- Danny Barnes -
Part Southern gentleman, part humble artist, Barnes is being more than a bit self-effacing. Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and genre-bending artists of his craft, Barnes' musical interests are both varied and adventurous, and he incorporates that versatility into a progressive approach to an instrument that is musically polarizing and steeped in tradition. Although he demonstrates an appreciation for the history of the bluegrass, country, and folk music from which the banjo's reputation was born, his inventive take is what truly separates him from his contemporaries...using the banjo as his 'weapon of choice' to play non-traditional music like rock, fusion, and jazz with electronic percussion and loop elements.
A good song has a way of speaking to everybody. I have faith that more people are going to hear my songs, which is really what I have to offer. I'm not one of those virtuoso instrumentalists, I can't compete with those guys, but the one thing I can do is write really good songs." - Danny Barnes
He has come to redefine the banjo's perceived image in an eclectic career for which genre definitions have merely been a polite suggestion. From his early days as the driving force behind the impressive Austin-based Bad Livers, a band of pioneering Americana missionaries, through a prolific solo career and the development of his trademark 'folkTronics' project, a startling approach that incorporates digital technology and various effect pedals to stretch the tonal range of the instrument, Barnes has always listened to his proudly offbeat inner voice.
His skills as an instrumentalist and his open embrace and infectious love of music for music's sake, have brought him to share the stage and record with a wide array of marquee artists that reads like a who’s who among broad musical landscapes, ranging from bluegrass greats Bela Fleck, Del McCoury, and Sam Bush, newgrass stars Yonder Mountain String band, to Americana artists Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, and Nickel Creek, to Jam friendly Government Mule, Leftover Salmon, and Keller Williams, to jazz and blues instrumentalists Bill Frisell, Chuck Leavell, and John Popper, to members of the punk and metal Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys, and Ministry.
Danny Barnes' Pizza Box is my favorite new music, my favorite rock record, and my favorite country record...the music is smart and soulful, and the lyrics are profound. It is heaven and earth. It is Americana, from the back porch of the pulpit, shattered dreams on angel wings. I can't stop listening. In the haze of over produced, "perfect" recordings, Danny Barnes spent less than two weeks banging out an album that may well save your soul." - Dave Matthews
Danny Barnes doesn't sound like anybody else. I was knocked out when I first heard him play and continue to be. Danny is wide open, unafraid, hungry for new ideas, and has a way of processing it all so that whatever comes in comes out all his own. The line between where he's been and where he's going is unbroken. The roots are strong. He lives the music. He's not making this stuff up. It is his story. Danny is an inspiration to me and it has been a privelege to witness his work grow and come together in such a unique way. It's all here. The real deal." - Bill Frisell
Danny Barnes is the great American un-sung hero. Whether playing guitar, banjo, or singing - his talent is limitless. When you watch him play, it seems impossible the things that he does - but when you hear it back as a listener, it all makes sense. After sitting in with our band one night, he must be the only banjo player that can play 'Going Back to Ol Kentucky' by Bill Monroe in the key of A without a capo. When he comes to the 5 String, he makes it swing!" - Sam Bush
Music needs to change, grow, and evolve, and be constantly inspired through the work of the people that create it. Thank God we have a man like Danny Barnes leading the way...a true hero and resounding voice to those smart enough to listen." - Jeff Austin (Yonder Mtn. String Band)
A vivid cast of characters travel through oft-overlooked back roads of the American landscape, hanging in forgotten corners as they assess the breakthrough moments in their often self-destructive paths. In turns humorous, touching, and gritty, they leap out of the grooves in flesh and blood, with their bruises, moments of grace and all. His sly observations are slid into richly detailed stories of characters in which the songwriting illuminates the broad experiences and struggles of folks stuck in various ruts. Even at their most unhinged, these creatures are identifiable and eerily familiar.
Barnes sums up the underlying narrative: "The story is this group of people (as they intersect in their physical environs) that are on various sides of the life decision that they are not victims after all, but rather, the cause of their own misery.” Barnes reflects, "I'm just a regular person myself so I identify with a normal trip. That's one thing I like about pop music is it speaks to everybody and speaks to a broader perspective than say, just being a jazz vibraphonist. That's cool, but it's hard to reach out to people. I'm a music fan myself, and what do I like to hear? I like to hear weird pop music, like twisted pop. Songs, you know? And not necessarily in a bluegrass, acoustic or country way, or a jazz way or a rock way. Just these weird pop songs that are about modern life. That's what I feel connected to."