Oxford native Adam Barnes’ music offers life narrative in folk form. He tells stories—simple stories. He’s a talented musician, but what comes through most in is music is the little things of life: the everyday struggles, hopes, fears, and excitements. I think the best way to describe Adam’s lyrical style might be to call it angst done well. Couple that with a distinctive and catchy folk-rock style, and you’ve got all the ingredients for perfect rainy-day music.
Ethan Weitz: How did you get started writing and performing music?
Adam Barnes: I started writing and performing when I was about 14. There was a local youth club that held gigs every Tuesday. They had national bands tour there with opportunities for local youth bands to support, which inspired me to try and make the most of that opportunity. I had always had a passion for music but up to that point hadn’t thought much of it.
Ethan: Why do you write music?
Adam: Mainly because of the huge amount of funding for lower-level musicians trying to make it in an open and reasonable business. I’m constantly surrounded by beautiful women and have privileges for new edition Pokémon on Pokémon Go. The free Nando’s black card helps as well. . . .
I guess I just enjoy writing music? Because none of those things have ever happened.
Emily Cardé: Who or what are your biggest musical and lyrical inspirations?
Adam: Damien Rice has been a constant inspiration throughout my years of songwriting; I love his new record. Lyrically, I adore Josh Ritter. His two songs “The Temptation Of Adam” and “The Curse” are some of the most inspiring lyrical songs I’ve come across.
Emily: Is there a specific story behind “Tennyson”? (And is it named after the great Romantic poet?)
Adam: In a way it is about the poet—I actually live on a road called Tennyson Drive and all the roads in my area are named after famous poets. The song is about my current living situation and some of the difficulties of constantly doubting yourself. Living at home and wanting to be self-sufficient, being able to move in with my girlfriend, having the hope that things will work out in the end if I keep the optimism up!
Ethan: Another song of yours that’s especially intriguing is “Nebraska.” What was the inspiration for writing that song?
Adam: I tend not to go into detail with too many songs if I’m honest. I also like people to form their own opinion and connection. I would hate for anything I say to effect or cloud the opinion that people have already come too. Let’s just say with this song it’s mainly based on true events and all you need to do is flip characters around.
Emily: What is the most meaningful song that you have written?
Adam: This is a question like asking a parent which child they prefer! I love them all equally—just some are more talented and likely to succeed in life than others.
Ethan: What is the hardest part of making music?
Adam: All those things in the second question? Surprisingly they don’t happen, and every now and then you go through fits of doubt about whether you’re being a burden on people—that’s tough. I’m lucky to have people I look up to in music and life giving me support and confidence. There’s odes to them in my new music.
Emily: What is the most memorable show you’ve ever performed at?
Adam: I’ve had so many over the last year or two that have stuck out to me as great shows, which I’m so fortunate to be able to say.
One that sticks out in my mind is a show I played a show in Groningen at a festival called Noorderzon. We played in two truck containers that had been converted into a living room. It was the middle of summer and we had two shows sold out in there. It was unreal amounts of hot, people were crowding around the windows outside, and it was so much fun to play.
Ethan: What do you think your proudest moment as a songwriter has been so far?
Adam: I don’t think I could pinpoint one thing to be proud about, really. I’ve been fortunate enough to have so many humbling things happen over the last 4–5 years. The fact that my music continues to spread and build towards something bigger is exciting. I’m proud that I’m able to continue to do this for the next few years. Ten years after I first played my first show, I’m still enjoying the journey I’m on—I think that’s really important.
Emily: So what’s next for you? Do you have any new music in the works?
Adam: I’ve just begun working my second album. New songs are being written, screwed up, and rewritten. I’m trying to be even more personal than my first album. My guitarist and I have joked that it almost sounds like a folk opera, and that’s exciting and interesting to work towards. I also head out on tour to Scandinavia with Joseph & Maia this September and then I play ten shows with Matt Simons around Europe, finishing in London on the November 3 at the Borderline. Then it’s back to the studio to record some more new music! I can’t wait to play some more shows and get some new music out to everyone.
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Featured photo courtesy of Adam Barnes.