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Life Arts    H3'ed 6/18/10

The Musical Bliss of Barnaby Bright

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Note: If you go to their page at myspace, you can listen to Barnaby Bright as you read this interview. You'll understand why I was smitten and have a multi-media experience.]

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.

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I can personally attest to the tight harmonies and more that you mention, as well as your exceptional voice, which you didn't. While it has a hint of Loreena McKennitt and Sarah McLachlan, it's no pale imitation of anyone else. What's your training and how did you become a duo?

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.

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We became best friends and fell in love over that first year of playing together. Unfortunately, there were a million complications that kept us from being together. After nine months, Nathan told me that we couldn't play music together anymore. The situation was impossible and unbearable. I was heartbroken, and moved to New York City two months later. Nathan went through a period where he gave up music completely for about six months. It was a very dark time for both of us, but we know retrospectively that it was incredibly important for our relationship, both musically and emotionally.

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?

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Ideally, we would love to travel for several days to a week each month. We love being on the road... never knowing who we will meet, where we will sleep or what we will eat. It's inspiring and exhilarating, though we've been surprised to find that we don't really do a lot of writing on the road. There's so much to see and take in, we feel bad being in a new environment and just hiding out in our room, instead of exploring where we are."¨ Coming home is always an amazing feeling... and we usually dive right into writing. I think we're affected by the experiences we have on tour more than we even realize."¨

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?

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Joan Brunwasser Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)
 

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