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BGS 5+5: Danny Barnes

Mar 6, 2020

danny barnes standing in front of a blue wall with a banjo

Artist: Danny Barnes
Hometown: Port Hadlock, Washington
Latest album: Man on Fire
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): Possum Grunt. Crawfish Ate Your Face. Why Me Lord. The Crumbled Earth. Dirt Is My Witness.

Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?

I’d say Stringbean. I saw him in about 1970 when I was nine. The type of work a man was expected to do where I was from was roofing, something in the farming industry or construction, which were really hard and not fun, and here was this guy traveling around the country making people happy with a banjo, and I thought, “That’s what I’m going to do for the rest of my life,” and that turned out true, at least the traveling and the banjo part.

What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc — inform your music?

Well I love poetry, especially William Blake, and I read the Bible a lot, and I’ve read lots of classic novels and philosophy. I got the idea from John Hartford and Paul Leary of the Butthole Surfers to make records that were like movies in your head, so I do get quite a few ideas from old movies. I like Westerns and sci-fi, old ones.

If you had to write a mission statement for your career, what would it be?

To uplift people when they are really down, especially when you are of an unmoneyed heritage and things are overwhelming and it seems like the cops, society, the church, your family, God, and everybody has it in for you. And also to show that despite all the conventional wisdom on the subject, if you want to make art you can, especially if you must make it!

Which elements of nature do you spend the most time with and how do those impact your work?

I walk on the beach every day when I’m home. I like the salt water. And I like seeing God’s handiwork in the sky and in the plants and animals.

How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?

Well, a normal person only has about four songs based on their life, then you run out of life and you have to start making up stuff, or reading an awful lot. So, pretty much never. I write about some horrible characters, ha ha. Though in my defense, it’s not that they are “bad,” they are just trying really hard to figure out a way to lay their burdens down.

Photo credit: Sarah Cass

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BGS 5+5: Danny Barnes
BGS 5+5: Danny Barnes