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Barna Howard - interview

  by Owen Peters

published: 19 / 6 / 2015

Barna Howard - interview


Owen Peters catches up with a somewhat tentative Barna Howard as he showcases his new album 'Quite a Feelin' on a rainy evening at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London.

When I first heard Barna Howard’s new album 'Quite a Feelin’, which has been released by Loose Music, I thought I’d mixed up my CD sleeves. Resonating from the speakers was an old time crooner with world weary stories to tell on life's experiences. His CD cover however shows a fresh faced youthful guy of mid/late 20’s, one where a mother would be telling her son to get his hair cut. When I meet up with Howard at the Servants Jazz Quarters in London for the launch of his new album, he’s clearly nervous in thought and deed. Sampling the local brew his concern is London’s current downpour. Will the rain will keep away punters? “Does it always rain like this in London during summer?” he asks, but not requiring an answer. He describes his upbringing in Eureka Missouri as simple but enjoyable. “I remember my childhood being free and secure, able to play anywhere we liked. Biking through town to open fields, with neighbours who all looked out for each other. Yes, good times.” As he comments on an album track 'Then and There', “We used to run around that town. With neon shoestrings and fluffy air” his tone becomes more serious. “The place (Eureka) has changed. Developers came in making it just another town. My home back then was knocked down to make way for a Walmart store,” he chuckles at the retrospective irony. On finishing school he left home, ending up in Boston, Massachusetts to broaden his youthful horizons. “For a couple of years I started to play guitar with friends, open mic, nothing really serious just having a good time. A couple of friends I’d met up with said they were done with the surroundings, time to move on, said I should think about going with them. That’s just what I did, moved to Portland, Oregan.” It was at this point he started to write with comment, introversion and intent. The objective, to get his music heard. Those geographical moves brought about a sense of reflection, expression and longing to his writing. “The change from a small town out west to a city always on the move made me want to write. To express how I felt about those experiences became very important.” The rain has eased and Howard's thoughts have intensified. “When I look back it’s with a sense of wanting to appreciate what I had at the time. All that freedom, all those people who were kind to me as I grew up. One of the tracks 'Rooster Still Crows' tells of an old couple I knew Mr and Mrs Murphy. They lived with and for each other, doing simple chores and tasks. I’ve tried to express in the song when he died, how she gave up on life. But you know what, that old rooster still crows. It’s testimony that live goes on.” Howard isn’t afraid to tackle difficult, some would say mature or taboo topics. 'Hands Like Gloves' takes us through an uncomfortable journey of domestic abuse. Other tracks touch on suicide notes left for parents to read. He also describes his own demons in open and expressive rhyme, regarding past relationships and the subsequent baggage he’s carrying. “I want to get better as a writer and as a musician, so every day I practice, trying to get a little better,” he tells me of his basic work ethic. Once on stage his first track and opening chat with the audience confirm he hasn't settled the nerves. He told me, and he tells the audience this is a big gig for him.”First time in Europe, first time in London so bear with me, this is a big crowd” Howard hasn’t had a support artist to follow either, he being Robert Chaney who is building a dedicated following in the area. Most of his tour dates have been in France. Whilst he’s “shocked, surprised and pleased" some audiences knew his songs, "London is another level.” 'Indiana Rose' takes us onto his porch, with as he says “All that sweet corn shinin’ in the breeze” He’s looking back, the love is gone, he feels regrets...all the time. His fingerpicking guitar skills bring a wonderful resonance to 'Bitter Side of Blue' as his pre-match nerves finally dissipate. From here on in Howard is comfortable and confident. His voice deepens, echoing in a lower chamber of crooner, seemingly with honey and leather on his larynx. 'Notches On a Frame' is a story and a warning. Young man sitting with old man being told “Son, before you know “You're young one day, the next you're old.” It confirms Howard's ability to construct a song, reflecting many such conversations between father and son. No matter who make up the audiences at SJQ they are always respectful listeners. 'Rooster Still Crows' is certainly one of those moments, when Howard and audience, giver and receiver connect like hand in glove. Still reminiscing on his topical themes, grass, drinking and fire 'Pull Us Back or Wind Us Up' is more hoedown than lay down. Howard closes the set with 'Lend Me a Moment' where he asks for time to slow it all down to gather his thoughts in true reflective singersonwriter style. From Eureka, to France, to a rainy evening in London town, his new album and performances are making an impact with listeners and audiences across Europe. There’s one more gig before he departs for a summer at home in Portland. “Next time I hope I get to play more gigs around the UK.” He shares with me once the adrenaline has subsided. “That was the best gig of the tour for sure. I really enjoyed it.” So did the audience. As for the next time on these inclement shores, I’m sure a lot more people who listen to Barna Howard will be waiting in keen anticipation for his next visit and subsequent tour.

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Barna Howard - interview

Barna Howard - interview

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