When it comes to the fickle music industry, artists rarely have the longevity or the breadth of catalog that Dave Barnes has. Last week, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter released his ninth studio album, Carry On, San Vincente, a breezy nod to the greatest of Laurel Canyon in the 70’s, inspired by the likes of the Eagles, Jackson Browne and Fleetwood Mac.
For those familiar with Barnes and his music, this album should come as a welcome, yet subtle change.
It’s a bit of a change I think, hopefully subtly. It’s not like the Beach Boys to electronica, but it’s more California seventies country, if that’s a thing,” says Barnes. “The instrumentation is a little different, it sounds more like a band record to me than a lot of the other stuff I’ve done. Thematically, I tried to keep consistent with what the songs are about and the imagery, which is kind of another new thing for me.”
When it comes to releasing his ninth album, Barnes jokes “It’s like eight more than I thought I would get!” He admits that choosing a favorite song from the album isn’t easy, but he can narrow it down to two standout tracks.
I really love ‘Sunset Santa Fe’. I think lyrically that one, and the title track, are probably the two I’m the most proud of. It’s always fun as a songwriter when you have a target you’re trying to hit and then at the end, you’re like I think I hit it. So those two are definitely that…I wanted to say a certain thing and I feel like I sort of pulled that off.”
On his new album, Barnes wrote all of the album’s nine tracks, and stays busy in his writing studio, co-writing with many of Nashville’s biggest names. Recently, he’s written with Thomas Rhett, Charles Kelley and Kelsea Ballerini, and he has had songs recorded by Danielle Bradbery, Hunter Hayes and Tim McGraw. While Barnes has already written with many of country’s biggest names, he jokes that it would take him another three hours or so to list all the people he’d still like to collaborate with, but mentions Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley.
Barnes recently wrote with one of his personal heroes, Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls.
It’s fun because I’m in a season of my career where I’m getting to do more of that…She’s probably one of my top three songwriters ever and definitely, as far as one that has influenced me the most…those are really fun moments where ya kinda go, ‘So much of what they did, shaped the music that I made’ and you get to write with them and it kinda feels like this really cool sort of circle of life.”
As a songwriter, Barnes is most inspired by his peers, but when it comes to a song he wishes he had written, he mentions Mike and the Mechanics’ “The Living Years.” “It’s so fun to sing, but it’s just crazy profound. You hear the lyric and you kind of stop like ‘oh my gosh.'”
When it comes to genre, Barnes defines himself as a singer-songwriter, but doesn’t feel the need to choose one particular genre, looking at inspirations like Billy Joel and Elton John.
They had this kind of crazy ability to just write songs and the fact that they did them, made them continuous and sort were sort of consistent. How do you explain Billy Joel’s career genre-wise? Lord knows I’m not Billy Joel at all, but that’s what I love about those guys. You have a song like ‘She’s Always a Woman’ next to ‘Tell Her About It’ next to ‘Allentown’ and then like all of the piano works…Those guys have always been such an inspiration to me because it’s almost the lack of genre that I found the most appealing and still do. I think the fun of those guys is getting a record and going ‘Oh I didn’t know that he could do this!’, so that’s always been a huge inspiration for me to take up as much real estate genre-wise as people will let me.”
Dave Barnes is gearing up to take Carry Up, San Vincente on the road and if you haven’t seen his live show, it’s a must. “I think the closest thing to it is when you see a cat chasing a laser on the wall. It can be really ADD, but I think that’s what makes it fun,” he jokes, describing this show as more “rocking” than anything he’s done before.
As part of the tour, Barnes will make a stop at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium, which is a career high for the singer. “Ya know, I may just be done after that. I may just say my dreams have been fully realized and walk off into the sunset…It really is a dream come true, every few days I find myself smiling thinking about it.”
Joining Barnes on the road is rising star Lucie Silvas, who Barnes says just “might be the most talented singer in Nashville.” By bringing her on the road, Barnes feel like he’s introducing people to an act that they just have to know.
It’s so fun to watch her play because people that don’t know about her…When she gets done, there’s just this feeling of ‘Where did that come from? How do I not know about this person?’… I believe in her as much as I believe in myself, she’s such a monster talent. She’s just so good.”
While Barnes may be best known for writing Blake Shelton’s #1 hit “God Gave Me You,” when asked what one of his songs he’d like to describe his career thus far, he points to “Grace’s Amazing Hands,” which is one of the first songs he ever wrote. “That was a real fun song for me and it was the one that felt like, ‘THIS is what I really like to do.’ It’s still really fun to play live and I just love that song.”
When it comes to looking ahead, Barnes hopes to make more records like Carry On, San Vincente, with a cohesive sound and lyrical theme, and as he looks back at his career thus far, he admits that he’s really enjoyed the way things have played out thus far. In this season of his career and music, he can’t wait to see what happens next. Neither can we Dave, neither can we.
In true Dave fashion, with creative marketing for each of his records, we introduce “Cowboy Dave Barnes.” This newly converted Wild West bandit is here to teach you the ways of true cowboy living, Barnes style. The first video serves to teach everyone “How To Lasso A Lady.” Fans can check out more instructional videos on his socials.