Monday, September 21, 2009

Travelling the Road to Success Barefoot

Barefoot Truth set high expectations for their 2010 release, Threads

By Andrew Beam

After performing at a pre-presidential debate rally at Hofstra University where Bruce Hornsby plays before them and David Crosby and Graham Nash plays after, then performing at a festival in Wyoming, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, the Mystic Connecticut quintet is set to release their latest album entitled Threads in 2010. A disc which harmonica player Garrett Duffy exclaims “Is going to make a huge splash.”

The band had a busy year as they toured around the country in 2008 with former member of Dispatch, Pete Francis, released two EP’s, one with Francis and one with female vocalist Nia Kete. While doing all of that, the band was able to head into the studio with producer Scott Riebling who Evans hesitantly admits has worked with bands such as Fall Out Boy. This did not take away the impact he had on the group. “He really pushed us to do another take and get the best one,” Evans says. “Just having an engineer who’s patient enough and who knows how to get out of you what you’re capable of without crushing your spirit. He’s very constructive.” The band took a different route for recording than they did with their 2007 release, Walk Softly, where instead of recording in analog, the band went digital. Duffy says the band still kept the process they’ve done in the past by recording the songs onto Pro-tools and putting them on tape in order to keep an organic sound. “We’ve taken an analog approach to digital.”

The band decided to go with digital recording since they feel that it is the direction recording is heading in. “To compete with bands these days, you have to keep up on things like Pro-Tools,” Duffy says, “You want to compete with the best.” Both Evans and Duffy describe the album has having a much cleaner and “polished” sound. This isn’t solely due to the new recording process, but also because they’re more experienced. “I think people will really notice an improvement in this album on our part as musicians,” Evans says, “I think we’ve gotten a lot better and tighter as a group as well.”

The band has come a long way from the beaches in Mystic where Will Evans and Driscoll first started composing songs for what is now the five person group. While they were still a duo, they released Changes In The Weather in 2005. Evans didn’t see a future for these stripped down acoustic tracks him and Driscoll were playing. In fact, he wasn’t looking too far past that summer. “I envisioned playing the bars in the summer,” Evans says, “I certainly had no sights beyond the next summer. We just did it. We weren’t like, ‘This is the best thing in the world.’ We were just having fun and people seemed to enjoy it.”

After three years of playing just between the two of them, the duo began to slowly accumulate more members. Just as Evans and Driscoll began discussing adding an upright bass to the mix, classically trained jazz-bassist Andy Wrba came into the picture. Wrba attended a Barefoot Truth gig and introduced himself to the guys after the set. After that things progressed smoothly. “We got together and jammed one time and that was pretty much it from there,” Evans describes. “I think we had a gig the next day and we’re like, ‘Wanna come play with us?’ We wrote the songs out for him on the car ride there, and he’s got a great photographic memory so he learned songs quickly.”

Duffy made his way into the band after going to school with Evans at St. Michaels College in Vermont, where the two began holding jam sessions and Evans discovered Duffy’s talent as a harp [harmonica] player. “He ended up coming to some shows just for the ride and to get away from campus for the weekend,” Evans says, “He would sit in and he really caught on to the whole business of things.” Duffy, while being the lead harmonica player, became the band’s business manager. “He’s the business guy of the group and he’s the most band looking guy of all of us.” With Long curly hair, a wool-knit hat, a scraggly beard, and a long-sleeved flannel, it would be hard to see Duffy as business savvy. “He was a business major, and for his senior project he did the band,” Evans says. “He’s taking the role with handling the merchandise, which is helpful for sure. The fact he’s a great harp player is awesome.”

After incorporating Wrba and Duffy, the group recorded Walk Softly, where Wrba was able to throw his jazz influence into the mix of reggae, folk, and blues that Barefoot Truth all ready had in place. This is what came to create what the band likes to call “Roots Rock.” Songs like “Reelin’” and “Broken Road” showcased the diversity and the very rare lead harmonica that is prevalent in bands like Blues Traveler. The band began touring and noticing that people had really taken a liking to their live show. “I’ve had people tell me they like the songs live way better than the CD,” Evans says with a laugh.

Duffy would agree, as he admits that their live show is their “best asset”. “With five people, we can do some fun things,” he explains. “With our feel-good, upbeat songs, you can see the energy pick up in the crowd.” Evans has learned that when playing for a crowd the band cannot be playing for themselves, they have a job they need to accomplish. “People come out and they play money to see you. You have to entertain them,” he says. “You’ve got to make them happy.”

The band is ready to make their fans even happier as they ready the release of Threads in February of 2010. “These songs are going to propel us to the next level,” Duffy says excitingly. “We’re setting ourselves up well organizationally.” The album is varied in the styles it contains, as it includes a horn section that livens up their jazz side. “We bring it back to the classic ‘white reggae’ feel, that roots-rock vibe,” Evans says as he describes the album, “Also, we’ve been getting more into the Weissenborn stuff with Jay, going towards more of a John Butler Trio/Ben Harper style.”

They have acquired a new piano player, Wayno, who has played with the band for a few live shows. “We would always ask him to sit in if we had a bigger show,” Evans says. “He graduated last year so we took him on full time this summer.” Unfortunately, Wayno will not be on the new album since he was unavailable due to being in school. “We’ve got a big influence from Wayno,” Duffy says, “He brings the element of jazz with Andy.”

For 2009 and 2010, the band is hopeful that they will expand in the markets they have been playing in, like the New England area, as well as building up their fan club which is called “The Barefoot Collective” where they have 500 members from all over the world. Still, the band is not trying to rush into things by any means. “We’ll take it as it comes,” Evans says, “We don’t want to kill ourselves trying to get big; we want it to happen naturally.”

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