Emily Barnes is a singer-songwriter originally from Camden, Maine who is now based out of lil town in Warren County in New Jersey. Her unique vocal qualities grabbed me immediately, but according to Barnes, it took some time for her to find confidence in the voice she was born with. Despite the release of her sophomore record, Let in the Light, being just around the corner (March 10th!), she found the time to answer some questions and offer us a peek into her musical life.
MFL: Your voice is gorgeous on its own. Is your voice something you’ve always had confidence in or did it take time to nurture this?
Emily Barnes (EB): Thank you! I had always wanted to sing, and have always loved it but confidence in the voice I was given is another story. When I was starting out, I used to get frustrated often that my voice was deeper than I wanted it to be. When I was younger I was always involved in chorus programs and musicals, and I never had “the right voice” and that definitely was a confidence deflator. It wasn’t until I began writing my own songs, and embracing its unique quality that I started loving it for all of its imperfections and owning its flaws.
MFL: You mention that your upcoming release, Let in the Light, involved a lot of “elbow grease” in addition a little help from some friends. Touch on some of the hardest times in creating the record and some of the most rewarding.
EB: By far the most challenging part for me was song selection. I had a different list of tracks going into the project than I came out with and I wanted to make sure it was just right and fit the sentiment. Some other challenges I faced and often face with music include money and time. I didn’t have the funds for a full studio production, and the time was quickly slipping away when takes took longer than expected, or I couldn’t get musicians in for the perfect session time. The most rewarding aspects to creating this album are learning new instruments to achieve the sounds I heard in my head, and watching these talented friends of mine I’ve met along the way really feel the songs and help create these parts that gave them a life of their own. I also really enjoyed the late nights at my friend Mike Herz’s cabin where we made all of these songs using Logic. We had no idea what we were doing half of the time to be honest, we just tried a bunch of things until we heard the sweet spot and that was a really exhilarating challenge.
MFL: I love the sounds that happen at the end of “Into the Dawn” that bleed into the start of “Uncertainty.” What inspired the use of these sounds and where did they come from?
EB: Those sounds were actually just recorded using my phone on a voice memo! I have always loved the real indie feel when listening to some of my favorite songwriters such as John Elliott or Josh Ritter, and I wanted songs that fit the quirkiness of the person I am, and helped paint the picture for where these songs came from. I knew some people wouldn’t understand it, or maybe wouldn’t even like hearing loons singing, or dishes clanking, but when I hear these songs that’s the memory that is created and I really wanted to make that come to life.
MFL: Give me your geographical story. Meaning, where did you grow up, where have you lived and where are you settled now?
EB: My geographical story isn’t that interesting to be honest. I grew up in Camden, Maine for the first portion of my life which was spectacular and my family moved to New Jersey when I was in elementary school, and we never left. I am living in a tiny town in Warren County right now that is home to more farm animals then people!
MFL: What is the story/concept behind Let in the Light and how does the title track tie into this?
EB: I wrote the title track after reading this daily calendar my mom has with these cheesy little quotes on it, and on this particular day, the quote had reference to everything needing cracks to let the light in and I loved that concept! So I took it and wrote the song, one of my quickest ones to date. I knew immediately after writing it that I wanted it to be a theme for the album. There is beauty in the little glimmer of light in a period of darkness, you know hope. So I wanted to really play that up with these songs.
MFL: Discuss what happened between the release of your first record, Beautiful Goodbyes, and Let in the Light. How is your newest release different than Beautiful Goodbyes?
EB: When I made “Beautiful Goodbyes” I didn’t have any idea what I was doing to be honest. I didn’t know what it meant to have an album out, or what I was going to do with it once I had the physical copy in my hand. I knew I wanted to tour, and I wanted to share the songs so I did a lot of research and a lot of traveling in the period between the two. I also recorded and released an album with my duo project “Closer to Home” with singer/songwriter Mike Herz and together we kind of were able to learn the ropes and how to actually do an album release, and how to say no when it isn’t what you want. This release I am more excited about to be honest. I am doing a pre-release this time which I didn’t do the first time around, as well as CD release shows which I also didn’t know to plan. All in all I am just really overjoyed with the turnout of the songs, and I hope listeners are as well!
MFL: Why do you choose making music as your art form? Do you enjoy other types of art besides music?
EB: I chose music because it came really naturally for me. I loved writing, and I loved singing so why not do both? I love the way it taps into another side of a person, and connects everybody in some way. That might be my favorite part about it. I do enjoy all types of art. I love painting watercolors, and all of the album art this time features my own art! Which was really weird for me at first because I don’t think anyone is completely comfortable with looking at their own work, but I am glad I took that chance rather than going with straight photographs of my face like last time. I think that is even stranger to look at then your own paintings because most of the time they don’t even look like you!
MFL: Outside of music, what does your life consist of?
EB: Outside of music, my life is pretty normal I’d say. I have the most beautiful 3 year old niece Evelyn who consumes most of my time when I am not traveling, she’s my best little friend. I love doing anything outdoors, and I really enjoy cooking.
MFL: March 10th just happens to be my mom’s birthday! I’ve never asked a musician why they choose a particular release date. So, why March 10th?
EB: Happy birthday! I love birthdays! Well that’s a tough question…I wanted to give myself enough time to finish the album, and get physical copies (the first time it was really rushed) and March 10th just looked like a good time for an album release. So I guess there really was no poetic reason for choosing it other than it seemed like a lovely day! Haha.
MFL: Finally, do you have any shows planned following release?
EB: I have some album release shows starting on March 10th and through until April in the North East and then in June I am hitting the road to go cross country for two months to release these songs in new areas! I am really excited to drive to the West Coast as opposed to flying. I can’t wait!