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Dave Barnes: Very Merry Christmas

| December 15, 2010 | 3 Comments

As singer/songwriter Dave Barnes tells it, he had a Harry Potter moment while in college. Like the poor, misunderstood boy living under the stairs with his Uncle and Aunt, Barnes also belonged to a magical tribe, but up to that point hadn’t realized it. “I was thinking I was weird, or something was wrong with me. But when I found the magazine Performing Songwriter, I thought, ‘You mean there’s a group of people who relate to this? Who have a hard time talking when there is a melody in their head or will run off and call their voicemail so they can remember how this one lyric goes?’”

A few years later, Barnes graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Recording Industry Management—”I’m one of the few musicians in the world actually using my major,” he laughs—and became a performing songwriter himself, relocating to Nashville to see what might happen.

At first very little was happening, with Barnes cutting his teeth in a 50-capacity room-and drawing just seven people at one point. But just a few years later, after crisscrossing the country and selling vanloads of two independent albums—Brother, Bring The Sun and Chasing Mississippi, the artist had landed songs on television and in films, and was well known to thousands who’d discovered his soulful, supple way with a melody, wrapping itself around a lyric that sneakily burrows under the skin. Those fans include Vince Gill and Amy Grant (who made guest appearances on Chasing Mississippi) and John Mayer, who said on his blog: “Go where this guy is taking you. My man’s aim is true!”


Once earning a following, Barnes played shows for years before he realized that often his audiences were singing every word of his songs along with him. “When I play, I’m so in the zone that I don’t really pay attention,” admits the artist, who performed hundreds of shows while still unsigned. “It’s only recently that I’ve appreciated that. Now, there are a couple of places in the set where I stop singing the song and let the audience sing. Not having a radio presence (yet), and being able to play places where people are singing songs loudly, it’s pretty amazing.”

His most recent releases, 2008’s Me and You and the World and 2010’s What We Want, What We Get and his holiday Very Merry Christmas, see Barnes’ trajectory continuing ever upward, garnering more fans and critical acclaim. But he never made a conscious decision to arrive where he is today. As Dave tells it, one thing just led to another, without much of a master plan. “I am thankful that many young singer-songwriters ask me, ‘Dude, how did you do it? Give me the roadmap.’ But the truth is, I don’t know. I can’t tell you that I’ve ever planned anything. And I like that, because it must mean I am meant to do this. Right?”


Category: Be Heard Jukebox Archive

Comments (3)

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  1. Kyle says:

    Dave Barnes is an artist that everyone needs to check out! His music is so refreshing, and for me life changing! He was a way with words that soothes the soul. His albums don’t contain one bad song! And if you really want to be amazed, you must see him live!

  2. Kathy says:

    I love Dave Barnes’ voice, and his songs are awesome!!

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