, Coast Guard aircraft "get pinged" from time to time, noted Boland. Fail to identify themselves, and the Air Force will quickly arrive to escort the errant aircraft.

His album cover shows Boland, guitar in hand, standing in the back of a landed C-130, looking out at the landscape in El Salvador. He created a music video, using actual footage from a flight. Boland said he set his phone on camera mode during the flight out of Key West, Florida, and left it alone. He was on the road, so he had free time at the motel later to edit the video.

His music is available on Spotify, iTunes and other online streaming services.

Boland also wrote his first novel "Caribbean's Keeper" that was released in 2016. The novel tells the story of an ousted Coast Guard officer who turns to drug smuggling.