Singer-songwriter Dave Barnes had a pretty remarkable 2011."I never thought I would have a year like that," says Barnes. "We had a baby at the end of 2011 and a Grammy nomination and the three-week No. 1 country hit ..."
The Grammy nomination was for Best Country Song for "God Gave Me You," recorded by Blake Shelton. The song had previously appeared on Barnes' 2010 album "What We Want, What We Get." His new album is called "Stories To Tell."
Barnes has spent the last decade building a career as a singer-songwriter, and winning praise from peers and fans.
A 1998 graduate of Farragut High School, Barnes spent his late teens in Knoxville. His father, Jim Barnes, is pastor at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church and his mother, Jane Barnes, teaches math at Farragut High. Dave enrolled at Middle Tennessee State University in 1998 and began working on playing guitar and writing songs in earnest. He released his first collection of songs in 2002 and his first full-length album, "Brother, Bring the Sun," in 2004. Not long afterward, other artists, including John Mayer, Amy Grant and Vince Gill, began mentioning Barnes as a favorite. In the ensuing years Barnes has amassed a dedicated fan base.
However, having Shelton go to No. 1 with "God Gave Me You" was a boost for both Barnes and Shelton.
Barnes, who now lives in Nashville, says the first time he heard Shelton's recording of the song was special.
"Goosebumps, chills, just floating on air. In 1997, when I started playing guitar and writing songs I was like, 'Man, I would just love for Bryan White, Hal Ketchum, fill in the blank, for one of these guys to sing my songs that I'm writing.' How many people have the blessing of that? You have a dream when you're in college that really comes true? Not only comes true, but in a massive way.
"On Twitter, the day it went No. 1, he sent a couple of tweets my way saying, 'Huge congrats Dave Barnes. What a great song.' And my favorite of the tweets was 'Guys, take risks.' I thought, 'Good for you, man. You're right. Take risks.' Because it was such a different sound for him. I think it broadens his fan base and people get a new look at him. I'm so glad he's getting recognized."
Barnes' own fans probably didn't expect him to find a footing in country, but, then again, Barnes has been hard to peg to a genre.
"My manager and I laughed the other day because every record I've ever released to iTunes has been under a different genre. I've had one at pop. I've had one at rock. Now this one is singer-songwriter."
In fact, one of Blake Shelton's press releases for the song referred to Barnes as a contemporary Christian artist, so whenever he's mentioned in a story on Shelton he's tagged with that genre. While Barnes says it really doesn't really define what he does, it's not bad.
"The CCM world has been so kind to me and my music and as someone who really doesn't reside in that world I've been able to skirt the edges in a very respectful and fun way. But if you dip a toe in you're suddenly that thing."
One category Barnes embraces fully is parenthood.
"If you'd have told me five months ago before Ben was born that I wouldn't mind getting up at 5 in the morning to rock him back to sleep I would've said, 'You're crazy, man.' But there's this extra well of love and compassion that you tap or gets released with the birth of a kid. You're like, 'Oh, yeah, I'll do that!' It's a crazy thing."
Barnes says he's anxious to see how his new perspective finds its way into his art. He says the success of "God Gave Me You" has already changed his attitude about writing.
"When I wrote (the songs on the album) 'Stories To Tell,' it was kind of the first time that I just didn't sit down and write a bunch of songs, but said, 'I wonder if I can write a song that's maybe not exactly what I feel but widens the berth a little bit so that it can appeal to more people?' If I'm dealing with a very specific emotion, how do I write about it so it's a little more broad?"
Barnes says he occasionally wishes he was making the kind of money Katy Perry is probably pulling in or his career would grow a little faster, but he's not complaining too much.
"Like any job it's kind of remembering why you're doing something and sticking with that line. Katy Perry, her career might end in five years, but you trade one for the other. I may be playing till I'm 80, but it'll take me that long to amass a fifth of the fortune that she's probably gotten for herself! But I wouldn't change it. I love what I get to do. I'm just so glad that I can play shows and people listen. There's not an album or song that I look back on and say, 'Wow, I wish I hadn't done that.'"
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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