Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Upfront with Peter Barbee, Among Savages

Credit: Among Savages (Sasha Israel Photography)
Among Savages' Peter Barbee picked up guitar at 10 years old. His first instrument was a gift from his granddad. Infatuated with figuring out how to play and nurtured by a musical family, he took to it and before long he began writing songs.

"I grew up in the south, kind of the middle of nowhere, so I didn't have many distractions," said Barbee, a Tennessee native, continuing with a laugh, "I started writing songs that I'm thankful there are no recordings of."

His early influences came from turn-of-the-century acoustic and pop radio hits from the likes of Dave Matthews Band. At 18 years old, he moved to Nashville where exposure to a vibrant catalog of independent artists altered his musical sensibilities. Working in the Music City bars, he learned from artists who were breaking out of the scene with professional projects of their own.

"I started getting to be around other styles of music and other musicians that were doing it full time so I had a lot of mentors that kind of helped me define my sound and taste," Barbee explained. "I just kind of luckily would run into these people or get to know them from work, even now they are some of my best friends in music."

One such bond grew with Canon Blue's Dan Brigham who hired Barbee into his band. When Barbee began sowing his own seeds as a solo songwriter he turned to Brigham to co-produce Among Savages' debut album, Wanderings of an Illustrative Mind (2012), and sophomore release, Accounts of Friend and Foe (2017).

Fast forward to 2017

Credit: Among Savages (Sasha Israel Photography)
Barbee has come a long way from his Tennessee roots. He is now 30 years old and resides in Los Angeles. His body of work is a collection of autobiographical compositions. He describes the latest Among Savages record as "chapters to [his] 20s."

The record is an introspective examination of tumultuous young adult relationships, the mortal loss of a friend and his own self-awareness through those formative years.

Each song is Barbee's human experience packaged into a succinct symphony. A deluge of emotions from scorn to lust, heartbreak to clarity is tangible, illustrated by vocal euphonies entwined with calculated percussion and orchestration.

Of the struggle and self-exploration inherent to his lyrics and arrangements, Barbee said, "Relationships are difficult, trying to be an adult is difficult, especially when you're in a career that just tends to hurt you more than help you."

"Fear" and "Art of Living" are two songs he wrote at a time when he felt hopeless and needed to be reminded of how much hope he actually had in the life and career he is pursuing. He described the process as "using your ability to create to almost write your own lullaby so you don't go crazy."

"Those two songs stand out to me as a universal way that I want to live," Barbee expressed.

[Listen to and read lyrics for "Fear" at the end of this article.]

Constructing Accounts

Barbee writes and arranges all parts of his music electronically first. Then, he works with a revolving cast of musicians for live performances and studio recording. He prefers real instruments because they deliver a quality that feels more genuine.

His process for picking songs to record is collaborative with the help of Brigham. Each man will pick 20 or so songs they like best out of Barbee's repertoire and anything that matches on their lists makes it to the next level.

"I'm always writing. I'm not necessarily writing for a specific album but if some of the songs seem to be kind of like latching on to one another, whether it's arrangement wise or content then it tends to make the cut."

Some songs on Accounts of Friend and Foe were written years ago and pulled from Barbee's archives. Others were written only days before he entered the studio to record the album. He reported that the fiery single "If You See Her" wasn't planned for the track list. A couple days prior to his studio session Barbee crafted the scathing indignation—and it landed him a music video collaboration with director Casey Brooks, choreographer Dana Foglia and Beyonce's dance troupe.

Musician's Reality 

Putting together a second full-length record has taken nearly a year of Barbee's life and finances. When asked to consider what his 18-year-old self would think about where he is today, he said he thought he would be more successful. Factor in the low return on publishing through streaming services and out-of-pocket costs for PR and marketing, it's hard to get paid for what you make, he said, emphasizing, "I have to work really hard on things that aren't music to give my music a chance."

But he believes that it's often a game of being patient rather than aggressive so he tries to build a life in which he has more time to create and improve.

"If I'm not inspired it usually means that I'm not traveling or putting myself in a position to learn or have any risk. So it's important to me to have an interesting life if I want interesting music," he mused.

Related article: New Music: Among Savages, Vinny Vegas Deliver Sophomore Albums

Lyrics - Fear (Among Savages)
There is no accident
That I am with you
Maybe your stepping stone is the way you deny

Do not be afraid
My hope is with you
You are stronger than any plan gone array
Look toward the valleys
Look toward the streams

Which direction holds the answer that you seek
Are you weary looking for relief
Rest assured you are much closer than you think

Use your fear as an indicator
of what you need and what you shouldn't learn
Does the crossroads really know
What you hide from the most
Is it danger that hides behind the mirrors and the smoke?

Your days are numbered
Don't be distracted
Strength and weakness both exist
Do not panic

Find your way through
The darkness
Maybe your stepping stone is the way you deny

Use your fear
As an indicator
of what you need
and what you should learn
Does the crossroads really know what you hide from the most?
Is it danger that hides behind the mirrors and the smoke?

Don't let it mess with your head
Keep living in the possible
It feels like a struggle ahead
Keep living in the possible

Monday, August 7, 2017

Monday Muse: "Dime" Rachel Crow - New Single is Bold, Confident Female Anthem

Bubble pop singer Rachel Crow released the new music video for her coming-of-age single "Dime" on August 3, 2017, and with it she's telling the world—"I know my worth...and I won't settle for less."

The embullient 19-year-old from Mead, Colorado was originally discovered by The X Factor producers as a 13-year-old with belting vocals. Her top 5 placing on the show made her a household name in 2012 and piqued interest from television and music executives at Disney and Nickelodeon. She later signed a TV deal with the latter and released her first self-titled EP, produced and written by legendary Toby Gad, with Syco Music and Columbia Records.

Crow's latest single since her breakout in teen pop is the result of collaboration with up-and-coming producers Jack and Ryan Met (AJR). "Dime" is a modern female anthem channeling the spirit of Aretha Franklin's "I Will Survive." In the music video, a vivaciously fierce Crow vocalizes self-worth and confidence in this hip-pop dance tune as she makes it clear to an unqualified suitor that "I'm not just a penny you can pick up off the sidewalk."

For the ladies who unabashedly belt out your favorite songs in the shower or in the car with friends, 1) Add this to your playlist on iTunes or Spotify
2) Check out this cheeky lyric video released on Crow's YouTube channel so you can land every lyric like you are in the recording studio.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Flashback Friday: Billboard Hot 100 launched August 4, 1958

On August 4, 1958, an 18-year-old woman became the first songwriter with a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The hit was "Poor Little Fool" (Imperial Records) performed by rockabilly crooner, Ricky Nelson, whose performance beat out The King of Rock 'n' Roll Elvis Presley for the number one spot. (Presley's "Hard Headed Woman" ranked No. 4 on that week's chart.) The young woman who penned the lyrics and melody of "Poor Little Fool" was Sharon Sheeley, known for her work with Eddie Cochran, The Fleetwoods and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

That historic day marked the introduction of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The powerhouse ranking of top pop songs in North America was the source of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem and continues to be now with Ryan Seacrest.

Music has evolved from those early days of rock 'n' roll. Fifty-nine years later, the No. 1 song on The Hot 100 as of August 4, 2017, is "Despacito" (Universal Music Group) by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber.

Additional No. 1 hits on this day throughout the decades include:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Muse: "Drive Slow" Doc Robinson

Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Doc Robinson shares a song and a tip for you morning commute: "Drive Slow." Wipe the Monday morning grog from your eyes and kickstart another week by reminiscing about the good times with this laid back roller off of Doc Robinson's first full-length album Deep End released on Saturday, July 22.

Doc Robinson is a project launched by Jonathan Elliot, frontman of The Floorwalkers, and Nick D'Andrea of Nick D. and the Believers. The duo incorporates an ensemble of central Ohio indie artists to complement its "Backyard BBQ" sound that mixes a throwback to Motown with midwest hometown grit.

Deep End is available on iTunes and Spotify