Will I Love You Still?
That is the question crooned hauntingly in Dave Barnes’ hit “I Have and Always Will,” explored and tested against the light of day by Barnes’ latest litany of songs.
A lyrical and a stylistic renewal is in play for singer-songwriter Barnes. Often branded as pop/rock with Motown and reggae influences, 33-year-old Barnes describes his sound as simply “soulful.” “My voice sounds a little grovelly,” the Mississippi native laughs.
A Waco concert regular, Mississippi native Barnes will stop by Common Grounds this Friday, November 11, as one sojourn on his stripped-down acoustic tour touching four Texas cities.
Audibly influenced by the 70s, Barnes looks to Stevie Wonder and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls for inspiration. From the bluesy beats of “Loving You, Loving Me” and “What I Need (feat. Jonny Lang)” to the acoustic revelry of “On a Night Like This,” Barnes’ sound accomplishes both chants of elation and intimate whispers.
“I wanted to examine, ‘How do you deal with the yin and yang of things?’” said Barnes of his latest album, What We Want, What We Get, which explores the difficult phenomenon of staying in love with someone after initial romance. “I stumbled upon this theme because it’s closest to me, because it’s one of the only things I have the expertise to write about.”
Barnes’ wife Annie is cast in the starring narrative role in many of his songs, and her influence in his music ranges from cameos in his music videos to background vocals to songwriting guidance.
As the songs show, however, no marriage is all rosy. Each of his lyrics seem to seek to strip away the mask from the upbeat exterior of the songs, leaving a vulnerable and candid core underneath. “Little Lies” and “My Love, My Enemy” on his latest album illustrate the dichotomous nature of intimate committed relationships: “What do you say?\Let’s give up now and just be done\Maybe we’re afraid\Of all that we will and won’t become, Everyday\We come together or come undone\Every time I break \Tell me again how far we’ve come” (“My Love, My Enemy”).
“She doesn’t mind!” insisted Barnes about the honest portrayals of their relationship. “I always pass everything through her. She’s really kind about it.”
Despite some dark and complex undertones, Barnes manages to keep his signature uplifting sound as a constant thread throughout his musical catalogue. “There’s enough [downer music] out there, and I’m not good at writing it,” he admits.
“Happy accidents” have paved the way to Barnes’ renown as a Nashville singer and songwriter, he confesses. Freshly out of college nearly a decade ago, Barnes began to travel and open shows with friend Matt Wertz (another college circuit regular) before headlining shows of his own and being signed.
“When I was in college, I started to sheepishly sing,” he said. Originally setting out to be a songwriter, Barnes didn’t imagine his would be the face gracing an album cover. Earlier this year, his songwriting success returned explosively when country singer Blake Shelton picked up his hit song “God Gave Me You,” catapulting the song to the top of the country charts.
“I never planned for it to go that way,” Barnes said of the cover’s success. “I love it; it’s one of the coolest privileges of this job. My work can be released to 50 million people, and I can cheer from the sidelines.”
With five full-length albums and a Christmas album tucked into his discography, Barnes is no starving artist. Yet, he doesn’t take any victory for granted.
“I feel very successful… very blessed. I’ve gotten infinitely more success than I ever imagined,” Barnes said. “The opposite of expectations are thankfulness. I have to be really diligent about that balance. Expectations can run amuck, for my life, my marriage, my career, relationships.”
You won’t find Dave Barnes sitting on his laurels. His next album is set to release in March, with the working title Stories to Tell. Fans should expect a distinctly more poppy sound from the new piece, thanks in part to new producer John Fields (Goo Goo Dolls, Jon McLaughlin, Lifehouse, Switchfoot, Jonas Brothers).
“I know most artists feel this way, but I’m the most excited about this one,” Barnes plugged. “It’s much more of a pop record, so a little bit of a change for me. I’m excited to see what people think.”
Friday’s acoustic show will hold “more stories and fun” for the 8th St. venue. “When it’s just me, I play differently—I engage the crowd differently,” said Barnes. Keep your eye out, Bohemians, there might a sneak peek on the set list for the upcoming album.
11 November · 20:00 – 23:00
Common Grounds, 1123 S 8th St., Waco, Texas