Briston Maroney’s Rescue Dog Is a Major Musical Influence · The Wildest

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How Briston Maroney’s Dog Helped Him Stay Calm While Recording His Latest Album

She inspired some of the indie-pop musician’s songs, too.

by Nisha Gopalan
December 1, 2023
Briston Maroney holding a guitar and looking at his dog
Photo: Alyssa Barker
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The first thing you need to know aboutBriston Maroney, the indie-pop musician with a penchant for the dreamiest of melodies, is that he’s been making music since he was a teen. (He was even a semi-finalist on American Idol back in season 13 and got amixtape shout-out from Taylor Swift herself in 2019.) The second thing you need to know about him: His dog is not only the apple of his eye, she’s just as important to him as his music. “I tell people I’m a dog dad, before I tell them I’m in music,” he tells The Wildest.

Thoughtful and easy-going, Maroney lives in Nashville with his singer-songwriter girlfriendSamia and the indefatigably loving Milk, a two-year-old Black Mouth Cur mix they rescued as a pup. “The coolest thing about having a puppy is the process of learning that what you do and consider to be important has to become unimportant very quickly,” he says.

He even credits Milk with supporting him throughout the creation of his deeply personal sophomore full-length album, Ultrapure. An introspective exploration of growing into adulthood, the album plays out like an emotionally panoramic soundtrack for your next roadtrip. “Milk was in the room when I was writing most of the album,” he says. “So, she honestly deserves a little publishing credit. 

We caught up with Maroney, who’ll embark on aheadlining tour throughout North America in January 2024, to chat about all things Milk, from their “demonic possessions” to some of their other curious, un-dog-like personality traits. 

Briston Maroney and his dog on chairs looking at each other
Photo: Alyssa Barker

Why did you name your dog Milk?

It’s kind of not a crazy story, but also a crazy story. When we met her, she was really shy. We kind of sat there — my girlfriend and I — with palms out and didn’t really move, to give her a few minutes. She came over after walking around and flopped down in my lap like a little weirdo. The word “milk” came out of my mouth. She was a weird little floppy dog, and she needed a weird little squiggly name.

Was it hard having a puppy?

Absolutely.

What is the best and the worst part?

I think the joys are kind of obvious: seeing them learn. Seeing them develop trust is such a beautiful thing. It’s the same with, you know, a human baby. And then the hardest parts are the sudden, demonic possessions that they get at, like, four in the morning, when they just want to devour you in a loving way. She would zoomy pretty hard for the first six months, but it’s manageable now. Between nine and 10, she still gets a real spark, but passes out afterwards.

Briston Maroney on a chair with guitars; Briston Maroney's dog on a chair
Photo: Alyssa Barker

How did you deal with her “demonic possessions?”

It was a wonderful lesson in patience. I just realized how much time I spent doing, you know, a lot of dumb stuff. I was playing video games and messing around. She has the most beautiful heart and soul, and it made me really prioritize her. I would gladly stop playing Elden Ring to play with this beautiful little creature. You know what I mean?

Have you ever heard of Leona Helmsley, the “Queen of Mean?” Dogs can inspire even the worst person to exhibit a glimmer of humanity, just because they don’t judge you.

It’s true. Even when she was doing her horrible, tyrannical, insane puppy stuff, her intentions were so pure. She never had malice in her heart. Even if it’s love for a squirrel that she’s chasing in the middle of the night.

How does she inspire your music?

It’s one of my favorite things to talk about, because it is just so real. The last record that I made, she was a huge part of it in regards to the perspective. I kind of did 9-to-5 days in the studio, but I’d come home and let her out multiple times throughout the day...I’m a very internalized-anxiety person, because making a record is an exciting thing but it’s also a horrifying thing.

It defines your entire future in a matter of weeks, you know what I mean? Regardless of whatever amount of anxiety I was dealing with, she would just be standing there in the yard with a stick in her mouth, completely oblivious. It was the most comforting thing in the world to be like, Man, if everything changes, she will still be this presence that loves me.

Briston Maroney holding his dog; Briston Maroney playing guitar with his dog
Photo: Alyssa Barker

Which of your songs are about her? Or reference her?

Oh my gosh, I mean, so many of them! There’s this one song called “Sink;Swim” on the new record that was definitely influenced by one of those times that I came home and sat with her after recording for the day. I felt alone, but also together with her. 

Do you ever take her to the studio or on tour?

She’s pretty anxious, like jumpy at sounds and things. But I did do an acoustic radio tour and brought her along because my girlfriend was out of town. One night I was like, Alright, we’re gonna just roll the dice here and bring her in and see what she does during the show. And I kid you not, she laid down next to me on the stage and fell asleep while I performed.

Do your fans ever give her any dog treats or toys?

Absolutely! Her favorite toy right now…somebody crocheted her a little, little pig. She’s obsessed with it. It’s her favorite. But she doesn’t, like, destroy it. It’s like her little baby. It’s really cute.

Briston Maroney and his dog running outdoors
Photo: Alyssa Barker

What outdoor activities do you do with her?

There’s some really great dog parks here in Nashville. One of them is calledTwo Rivers Dog Park; there’s a whole portion of it that’s wooded. It’s gigantic, like three acres or something. So, just letting her off the leash and letting her have this sense of complete freedom — she goes bananas out in the woods. She’s, like, such a little hunter. She’s obsessed with the squirrel-rabbit game. She also doesn’t like to swim but is obsessed with water. It’s like the car-crash thing, where you can’t look away. So if she’s near a body of water, she will obsessively stare at it and bark at it and bite it and paw at it. But she won’t get in!

That’s so odd.

She’s strange in every category that you could imagine. She doesn’t like to swim. She doesn’t like peanut butter! She turns her nose up at it like, How dare you? I think her most consistent weird thing is when she sits, she’ll put her back legs on the bed and then leave her front paws off the bed. So she’ll sit like she’s doing a high push-up.

Briston Maroney with his dog outside; Briston Maroney petting his dog on a chair
Photo: Alyssa Barker

How do you dog parent her with your girlfriend, who is also a touring musician?

It’s 100 percent a team effort. We kind of flip-flopped touring schedules, so somebody’s always there with her. In a perfect world, we’d be on the road together and bring the dog, but it hasn’t been an option yet. I grew up around big dogs. We always had two or three Labs at a time.

Sam, my partner, grew up with, like, little Chihuahua mixes. That’s just a different ballgame. It’s a little different when a big dog is going crazy. If Milk is misbehaving, I’m just like, Alright, let’s take 10 minutes and what she really needs is stimulation or attention. She’s clearly got energy that she doesn’t know what to do with. So, instead of disciplining her, I’m just like, let’s go outside. Let’s run around like crazy for 10 to 15 minutes.

Does she prefer one of you over the other?

It changes so much, because we’ve both spent an equal amount of time with her. I don’t think that she’s really got a favorite. But I will say this for sure: She is so much happier when we’re both home; she’s up at 6 a.m. like, Alright! The gang’s back together. What are we going to do?

nisha gopalan illustration

Nisha Gopalan

Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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