Notable Nashvillians: What Does DAVE BARNES Wannado?

Grammy nominee. Community leader. Pop-and-locker. Acoustic pop rocker. Nashvillian.

Dave Barnes is many, many things. Whether he is strollin’ the Grammy red carpet, breakin’ it down in a Santa suit, doing stand-up comedy at the Belcourt, or going to town on some Edley’s nachos, the definitive Music City singer-songwriter is a true Nashvillian through and through. And when it comes to music, he is GOOD (much like his single). Like, really really good.

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Today is the GOLDEN DAY, y’all. Dave’s new album, “Golden Days”, has just been released, and trust us…you wanna jam to this one. A perfect blend of groovy positivity and authentic introspection, this record does what many records miss the mark on: it invites people in. It’s the kind of record you want to listen to in a car full of friends on a 6 hour road trip (or, you know, sit in 5 o’clock traffic on West End for 6 hours) and play over and over again . The familiar narrative starts with the first track, “23”.

A danceable anthem with a catchy hook just made for a group vocal, it’s full of Nashville shout-outs (“stayin’ out way too late on 21st” “summertime shows at the Exit/In”, etc.). Chronicling the journey of a young musician trying to make it in Nashville, “Golden Days” takes us through the highs and lows; yet somehow, Barnes steers clear of the angst. In fact, no track escapes the hopeful contentedness that he has carried through his increasingly successful career. Sonically, he weaves in Stevie Wonder-esque grooves (check out the intro on “Heartbroken Down”), toe-tappin’ country vibes (“Little Civil War”), minimalist ballads with killer steel guitar (“Hotel Keys”), and more. It’s all Barnes, and it’s all GOOD.

To celebrate the album release, we just HAD to chat with this Notable Nashvillian about everything from the songwriting community to the heavenly necessity that is French bread. Here we goooooo!

First can we say, the album is great! We love 23. It’s going to be the Nashville anthem.

Dave: That is my hope!

This is your eighth album! What’s special about this one and what role did Nashville play in its creation?

Dave: I’ve done a humongous chunk of my albums with Ed Cash, who’s based in Nashville. I did so many records with him, and then I did one in LA and a few others here and there. I felt like I was ready to return. I always love when an artist is ten or twelve years in to their career and they go back to working with someone they worked with initially.

A lot of times the early stuff is what people know. I knew it would be fun to do some stuff with Ed again. That’s something I’m really stoked about; I think the people who have known my music for awhile will be like – oh man, I know this! While we did push the boundaries on some things (at least for me), I’m excited the people who have been with me for awhile will feel like this is a familiar thing in a good way.

You’ve spent a lot of time in Nashville! “23” captures being young in the city. How has Nashville changed for you as an artist over the years?

Dave: In all of the good ways. The world is beginning to know what all of us who have been here awhile have known the whole time: the communal nature of this city. And I think that’s a real feat. My favorite personality trait of Nashville is that it’s such a vibrant, supportive, creative community. That’s such a rarity, because with what we do as creative types it’s so easy to get insecure and competitive. For some reason, Nashville has this crazy infrastructure where everyone loves to care for each other.

You look at some of the national bands that move here, and that’s one of the things everybody says: it’s a community that cares for each other across genres, and there’s a real spirit of collaboration. I think it has a lot to do with the cowriting scene…you can’t really feel like you’re in competition with someone you’re writing a song with tomorrow. I kind of missed that. On the record I made in LA (which I really enjoyed and always wanted to do), I made it basically with just my producer. To come back, it’s fun to see the guy who played bass on your record at the coffee shop and talk about the songs, and that can get lost when you do records in other places.

Throughout your career, you’ve spanned genres. When people think of Nashville, they generally think of the honky tonks on Lower Broad (and we love that tradition), but that’s starting to change. What makes Nashville a good place for musical diversity?

Dave: What’s so interesting about today’s technology musically is that anybody can make anything anywhere with a laptop. Suddenly you see these musical cultures pop up where they weren’t before because the people who like that music now have the ability to create a scene. The biggest scenes here are Christian and country. But now you see this rock scene pop up, and R&B/gospel is pretty big here, too. Suddenly there’s something in place to support that because everybody with ProTools can create now. It’s crazy!

In Rolling Stone a couple of years ago some of the buzz bands from Nashville I hadn’t even heard of! Most of them were these guys who are bands like Bon Iver that went to Belmont or moved to Nashville, and over a year created an album. I was like – I don’t know who this guy is or what this music is but its really cool! The difference is that guys and girls who didn’t have access to studios can make a whole record and no one even knows you did it. It encourages these scenes in diversity!

Awesome! Agreed. Now, since we’re hyper-local, we’re gonna throw some Nashville questions at you. Do you like food?

Dave: (Laughs) If you’ve seen me you can tell.

What is your favorite meal in Nashville?

Dave: This is so dirty! Here’s what I’ll do, I’ll give you a day. I’m going to do breakfast at Marche. The french bread croissant roll, for me, is probably the first thing I’m praying St. Peter gives me in heaven. He says, “Welcome thou, I knew that you wanted this…”

Ha! Well done, my good and faithful servant, here is some French bread.

Dave: Yes! Well done, my good and faithful servant, here is your Marche croissant roll! I love that, that’s my breakfast. Now this is like, a 15,000 caloric intake for the day, but we’ll go with it. For lunch I’d probably do Edley’s nachos. I don’t know what kind of voodoo they put in those things, but they have me in a headlock. I love those. Dinner is a toss up – I’m a fan of a few places that have become consistent for me. 12 South Taproom is one of the most underrated places in Nashville. Most people think it’s a place to grab a burger, which it is, but they have a salmon dish that is just short of divine.

Favorite coffee?

Dave: I think Marche! I do love Portland Brew and Frothy Monkey in 12 South. It may be the combination…like a wine pairing of french bread croissant and their vanilla soy lattes, which are just a tornado of pleasure (laughs). They serve the coffee in a cereal bowl – it’s huge! You have to hold it with both hands.

Man, that’s a big ol’ cup of coffee. They should call it that on the menu. A tornado of pleasure with a big ol’ cup of coffee.

Dave: That would be a great wrestling name for me – the Tornado of Pleasure.

Oh, man! Missed opportunities. You’ve also done stand-up comedy around town, right?

Dave: Yeah! I did my first foray at Bongo Java. We had a good enough response that every time I’ve done it since it’s been at the Belcourt.

We’ll have to catch your next one! We overheard a lady at the Grammy’s the year you were nominated who had just interviewed Steve Martin. Someone asked her if he was her funniest interview of the day, and she said “Nope! Dave Barnes was.” So props on that.  

Dave: I just want to put that on a sign and hang it in my bathroom and stare at it every day. (laughs)

Favorite local artist or band?

Dave: Oh, that’s good. So many! Gabe Dixon has always held that crown for me. He has the ability to make his way into my heart and head like few other artists do. Also LEAGUES! Thad is one of my best friends in the world – I’m a huge LEAGUES fan.  I don’t have enough time – there are so many people in Nashville who are constant sources of inspiration and challenge for me. Ben Rector, Steve Moakler, Andrew Ripp, Matt Wertz – every time they put out a record it’s a healthy kind of sitting down and being really frustrated at the awesome songs but being really inspired at the same time to write songs that good. Now I’m doing these country cowrites and I’ve opened a Pandora’s box of writers. people who are insanely talented. When you know what talent the city holds you find people that are crazy talented – and intimidating! (laughs)

Song you wish you wrote?

Dave: This isn’t fair! (laughs) Copious amounts, I can distill it some. I wish I’d written PYT. Like, if I were at a funeral and they started playing that I’d be like… “well I’m sorry guys I have to check out.” September by Earth, Wind and Fire too. Something that pulls at my heartstrings and blows my mind: Marc Cohn wrote “Don’t Talk To Her At Night”. It’s a rare combo of genius and heartfelt emotion…same with “Four Seasons In One Day” by Crowded House.

Weirdest night you’ve ever had in Nashville?

Dave: A very rare night was about 3+ years ago. One Republic, Ryan Tedder, and my buddies The Daylights were in town. Me and my wife were going to Mexico at 7 o clock the next morning, and The Daylights were staying with us. They said “why don’t y’all come to our show at The Ryman?” We were watching the clock and knew we wouldn’t get any sleep. We went to the show and then ended up at Rumours Wine Bar for the after party. When we finally got back, The Daylights were like – well, you only have 3 hours till you go to the airport! So we ended up staying up all night listening to music. It was one of the nights I’ll always remember.

If you had to form a musical duo with any famous Nashvillian, who would it be and what would you be called?

Dave: Ooooh this is tough!

It could be Dolly Parton, anybody.

Dave: She and I could do a hardcore band and call it Islands In The Scream.

Yes! Best answer you could have given.

Dave: I have to think about this! Because would I like to be in a band with Vince Gill? Um, YES. I think one of the funny things about being in Nashville is that there is a constant source of people being like – we should do something some time! But they’re half serious. Somebody like Sheryl Crow, I don’t know…there’s way too many options for me!

I think Islands In The Scream could really take off.

Dave: Yeah…that may be the win.

So there you have it, Nashville. As far as we’re concerned, Dave Barnes is the personification of the Music City we know and love; an aspirational spirit with a laidback, supportive sense of community. Go grab his new album, “Golden Days“, and make sure you download Wannado so you never miss a show (or an opportunity to see Dave do stand-up). Have a Golden Day, y’all. We sure will!

– Your local guide.