NASHVILLE SINCE 2001
Dave Barnes came to Nashville to study drums. Along the way, he discovered a passion for singing and writing songs. He has also notched himself some accolades like a Grammy Award nomination for Best Country Song for “God Gave Me You.”
Dave grew up in Mississippi, and made his way to Music City in college, where he studied drums at MTSU. “While I was there I started writing songs,” he recalls. His friend would sing the demos. Eventually, his friend suggested Dave sing the songs himself. “That was kind of the beginning,” he says. “I realize in retrospect drums were the gateway drug into music, that was the only way I know to get in. That was what I played, and I was pretty good, and then I found writing, and that was like oh, this is the real reason I’m here I guess.”
His musical career took off from there. “It was great,” he shares. “I felt like I walked backwards through the first five years of opportunity’s doors, which I think was God’s kindness and me just being so clueless.”
“I just didn’t expect much,” he continues. “Not in a woe is me way, but I think I was just able to enjoy it without having a lot of expectations.” His career expanded twofold: both writing songs which he recorded himself and as a writer of songs to pitch to other artists. One such artist, Blake Shelton, heard Dave’s recording of “God Gave Me You” and decided to cover it. The cover earned Blake – and Dave – a Grammy nomination. Meanwhile, Dave was steadily building a career under his own name, charting songs on Christian radio and filling rooms like the historic Ryman Auditorium.
He was also earning the respect of immensely respected peers. Bonnie Raitt became a fan of his music and invited him to play shows with her. Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls is now a friend of Dave’s, and they’ve written songs together. “It blows my mind,” he says. “Being in Nashville and getting to make music with people that I’m like, ‘Are you sure you meant to book this day with me?’ The artist interaction, writer interaction stuff, the human on human stuff, is always the stuff I love. I think when I get to interact with somebody, those are always highlights.”
Now, Dave is simultaneously branching into new directions and paring back his ventures to focus on the most important of all: his family. This summer, he’s playing a handful of shows that feature both music and his work as a stand-up comic. The first section will be him and his band playing songs, followed by a section of him alone onstage doing stand-up, and capped with another musical set. “I’m super excited about it,” he says. “It’s fun for me to think, oh, that feels like something that’s never been done.”
Aside from in the touring world, he’s stretching himself creatively in music. He just released the appropriately-named record, Who Knew It Would Be So Hard To Be Myself, on which he taps unprecedented depths with his vulnerability.
“I heard somebody describe a song last year, they were like, ‘Man, you gotta hear this song, it’s really important,’ and it really stopped me in my tracks,” Dave says. “I started to think what would make a song important and I think it’s that it’s vulnerable, that it’s saying something that’s authentic and challenging but ultimately vulnerable.” He dug into some of his most personal writing ever, most evident on raw offerings like “Chasing Dreams.” “When I look up and go, okay, what colors do I paint with, I think vulnerability has now been added to the palate where before I may have stumbled on that, but not in a way that I knew what I was doing,” he says.