Hank Barbee is the name. Remember it. Remember his face. Remember that VOICE. Because we believe this guy will take it to the top. Back in December, we introduced you to him as part of the wonderful group, Belle Vici. And now that he's gone solo, we jumped at the chance to talk to him again.
As you read this interview, you'll find that Hank has a way with words. He's a natural writer and his ability to translate this to music makes for a captivating combination. His album is an examination of the bumps, bruises, and healing of his life's journey. And every song is good, no.....great, no....FANTASTIC and inspiring. Take a listen to his album down further in the post, and be sure to read more about his work with Restore One.
What is your name?
My name is Hank Barbee.
Describe your music style to our readers.
I would describe my music as a hearty and complex broth of many influences that I call 'Alternative-Americana'. Americana because of my organic roots, and Alternative because I am not like most of the Americana that you hear these days. I grew up in rural NC listening to alot of Doc Watson and Appalachian folk music, coupled with 1970s era singing/songwriting/guitar players. Then as a teen, I discovered what a Les Paul electric guitar sounded like through an amplifier turned up so loud that it made my pants legs vibrate when i stood in front of it. That changed my life. Currently, I find myself in the middle ground somewhere, drifting to and fro a little.
I read that your songs are a memoir. What events in your life have provided the most songwriting material and why?
I have to be honest, I never considered myself to be a real songwriter until a few years ago. I went through some really rough stuff and when I began the difficult work of unraveling my self-inflicted-emotional-mess I discovered I actually had something to say that was worthwhile and healing, to myself and quite possibly to others. More specifically the events I speak of would include drug and alcohol recovery, divorce, and pretty much losing every single thing in your life that ever meant much to you. That would include my former music career as well. I actually gave it all up for a couple of years when I got sober. Alot of the songs on my album have to do with my recovery and the ensuing estrangement from all things familiar. Searching to find myself has been, and still is, the greatest journey I never thought I would take.
You play all things string...or at least quite a few of them! If you could only play one instrument, what would you select?
I think I would still pick the guitar. The acoustic guitar. Because its all you really need in the most basic sense. You can pick out a melody or accompany yourself singing a tune. I do almost all of my writing on the guitar. I began playing guitar around age 11 and it certainly feels comfortable in my hands. I don't even know if I can imagine what my life would look like had I never picked up a guitar. Hmmmmm....
In addition to the songwriting, the singing, and the instrumentation, you produce your own records. Tell us about this.
Production is a very creative and fun part of it for me. I love it that when I am writing a song in my head or with just a guitar in my hands, I hear all these other instruments and accents and parts and harmonic movements going on along with what is actually going on in real time. To have the luxury of a studio and the time to put all that into play is a real fantasy. I can really get inside the mood of the song, the atmosphere that the song itself creates, and make that come to life. That's what production is to me, just allowing the song to have exactly what it needs to accurately tell its story.
Your tour schedule is booked solid for next few months. How do you keep your performance fresh, and what is it like to be on the road?
My greatest life lesson, of late, can be summed up in this great quote I heard not too long ago: "wherever you are, be all there". I don't know who said it. Maybe I should Google it... When I can function in the here and now and be conscious-of and tuned-in to what is going on inside me and around me, then everything seems to stay fresh and honest. I suppose because I am 'living' haha A simple answer might be that I am always writing new songs to perform. That's always exciting, to play a song to an audience for the very first time. To get the response of real people as opposed to the ones clapping for me in my head haha The road seems to be home for me. I hate sitting still, in fact I have found that its impossible for me to stay in one place for very long. I have tried. My wiring is just different. I love meeting new people. I love seeing new places. Heck, I even love seeing a place I have seen before but maybe in a different season; when the leaves are turning, or spring is blooming. Maybe I require way too much external stimuli to keep my brain from burning itself out.... ?
If you could each pick one musician (alive or dead) to perform with, who would it be?
Beethoven, but hopefully before he went deaf. I love his moody, emotional music so dang much. How cool would it be to sit in Vienna in some loft with a piano and a guitar and play with that dude!?! I mean even if he was a jerk, I could put up with him for an afternoon. I've played with some jerks before hahaha
It's hard for me to pick favorites, but I think I'm partial to the sweetness of Tangled and the catchy raw quality of Hardwired. Could you give us some of the backstory of these songs?
"Tangled" is just that. Tangled!?! Even if I could tell you coherently, it wouldn't make sense to you or anyone else!?! That is just one of those where it will have to mean what it means to you, and thats all that matters. I'm sorry to dodge that one! Interesting factoid: I wrote "Tangled" and a song called "The Door" (released on Eleven O'Clock Records recording 'Belle Vici' by my former band Belle Vici) in the same week. Lotta heavy emotional ground was getting covered during that time. "Hardwired" is definitely of a rocking variety that I love. Funny that i mentioned my messed up wiring in your earlier questions because for most of my life I have said I needed to be disassembled, rewired, and put back together. This song is the out and out story of my addiction. All the 'selfies of a sick mind' I guess you could call it. And the rant in the middle is mixed at a low volume for a reason, its kinda strong language that I didn't wanna be obvious to my nieces and nephew listening to it. They are amazing and fans of their uncle hank :) but anybody interested in whats being said there can go to my >hankbarbee.com page and go to >songs >all >hardwired >lyrics and voila! there it is. And all that grinding Les Paul guitar I spoke of previously? Its in there! Rock on! "Deluge" comes from a story told to me by Liz Philyaw (singer from Belle Vici) of her experience in the NC flood of 1999 during Hurricane Floyd. All she told me, combined with a few visuals from the only tv station I ever watch (The Weather Channel), really set the creative juices flowing. That little guitar motif is hypnotic like the ceaseless rain and this is the type of moody song a producer lives for. Lyrically, the song says something even deeper than what I knew was coming out when I wrote it. "Salvation is on the river..." ...For me, when everything I had known was washed away, it was then that I discovered what was truly valuable in life. I found peace and I found God. I intend to set up some sort of payout to a disaster relief organization so that whenever somebody buys this song a portion of that money goes to help people who have been through a deluge. "These Were The Days" was written about a very dear friend of mine who passed from us much too early. I had a dream about him about a year after he died. In that dream he came and picked me up in his old beat up white van and we rode around town and talked and got caught up. When he dropped me back off at my house, that was the last time I ever looked him in the eye. His blue eyes were so vivid in that dream. It was him. I got to see him and talk to him one last time. It was heavy, but beautiful. Sentimental blues... Gave you a couple extras there since I jibbed you out of Tangled...sorry...
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope that I continue to be blessed with good health and abundant energy so that I can spread my music and my smile. Each month continues to bring me better show opportunities and a greater reach. I hope that for each day I am allowed to do this, I can pack some goodness back into the stream of life. Life is so amazing today, there is no telling how great mine is gonna be in another 5 years.
Connect With Him
I am very passionate and actively working to raise awareness of human-trafficking, sex-trafficking, DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking) right here in the US, in our states and in our local communities. This is a rapidly escalating problem and predators and pimps are targeting our children and grandchildren every minute of everyday. Its no longer just a situation over-seas or in the inner-cities of America. Its in our backyard now. Education, prevention and recovery are essential. Every life matters. I cannot sit idly by, for I have a big mouth and people listen to me. On my home turf in Eastern NC I have been working with an organization called Restore One in their fight against human trafficking. I am putting on concerts to raise awareness and dollars, and Restore One is organizing, equipping and leading by example. Additionally, Restore One is currently filming a documentary called BOY$ about the exploitation of young males in America. Its horrific. If you are reading this, simply dig around on your social media apps, search your local community, and you will see that this is becoming an epidemic in America this very day. Please stand up and join the fight. Every life matters. You would want someone to fight for you....
by MRH, CMO