While in Boston last month for my daughter's graduation, I had a chance to revisit Club Passim, The Place for folk music over the last 50 years. Campfire, a music festival, was in full swing and we were treated to some wonderful tunes. My guests today performed that night: Barnaby Bright's Becky and Nathan Bliss. Welcome to OpEdNews. Please tell our readers a bit about yourselves.
photo by BJ Barratt
We are Nathan and Rebecca Bliss of Barnaby Bright, a folk-y guitar and banjo-based duo, featuring tight harmonies, thoughtful lyrics and a variety of different instruments... rooted in folk, but pushing the boundaries. Originally from Kansas, we currently reside in Brooklyn where we write, record, and perform throughout the area."¨ We released our first record, Wake the Hero, in January of 2009, and are currently at work on our next album of new material. We're spending the summer touring through the mid-Atlantic, followed by a short break and then a tour of Europe in October.
I have been singing since I was a little girl... my mom was an opera singer so I grew up with music almost as a second language in the home. When I went away to college I knew I wanted to study music, but in most university settings, the only outlet for singers is opera. I quickly realized it wasn't the path for me, but at the same time there weren't a lot of opportunities in Kansas City for the type of music I wanted to be involved with.
I started putting out feelers, and met a booking agent who introduced me to Nathan, and we began playing music together in January of 2005. We started off just doing cover music in bars... no one listening... a football game playing on the TV right over our heads. It was a humble beginning, but we both were writing music and would sneak in an original song here and there. Our musical and emotional connection was instant.
I did a lot of writing and growing during that painful time period, and in October of 2006 released an EP of songs that dealt almost entirely with Nathan and the emotions surrounding our situation. It was a cathartic process for me... working through the powerful things I was feeling through the composition and production of the album, and it was also the only way I knew I could really tell Nathan how I felt since we hadn't been speaking. When he heard the EP, he called me and said we had to start playing music together."¨ He moved to New York four months later, we were married eight months after that, and Barnaby Bright was born the following year.
What a (darkly) romantic story. Since you've been together, how have you defined your collaborative groove: who writes what and exactly how a song should be performed? And is it hard being married to your partner?
Yes, I suppose it is slightly dark, but it certainly has a happy ending!"¨ We tend to sketch out ideas separately, and then come together for suggestions and to finish. Occasionally one of us will just pop out with an entire song and go to the other for help, only to find that the song really is complete. We've done some writing for TV [ER, Days of Our Lives, PBS Roadtrip Nation], and in that particular capacity, we write together though, from start to finish."¨
Nathan and I are very blessed, because we love being married, musical partners. We are private people, and we have the same vision for our life and for our music, so it really works out perfectly."¨ The one thing we have to be careful of since we live together, work together and make music together (in our tiny NYC apartment) is giving ourselves enough space from each other and taking time out to just be alone. Nathan found this Rilke quote, and it's something we both really love and connect with- "I hold this to be the highest bond between two people: that each protect the solitude of the other."
Nice. You're on tour now. What's that like? What's the ideal mix of touring, performing locally, and creating and perfecting new material? And do you ever get it?
Getting out of New York City in the summer is great... a lot of the places we've been playing so far this summer are much cooler, and nestled in some truly beautiful scenery. When we play in NYC, we usually have a full band with us... a string section, drums, bass, etc. Since we've been on the road so much lately, we haven't done a full band show in quite a while... it's hard to coordinate rehearsals and prepare for such a big show when you're living out of your car and traveling so much.
It sounds like you've got a nice mix going. This fall, you'll head to Europe. Where will you be?