There are many days when the alarm clock goes off in my dark room that I do not want to get out of bed. I wish I could stay laying in peace and comfort and not face the challenges of the day and hard work ahead. Then I say to myself, those animals depend on you, the pigs and your kittens need you. You have the gift to care for them like no one else can. The reason I tell you this story is the same reason Barrett Baber released his single “Fight On”. We all have something we are fighting for each day. My dad is fighting for his dream to farm, I am fighting to help him and share the stories of musicians like Barrett who help inspire us each day to keep fighting for our dreams.
Barrett says, “I come from a place of similar feeling. There are some mornings I don’t want to get out of bed because I’m exhausted from working hard and it seems like nothing is happening. I need that message too and there are people out there fighting harder fights than I am. I hope they can see me practicing what I preach and take encouragement from the song. No matter what you do, don’t stop fighting and one day you’ll be victorious, but the song talks about being in the fight and the only choice is to get up and fight on.”
I loved getting to talk with Barrett Baber over a phone interview. While on the road touring, he took the time to tell me his story growing up, musical journey from Arkansas to becoming NBC’s The Voice finalist and his song writing techniques. Read on to learn how the soulful country singer carved out a sound of his own and is connecting with fans in his Fight On Giving Initiative.
Q. Take me back to the beginning of your career, tell me how you found your love and talent for music and decided to make it a career aspiration?
A. “Growing up in Arkansas, my dad was a preacher. Music was apart of my life through church. I remember at an early age just being able to carry a tune with my singing voice. My dad took a job as a preacher in a little town, Marion, Arkansas. We lived right across the river from Memphis, Tennessee. There was soul and blues; it was the melting pot area of different genres that blended together. I was really into R&B, in the 90’s there were bands like Boys to Men I was a fan of. Living so close to Memphis, I got to see a lot of shows in different venues.”
Q. Who’s your biggest musical influence?
A. “It wasn’t until later in high school I got into being a singer and songwriter when I discovered James Taylor and his Greatest Hits. I listened to the CD on repeat and was blown away by somebody who could just have an acoustic guitar with stripped down production, but have powerful lyrics that drove the song with great melodies.”
“I was in the music program in high school and in the choir. I got a voice scholarship to attend Ouachita Baptist University. That’s where I really started writing songs. I learned how to play guitar my freshman year.”
Q. How did you decide to move to Nashville and develop your musical style?
A. “I moved to Nashville for a year when I was 22. I didn’t know what I was doing and was young so I ended up moving back in with my folks. I really started gigging (in Memphis) for money. I would take my guitar and speakers I bought, I would play in bars for hours at a time. I was learning how to entertain and capture an audience. I played soul and learned how to take R&B songs that were not acoustic, and transform them into country soulful songs on my guitar. I became known for that in the region in Arkansas.”
After graduating with a degree in marketing and PR from the University of Arkansas, Barrett sold radio advertising then moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas with his wife where he sold television advertising for NBC.
“I knew I wasn’t being the best dad I could be because I wasn’t doing work that really fulfilled me. I knew it was my responsibility to be the best human being I could be and best example for my kid.”
Q. How did you decide to pursue music as a full time career?
A. “That whole time in advertising I was gigging on the weekends and writing songs. I finally got to the point where I felt I was writing songs that were good enough to cut some demos and records myself. I got fed up with the corporate world and felt kind of empty. I knew I wasn’t being the best dad I could be because I wasn’t doing work that really fulfilled me. I knew it was my responsibility to be the best human being I could be and best example for my kid.”
“I always had a thought in my head that I would want to teach so I got my teaching license and became the debate and forensics coach at Fayetteville High School. I credit that decision for setting me on course for what I do now because I felt what I was doing was important; I started writing some of my best songs. When I felt fulfilled I started releasing better sounding records.”
“I am a firm believer that what you do, even if its not your dream job, it will aid you in your dream job once you get there.”
Q. How did you decide to audition for NBC’s The Voice?
A. “I met a guy named Luke Wade playing at a bar in Fort Worth, Texas. He later auditioned for The Voice season 7. He asked to send a YouTube link of me singing to the casting director. Then I got an email from the casting director asking me to come to Oklahoma City to do a private audition.”
“I am a firm believer that what you do, even if its not your dream job, it will aid you in your dream job once you get there. When I was teaching I told the kids that I can’t stand in front of you and tell you to chase your dreams and take risks if I’m not willing to take those risks myself. I told them there was only one job I would leave teaching to go do and that’s make music. I think it was fun for them to see that reveled later.”
Q. What does your new single “Fight On” mean to you?
A. “I’m really excited about this song. It’s been a great couple years since The Voice. I’ve been touring and writing like crazy. I was able to release a full-length record, A Room Full of Fighters. I’m proud of that work because I did it independently with my manager and producer.”
“When I was promoting A Room Full of Fighters, I started using the #FightOn. That became my mantra last year because I was in a writing room full of people just like me in Nashville, who were fighting for there own dreams to come true. Then out on the road after each show I stand at the merch table, shake hands (with fans) and hear their story. ”
“I felt a tug on me to write about how we are all in a fight for something, even if those dreams are different it’s still hard to make them come true.”
“So many of the stories I would hear are of people overcoming adversity and people chasing their dreams. I felt a tug on me to write about how we are all in a fight for something, even if those dreams are different it’s still hard to make them come true. I had t-shirts printed that say ‘Fight On’ we sold. People loved them and I wanted to start supporting some smaller non-profits and individuals that have been reaching out to me, so I decided to give the net profits of every Fight On t-shirt that I sold.”
“I met a sweet little girl from my hometown who was fighting a rare form of cancer. I went to high school with her mom and was talking to her after one of my shows. I could tell they were struggling, trying to beat this cancer. This is my first benefit; I’m sending checks to help this little girl.”
“I feel like this world we are living in needs this song and it’s message. The win for me with ‘Fight On’ is not whether it’s a hit, but when I get messages from people on my social media who tell me they needed to hear it. I think that’s the reason it will be successful and continue to grow into something special. There are so many people fighting to make their lives better and sometimes they need told to get back up.”
Q. What do you enjoy or look forward to most about writing music? Tell me more about the process.
A. “I didn’t start working hard to be a good songwriter until about 7 years ago. I used to only write a song when I was inspired of felt like it and the results were the results. I would only write 4 or 5 songs a year. So 7 years ago when I decided I don’t know if this artist thing will happen for me, I started learning as much as I could about being a songwriter. I learned there’s more to writing when you’re inspired. I write daily and start almost every writing process with a title.”
“One of the first things someone asks in a song writing process in Nashville is if you have any good titles and we will see what sticks out to us. Then we decide what the chorus and verses need to say to support the title in a creative and poetic way. Song writing is like anything else, you get really good at it when you do it a lot. Now I am at a place self-confidence wise where I’m not afraid to sit down in a room with anyone, people who have written number one hits for major artists. There was a time where that would have scared me.”
Q. What advice would you give to someone who may have a dream in music, but is struggling with taking the steps to make it a reality?
A. “My advice is different than the standard, go for it. That’s part of it, there has to be a leap of faith by anyone that wants to do this. That leap of faith ought to be done in an educated way; in a way that isn’t reckless and is thought out. Nothing goes to according to plan every time, but there has to be some groundwork.”
“It takes grind, effort and determination. Often times, years of development when you see a successful artist or songwriter, regardless of how it appears.”
“It’s difficult to be successful as a musician and a songwriter. There has to be a lot of work, I worked day jobs for 15 years before I was in a position to where I could do this (music) all the way and I needed it. I needed those 15 years of work and playing hundreds of acoustic shows when nobody cared. I needed that development. Sometimes our society thinks when you have ability like being a vocalist, that the world should had you your success. There are thousands of people that can really sing, but it takes more than talent. It takes grind, effort and determination. Often times, years of development when you see a successful artist or songwriter, regardless of how it appears.”
“It appeared this way for me because all of a sudden I was on television like I was an overnight success, but that ‘overnight’ was about 15 years worth of work to get to the point where I could take that opportunity. It happened at the right time for me, I needed that to happen when I was 35 not when I was 25. When I was 25 I wasn’t making music at the level I needed to make it at and I wasn’t a grown enough adult to handle it and be on the road for a hundred days.”
“My advice is to understand things take time. If you’re not working at that everyday to get there in some way, then you’re falling behind.”
“My advice is to understand things take time. If you’re not working at that everyday to get there in some way, then you’re falling behind. So work, read books, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and learn as much as you possibly can about what it means to me a songwriter and artist. Learn as much as you can about the business side, because going in the better prepared you will be. Regardless of what you see on social media, doing music for a living is not all that glamorous. It’s beyond hard and at my level I do everything myself. That’s a good thing, but you have to ask yourself, is being a musician and songwriter what you what to do or is it about who you are?”
“Music is always been something I’ve done, I cannot exist on this earth without making music.”
“If it’s about who you are, then dive in and do that work. If it’s about what you want to do and make a living, then there are lots of ways to make a living in the music business that are important and valuable and you will probably make a better living than I do. Whether it is in publishing or at a label or a tour manager. There are lots of ways to work in the music business that are fun. If you’re going to make music regardless of what you do and every free moment you have is about making music I would tell that person to take that leap of faith. If it’s about making money, then there are better ways to do it. Music is always been something I’ve done, I cannot exist on this earth without making music.”
To follow Barrett’s music and the Fight On Initiative visit barrettbaber.com
Stream Barrett’s music on Spotify!
Photo Credit: facebook.com/barrettbabermusic