News Column

Dave Barnes understands art and responsibility

July 17, 2014

By Wayne Bledsoe, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

July 17--Singer-songwriter Dave Barnes doesn't mind being a slasher.

"I don't think any of us can do just one thing any more," says Barnes in a call from his home in Nashville. "We're all kind of slashers. You know -- singer/songwriter/producer/artist/background singer and, for me, /stand-up comedian. ... I have a handful of friends who stopped doing the artist thing, because they want to be married and have kids. Some are writing or producing and some have gotten 9 to 5 jobs."

Barnes is also married and a father and is finding his own balance with his work. He's best known for his thoughtful songs and performances, Barnes has increasingly worked as a Nashville songwriter after the success of his song "God Gave Me You," which became a Billboard Country No. 1 hit for Blake Shelton in 2011.

"Slowly but surely writing for other people is starting to make some money for me. It's been great and I love it. That's why I started doing this, because I wanted to write songs for everybody else and then I felt like, 'Hey, I don't sound horrible when I sing' and that took off. Now it's like another part of this dream, which was actually first part of it."

A 1998 graduate of Farragut High School, Barnes spent his late teens in Knoxville. His father, Jim Barnes, is pastor at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church and his mother, Jane Barnes, teaches math at Farragut High. Dave really began to dive into music while attending Middle Tennessee State University in 1998. Four years later, he released his first album, "Brother Bring the Sun." Popular artists, including John Mayer, Amy Grant and Vince Gill, began mentioning Barnes as a favorite performer and helped introduce his music to new fans.

Barnes released several more albums over the next few years, including his new disc "Golden Days" -- his first since leaving Razor & Tie Records and releasing music on his own. He's also done a few nights as a comedian.

Fans tend to be obsessive about Barnes' music, but understands it.

"I'm that way," says Barnes. "I can get so let down by artists I love and I can also get so enthralled and excited by the same ones."

He says making albums can be tricky after a while, because it's an artist's natural inclination to stretch and experiment, but audiences aren't always understanding.

"You listen to artists for different reasons. The reason I'd listen to Michael Jackson is a different reason than I'd listen to Randy Newman. If I want to feel great I'll listen to (Michael Jackson's) 'P.Y.T' If I want to cry my eyes out I'll listen to (Randy Newman's) 'Feels Like Home.' It's great, because music can get you to where you want to go emotionally. I've realized that I have songs that do that for people and, by and large, people go back to artists when they put records out and say 'Hey, are you gonna be that bridge to that emotion for me?' Whether we like it or not, we associate artists with how they make you feel. That's hard for me and my buddies, because you go, 'I want to make that electronica record.' You kind of realize that's selfish. What do those fans do who want you to make that record that reminds them of them of things and makes them feel things and is something they make memories to? But then you make that record about Garfield that cat that you love because every song is in a different key and a different time signature. You depend on these artists for things and when they deliver that they become more and more important to you."

Barnes says he's gotten better as a performer as he's gotten older and it's great to have a good body of songs to choose from for concerts.

"This last tour was the first time I realized I was going to leave out songs that were kind of my essentials. You write a new record and you only play three songs from it, because if you do you'll have to leave out something and someone will send you hate mail with pieces of your hair that they cut while you weren't paying attention when you bought groceries!"


Dave Barnes

When: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24

Where: Square Room, 4, Market Square

Tickets: $20, advance, $25, day of show, $35 VIP,


(c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

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Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)

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