with Jamie Barnes
February 13, 2007
Well, our beloved Jamie Barnes may be headed towards the big time with his new label deal on Sonablast. But hopefully he will always remember the glory days at QRD & Silber. He has a new record called The Recalibrated Heart that is his best yet & the interview makes a lot more sense if you have it as an audio reference. His website is here & you can buy his records here. Oh, Speedball is a great video game from the early 1990's, let me know if you want to fly me out to wherever you live for a challenge match.
QRD – If someone were to say your music was a cross between two artists, whom would you most like them to say?
Jamie – Just going as far as influences & who I listen to the most & who I take nods from the most, I would love to be compared to Tom Waits as far as a lyricist/writer because he’s a genius. But I don’t sound anything like him, so that would have to be countered with something quiet & melodic & that would probably have to be Jackson Browne or something. Some reviewer had compared me to John Denver & Tom Waits, which was weird; but I kinda got what they were saying. It didn’t sit well at first, but after a while I took it as a pretty big compliment
QRD – On “Hell’s Adopted Mile” what did you use for the drums? Are they real or sequenced or what?
Jamie – They’re real. However, they were edited down & chopped & spliced to loop. It wasn’t a full drum track for the entirety of the song. I’d had that drum sample in my computer for a while, even before I’d written that song & I found it one day & just sorta messed with the tempo to get it where I wanted. So they are real drums, but recorded about a year or two before the song. They just seemed to fit.
QRD – Do you think that’s as close as you’ll ever get to a reggae song?
Jamie – [Laughs] No, in fact the next record is all reggae. [Laughs]
QRD – On “Don’t Turn My Love Down” did it all start with the train noise?
Jamie – No, as a matter of fact that was placed in later.
QRD – So do you use a click track then?
Jamie – Yeah. As far as recording it did start with that rhythm loop, but the writing of the song didn’t. But putting it to tape I used that as a click track & debated leaving it in or replacing it with something else. It ended up working I guess. It’s a little more interesting than normal drums.
QRD – So The Recalibrated Heart came out a few months ago & now it’s already being re-released, what’s that about?
Jamie – Well, a smaller label that was based out of here in Louisville, Kentucky called Pink Bullet put it out. They’re a very small label; in fact, this was their first release. They were just some friends of mine that were willing to fund it. They put it out in October of 2006. They’re whole idea was just to put it out & get their dream of starting a label started. They wanted to start with someone that sorta had a following & I have a little bit of people who know who I am. So they started with my disc. & then along came a bigger company called Sonablast who are originally from New York & the CEO Gil Holland who is also a movie producer moved to Louisville at the beginning of 2007. He heard about me & came to a couple shows & expressed an interest in buying out the record. He just bought it out from Pink Bullet in the past month & it’ll come back out in a couple months.
QRD – How do you think you’ve most changed as a songwriter over the past five years?
Jamie – There is a definite change. I’m more comfortable in my own writing skin. I know what I want to write about now as opposed to when I started out I wasn’t as focused. I know my limitations now, what I can get away with & what I can’t. I’m just learning to be more honest with myself. It’s no longer writing a song for catalog’s sake, but actually having something to say & caring about the issues I write about. As opposed to before, when I was younger, it was more of a presentation dog & pony show & “Look at what I can write.” The overall focus now is on the lyrics & the overall theme of the song rather than a particular sound. On The Fallen Acrobat, lyrics didn’t necessarily take a back seat but it was more about the overall feel of the record. Now I write songs because I want to say something. When I started that record I was only 18 & now I’m 25. A lot of it has to do with growing up a little bit & I still have a lot more growing up to do. Hopefully it will continue to morph & change & improve.
QRD – What song most reflects where you think you’re headed & why?
Jamie – I’m really proud of the song “Vampire Movie,” which is the first song on The Recalibrated Heart. Lately a lot of people have been coming up to me after a show & taking a stab at what they think that song’s about. It’s not that I want to be cryptic or I want college kids to write papers on my stuff, but I like people to come up with their own interpretations, which are usually pretty close to what I had in mind. It has a lot of layers to it; historical imagery, violent imagery. I’m really proud of it. It’s one of the few songs I can listen to a year later & not cringe. I’m happy with the response that it’s gotten & that people want to listen to it enough to figure it out. I enjoy that.
QRD – How has not having a day job effected your musical career? Have you found it has made you hungrier or lazier & would you suggest it to other artists?
Jamie – Well, it varies from day to day. Once I get involved with writing something & I’m on a roll I love to have the time to do that. Or if I have a lot of shows coming up, I have time to prepare for them. However, now that the record’s been out I’m just trying to regain creative momentum again. So right now I’m not really writing anything. Because you’re kind of spent after a record & you have to regroup & re-energize a bit. So now I’m just flat-out lazy. The only way I could recommend it is if you are financially able to do it. It varies from month to month with me. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the re-release, but now I’m back into thinking, “Maybe I should have a day job for a little while.” I ping-pong back & forth about how wise or unwise it is. The only way to recommend it is if you’re financially able because idleness is a tricky thing & it really isn’t always a good thing for me to have so much time on my hands because my mind starts straying.
QRD – What is the recording software you’re currently using & how did you end up with it?
Jamie – I use a couple different programs. Mainly I use N-Track Studio, which is made by Fasoft who are an Italian company & you can download that from their website. It’s similar to Pro-Tools, it’s a multi-tracker but it’s incredibly cheaper. I’ve been using that since the beginning, for six or seven years with periodic updates. It’s a cool program that works well for me at a fraction of the cost of Pro-Tools. Then I use Sound Forge for effects & editing things, you can buy that at any computer retailer. Combined together they make a pretty good experience. They’re not super super fancy, but when you learn the ins & outs it’s a pretty good combo.
QRD – When you’re recording, what tracks do you put down first & how much do you have the rest planned out when you lay your first track down?
Jamie – I usually put down guitars & vocals first & I may go back & change those. But that’s the spine to put the bones around.
QRD – Do you use a click track?
Jamie – Yeah. I’m big on rhythm being a son of a drummer. I notice if a song speeds up or slows down & it really doesn’t sit well with me. So usually a click track, then the main guitar, a temporary vocal to let me know where I am in the song, & then it goes from there. It varies if I know what’s going to be added next. Sometimes I have ideas, but there is a lot by just trial & error with “I wonder what this would sound like with a piano part.” Generally I just write songs with my guitar & they get put down & stuff is added bit by bit just for atmosphere or color or what have you. So a lot depends on how my ear is working that day.
QRD – What would have to happen for you to work with someone else recording &/or producing your music?
Jamie – Number one, it would have to not cost me anything. Because I don’t have the money to throw down for recording unless someone wants to fund it. Which none of the labels I’ve worked with to this point have had the resources to fund a recording session; which is fine because I really don’t mind doing it all at home, it’s really convenient. But if I like someone’s work enough & they wanted to produce it for a reasonable price or free or someone wanted to fund it then that’s fine. As far as it being collaborative I’m always up for that. Lately I have been working with other artists on different projects & I have a lot of fun working with a lot of musicians whom I’ve just met over the past year through the church I go to. They’re incredible musicians & we’ve just been working on tons of projects. Sometimes it’s good to get out of the hole you’ve been in & mingle with other people.
QRD – So John Burgess Ross played accordion & mandolin on “Day that Cuts Till Dawn”, was there a reason he appeared on just that one song?
Jamie – That’s the only song that I thought could use those instruments. At the end of the recording sessions for the album, that song was just missing something. That was the one song that was irking me among the other ten as far as needing something. I’d tried guitar solos or whatever that I can do & I was like, “No… what is it that I’m hearing here?” I’d known John for a while & new that he was a great mandolin player & invited him over & it took him two takes to do what he did & it worked & it was beautiful. He’d also brought along his accordion & I said, “Let’s see what that sounds like,” just as an experimentation & I liked it so much that I kept that too. It was just a matter of filling the holes that were there & now it’s tough to imagine that song any other way. So it was really just out of sheer desperation.
QRD – How many people would you ideally have on stage for a Jamie Barnes show?
Jamie – Lately I’ve been playing with a band at some bigger shows. We actually had a pretty full band. I played with me sticking to vocals & acoustic guitar & then an upright bass player, an electric guitarist who switches back & forth to lap steel, a drummer, an extra percussionist, & a keyboard player with a Fender Rhodes. So that’s six including me. It’s worked pretty well & the shows we’ve done have been pretty awesome & a lot of fun & I’m going to be doing more of that. But I won’t be doing that on the road. I’m going to be touring a little bit, but it’s just not feasible to take that many people on the road with me. But locally when a big act comes to town & I get to open for them, the band will come out. It adds a whole lot to the songs. More than I could ever do just by myself.
QRD – So do you think you’d do that line up for your next album?
Jamie – Possibly. All the guys I’ve been playing with, mostly what they do is studio work. They don’t play out a lot other than with me, but they are infamous session players here in Louisville. They can do stuff on their instruments that I can only dream of doing. I’ve thought about doing the next recordings with the band, but it just depends on the songs. I haven’t written anything for the next album & it just depends what the songs call for. I’m not gonna sacrifice a song just for the sake of having a band. Who knows, what comes out of me next may just need a nylon string guitar & my voice. I’ll just take it song by song.
QRD – Last year you did the internet EP, you have any more plans for such things?
Jamie – Yeah, I’ve thought about it. But once again, it depends on what material comes up. I have some left over songs from The Recalibrated Heart sessions, but I don’t know that I’m going to do anything with them. It helped out a lot. The internet EP gained me a lot of new listeners & a lot of good press to. It was definitely beneficial. I may wait until another album. It just depends what material comes up & what I think I can do with it. But I liked doing it & the company that did it, Sundays in Spring, is really cool.
QRD – What song from your catalog do you wish you’d never released?
Jamie – That’s a good question. I could easily go to something off of The Fallen Acrobat just because it’s my first record. However, I’m not going to go there. I’m gonna go to Honey from the Ribcage & I’m gonna say the song “Oil Rig” because I don’t think it fit. I don’t think it was of the same caliber as the rest of the songs on that record & there’re a couple of critics who caught on to that too. I don’t really regret it ever being released, but it shouldn’t have been grouped with the rest of the songs on that album. It just doesn’t hold up to them, so that’s a regret.
QRD – Do you run into personal censorship when putting religious allusions in songs or do you just leave them in & take the flak for it?
Jamie – Lately I’ve been taking the flak. I’m not as afraid now to put those things in there. Whether people respond positively or negatively to them is up to them. I don’t censor myself anymore as far as, “Whoa, I better back off from this.” If something is tugging at me to put it to paper & to put it to song, then I’m going to do it. If it costs me a few listeners, then so be it. I hope that it doesn’t & it helps me gain listeners; but when you’re dealing with spiritual issues & very personal things – I’m not going to apologize for what I believe or how I feel. I don’t want to back down from those things. & so far so good. Obviously there is a lot of Christian imagery because I am a Christian. But even people of different faiths or no faith in particular have responded well to that sort of thing. I don’t think it’s turned anybody off, which is cool.
QRD – So you haven’t really run into indie rockers who are like, “uhg, Christian stuff,” or Christians who are like, “why are you wasting your time not doing praise music?”
Jamie – No, actually. & I had thought I would run into both. Especially with the new record being more geared towards religious imagery. But I think people appreciate the accessibility it gives to non-Christian listeners & the Christians who listen to my type of music generally hate the CCM music anyway. I’m not a big fan of contemporary Christian music. I’m not opposed to its message, but musically it doesn’t speak to me. So I think anyone listening to me isn’t into that over the top emotional stuff that the other stuff sounds like to me. I think they appreciate it. & that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to alienate anybody. I wanted it to be listenable to someone who doesn’t share the same values as me & I wanted the people who do share those same values to like it too. So far so good. Then again somebody might have that issue & just not have approached me about it. But so far it’s been pretty positive & I don’t plan on changing things.
QRD – So it seems you shaved your head & walk around in a Silber t-shirt to give off a more Silber appearance, how many push-ups are you up to these days?
Jamie – I don’t know. I haven’t been doing the Brian John Mitchell push-ups. But I have been playing street hockey to work out a little bit because my endurance had gotten so poor that I was getting winded running to answer the telephone. So I thought I would do something fun as well as exercise, so me & a bunch of other dudes that I know have started a little intramural street hockey league. Which is a pretty good workout. But I am looking a lot more like Brian John Mitchell these days.
QRD – How’s the game Speedball doing?
Jamie – Speedball is awesome, but you are still going to beat me when you come to play me.
QRD – It’s supposed to be on the Wii system when it comes out.
Jamie – I don’t think my wife is going to let me get a Wii. & the Wii seems like too much effort. When I want to play video games, it’s because I’m tired. I don’t want to stand up in my home & run in place or swing a fake light saber.
QRD – you mentioned earlier that you have some side projects going on?
Jamie – Yeah, they haven’t taken full form, but it’s stuff involved with the church I attend. The church I go to is pretty unique in that it has a pretty deep well of artist & musicians & stuff & that takes a lot of focus in what the church does. There are a lot of CD projects that come out of the church. Right now me & a couple guys are working on a concept record on the seven days of creation, but it’s in the early stages.
QRD – I think Siberia said they were going to do something with you?
Jamie – Yeah, they’re a local ambient band & they wanted me to add vocals to something. There’s always talk of stuff like that, but 90% of it never gets off the ground. There’ll be a couple meetings at a couple coffee shops & that’s as far as it goes.
QRD – Weren’t you supposed to be interviewing your dad for QRD? Whatever happened about that?
Jamie – He didn’t want to do it. He said he didn’t have anything to say, which is not true because he just did an interview with a radio station about his whole thing.
QRD – About his life as a musician?
Jamie – Yeah. They got all the members of his old band in the studio & they did an interview. So it’s not true that he has nothing to say.
QRD – What would be interesting about interviewing your dad to me & I think any musician going into their thirties that hasn’t made it financially & are certain they won’t make it financially in music is a hard reality to face. & the story of someone giving up their musical career & still feeling successful as a human being is a story worth hearing.
Jamie – I wouldn’t mind hearing that interview. Not even from my dad, but just in general. Because I know how my dad dealt with it, but I take it for granted because I am so close to it. But the idea of “It’s time to hang this up & move on to something else” scares the crap out of me everyday. It’s a harsh reality.
QRD – The thing that makes it even harder is since all your friends are musicians, when you abandon music they abandon you. Because if you are not a rocker, you cannot hang out with rockers.
Jamie – Right. & you trade it in for some office job where you start getting cubicle buddies. It’s a whole different lifestyle.
QRD – Anything else?
Jamie – I wanted to tell you that I heard
the worst song ever written the other day. When I say something is
a bad song, I don’t waste my time talking about amateurs; this was a song
that actually made it as a hit. In the 1990’s there was a band called
The New Radicals & the song is called “Someday We’ll Know” & the
video is up on YouTube.
It is the worst; it is cliché after cliché & seems like
a middle schooler’s diary.