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Interview with Jamie Barnes
May 1, 2006

So I guess since Silber put forth the money to put out Jamie’s first two records, it’s easy to see we’re fans.  He’s a singer-songwriter from Louisville & while we joke about him being a little kid, time has passed now & he’s as grown up as anybody.  He’s probably the artist on Silber who would be the most likely to appear on MTV.

a picture of Jamie
QRD – So over the past year or so you’ve gone from doing ten shows a year to ten shows a month.  How has this affected your songwriting? 

Jamie – Any new song is first heard live, and so I can usually determine if I want to pursue putting it down on tape after playing it a few times in front of an audience.  Since I play alone, most songs are written with guitar as opposed to using any other instruments as the tool of origin.  Fallen Acrobat was full of songs that were penned using a piano or something else and ultimately do not get played live because of that limitation. 

QRD – What would you like to do in your next album to make it different from the previous two?

Jamie – I want it to sound bigger than the first two.  I have some new recording equipment and have a little more experience with tweaking knobs and buttons to get a fuller sound.  A large amount of the songs are influenced by my recent separation from the church I grew up in, though the stories are told from a perspective of another character.  Lyrically, the songs actually have a bonding glue that keeps them together more like a “concept record.” I will probably have more to say on that once it is completely finished which will hopefully be by June of this year. 

QRD – You recently did a free internet EP.  How did it come about & what’s the difference for you between an EP & an album? 

Jamie – Sundays In Spring is an internet label based out of Belgium.  They contacted me about doing an EP for their online series and I was certainly excited to comply.  Most of the material for that EP was left over or unfinished songs from the Honey From the Ribcage sessions.  To me, an EP can be more diverse and more focused on the individual songs rather than the whole picture of an LP.  I think that releasing an EP on the internet is smarter than physically pressing it.  It generally costs the same to manufacture an EP as it does a full length CD.  But you can’t sell it for as much money.  Why not fill in the space between albums with a free bunch of songs for fans and save everybody the dough?  Makes sense to me. 

QRD – How long out do you see digital distro completely replacing physical sales & how do you see that effecting music in general & your music in particular? 

Jamie – It’s probably days away.  It’s amazing the new audience I have obtained based on that EP alone.  I have mixed feelings over the whole issue... but the trend in sales seems to point in the increase of online sales as opposed to dollars spent in the record stores.  I’m happy to put on music in any fashion just as long as it can reach anyone who wants to hear and can legally obtain it.  I love the format of vinyl records.  But I also love balloon pants.  Both are dying trends.

QRD – Some of your songs have a lot of religious allusions.  Would you ever think about breaking into the CCM market? 

Jamie – I can’t say I’m a huge fan of what comes out of the CCM market, although I am certainly in support of the message that is usually delivered.  I am a Christian and that permeates every nuance of my life, so naturally it comes out in my songs.  However, I don’t think the CCM labels would be interested in what I do.  Most of the music that comes out of that world is praise music.  My stuff is more from the “let’s tear our clothes, wear sackcloth and ask for forgiveness” point of view.  I can’t really envision any of my songs being sung in a church setting.  That would be one sleepy Sunday morning service!  Besides, sharing faith is a huge part of the Christian lifestyle and releasing my music within a secular market allows me to reach some listeners who might never be exposed to it if it were within a more closed off perimeter.

QRD – You used to be in a straight ahead pop-rock band.  What is the best thing & worst thing about working on music on your own? 

Jamie – Obvious pros are not having to compromise and not having to share a paycheck.  The con side of the coin would be my lack of self-confidence and motivation.  I can be really hard on myself and without any kind of other input, sometimes I get too enveloped in what I’m doing and ruin things by over-thinking.  I miss the encouragement that comes with having musical partners.  It’s hard to be excited about a specific song when there is no one else there to talk about it with.  Also, it is sometimes hard to drown out all the chitter-chatter of a busy club with a lonely acoustic guitar.  I miss being able to turn the volume knob to eleven so people have to listen.

QRD – I know you took a sabbatical from having a day job to concentrate on music.  What do you think you have accomplished or learned with this extra time on your hands that you couldn’t have other wise? 

Jamie – I’ve learned that I am horrible with managing my own time.  I think having that much time to yourself is poisonous.  You get accustomed to being selfish and self-centered.  Also, scheduling “creative time” is an impossible.  Inspiration cannot be booked days in advance.  It is a natural process that occurs within it’s own time.  I’ve nearly gone insane by working on music full time and have recently gone back to working a day job.  I feel much better now.  So does my bank account.

QRD – You occasionally talk about touring, when & how would you like to? 

Jamie – I think that it is finally going to happen this fall/winter season out along the west coast.  I would also like to get over to Europe before my wife and I begin starting a family.  Hopefully more of playing while traveling will occur on the heels of the third album’s release. 

QRD – Do you feel a lot of camaraderie with other musicians in Louisville? 

Jamie – I feel connected with a few.  There are a lot of great musicians around the area and some have become really good friends.  I think I have different goals than most do.  There is a lot of ambition here but not a lot of room to grow.  I feel content with the direction my music career has gone and do not have much interest in forming business alliances with anyone locally.  I get a lot of offers to join bands or join local music associations.  Not really my bag.  But I do enjoy playing shows in Louisville areas with the friends I have made. 

QRD – Do you feel a lot of camaraderie with other musicians on Silber, your music is a bit different in style? 

Jamie – I guess I kind of feel like the ugly duckling of Silber sometimes.  Most artists on the label have been going at it a lot longer than me and I feel like I am the naive rookie that has a lot to learn.  I am different that way and in terms of style.  However, no one at the label has ever made me feel unwelcome.  Everyone at Silber is incredibly nice and have done nothing but encourage and help me.  I would really like to hook up with other Silber artist while touring and start meeting more of them face to face.  I am lucky to be a part of the label family and enjoy the friendships I have made within it.  Brian John Mitchell is like family to me and my wife.  It has recently been pointed out that we look an awful lot a like.  We could definitely pass as brothers should we ever want to deceive some unsuspecting person.

QRD – You think Revenge of the Sith is the best Star Wars movie, what makes it better than Empire Strikes Back

Jamie – I’ve had this argument many times and am not totally sure of my position to this day.  However, you can’t get much better than Darth Sidious versus Yoda in a light saber duel.  C’mon!?!  The only head to head match that would have been more exciting that than would have been if Reagan and Gorbachev arm-wrestled to end the Cold War.  Both movies have that gritty dark edge to them that easily makes them the superior films in either trilogies.  I remember seeing Empire at a young age and being pretty inconsolable about the whole Han Solo in carbonite deal.  That scene affects me even still.

QRD – What’s been your favorite review of your music, most accurate, & least accurate? 

Jamie – I feel pretty fortunate with the majority of my press being positive.  Some journalists have caught on with a lot of the more subtle Biblical analogies.  Some of the more inaccurate assumptions have been that “Black Lung” is about my personal bout with cancer (huh?).  Also one writer said that my music would best fit as the theme song to any one of the WB sitcoms.  I’m not sure if that was suppose to be positive or a cut.  I didn’t feel flattered.  I was also pretty astonished to see a nice review of Ribcage in Gothic Beauty

QRD – When you originally sent your demos to Silber what did you know about Silber besides the Alcohol EPs release?  How many demos did you send out & did you hear back from anyone else? 

Jamie – I don’t remember hearing back from anybody except for Silber.  I found Rivulets through MP3.com as it was in those days.  That led me to Silber and the Alcohol EPs release, which I felt was the best thing I had heard in a long time.  Once I had sampled more music from the rest of the catalog I thought I would give it a shot and send a demo out to North Carolina.  A few weeks later, Brian called me on the night I moved out of parents house as a 19 year old kid.  I talked to him about music for about 3 hours in my new apartment that had absolutely no furniture.  It was a really exciting time for me.

QRD – I know you own kind of a lot of instruments, what ones would you consider yourself proficient in?  How does playing other instruments affect your songwriting? 

Jamie – I must say I can rock the six-string pretty good.  I used to be into Joe Satriani and Steve Vai as a teen and could shred the scales well enough to impress my buddies in high school.  Once that phased passed, I started trying to fool around with other instruments to help provide extra color to my little acoustic songs.  I am really not that good with any other instrument, but I can piddle around with some enough to make it work.  I own a banjo, a keyboard, a flute, glockenspiel, and some Indian instruments such as the sarod and sitar.  I can beat around on the drums a bit too since my dad was a former pro.

QRD – Has your dad having been a semi-pro musician helped you find a healthy placement for music in your life?  What advice has he given you about music?

Jamie – I suppose.  He has always been very supportive of anything I do.  He was much younger than I am now when he was at the height of his success and the scene seemed to be a lot different.  More than anything, I think my father always stressed certain things like having a healthy spiritual life along with a good sense of duty towards others.  Those always took priority over musical advice and now tend to shape how I look at music as a profession.  Both of my parents wanted their children to be good people more than they wanted them to be famous or wealthy.  Music means a lot to me, but it is not the only thing.  I try to see writing songs as a means to serve and contribute.  That is what my dad taught me.  But he does have some pretty neat stories about hanging out with Jim Morrison and opening up for some crucial bands of the era.  QRD should interview him next issue. 

QRD – What’ve been the best & worst musical gear purchase you’ve ever made? 

Jamie – The best move I made was buying a Digitech RP6 processor ten years ago as an aspiring guitar geek.  I use that big hunk of junk even now with my acoustic in my live show.  It’s one of the best pedals I have heard and has lasted through quite a lot of punishment.  The worst purchase was probably one of the aforementioned Indian instruments that are extremely expensive and even more difficult to play.  They basically have become house decorations.  I am also pretty fond of the wide diaphragmed condenser mic I bought for the new album sessions.  It sounds pretty decent and my tendency as a vocalist to really have hard sibilants is not as noticeable with it.  I don’t have a lisp or anything... I just hit my “s” sounds pretty hard when I sing.

QRD – You record at home.  Would you be interested in recording in anyone else’s studio or a big studio? 

Jamie – Yes, as long as I don’t have to pay for the time.  My pockets don’t really go that deep.  I would be interested in working with a different producer.  I think it would be nice to just focus on the performance of a song rather than all the entire engineering side of recording.  But I am pretty comfortable to have complete privacy while trying to work.  I can make as many mistakes as I want without feeling like I am wasting someone else’s time.

QRD – Rumor has it you’ve stopped listening to much music by other singer-songwriters in favor of reggae & Black Sabbath.  How is listening to this music effecting your music?

Jamie – That is true.  I don’t think any of what I have been listening to has crept in to my songwriting style.  Maybe I am blind to that.  These days, the stereo is usually loaded with Toots and the Maytals, any Lee Perry work, or African artist Fela Kuti.  Black Sabbath is heard on occasion... usually very late at night.  I also have recently acquired a taste for early soul music.  I wish I could sing like a young Solomon Burke.

QRD – What stereotype of musicians are you most annoyed by people associating with you? 

Jamie – I feel bad sometimes about how often I decline drinks.  I don’t drink alcohol and therefore I don’t have any interest in hanging around after a show and sitting at the bar with people until the early morning.  I like to go home to my wife after a show.  I am not trying to be unsocial or judgmental, I just have other things on my agenda.  I think this fact has rubbed a few people the wrong way.  So don’t take it personally when I turn down a beer.  I play folk music after all.

QRD – Anything else?

Jamie – I think the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the most exciting time in sports all year long.  More hockey games should be broadcast on television in this country.  Unfortunately, I live in a region where basketball and Nascar come first to local network affiliates.  Who can I write a letter to about this?
Other QRD interviews with Jamie Barnes:
Interview with Jamie Barnes (September 2013)
Musician Dad interview with Jamie Barnes (May 2012)
Christian Musician interview with Jamie Barnes (March 2011)
Guitarist interview with Jamie Barnes (June 2010)
Interview with Jamie Barnes (February 2007)

i heart fx - Jamie Barnes (May 2006)