They’ve been turning heads in Texas and with their debut project Young, it won’t be long before The Barrens are turning all of country music’s heads.
Led by lead vocalist Jordan Gibbons and lead guitarist Dana Smith, The Barrens offer a fresh and youthful sound that country music could use right now, particularly when it comes to groups. Rounding out the band is back up vocalist Trey Connor, drummer Nick Chambers and bassist Cory Chenoweth which helps the band create this full, rich sound that is such a pleasure to listen to.
And there is real momentum for The Barrens even prior to the release of this EP. Earlier this year they were announced as the winner of the Jack Daniels and iHeart Radio Battle of the Bar Bands in Austin. Building on that momentum they are ready to make their official foray into country music.
Young features six songs which gives fans and listeners a great glimpse into the type of music they’re going to make. While they share a few other influences that they say inspired the project, there’s a refreshing 2000s country sound to the songs on this project. Think early Lady A, SHeDAISY, and even early Dixie Chicks. It’s not overly produced, rather, the songs allow the vocals and instrumentals too shine through which should resonate with country fans who are yearning for the same.
We talked with the group about what went into the making of this debut EP project and what they hope comes from it.
Raised On It: What was the goal for the group when it came to recording this debut EP project?
Dana (lead guitarist): In the months leading up to the recording of this EP, Jordan and I had some demos under our belt, but hadn’t put a band together yet. After a tough and lengthy search, we found Trey, Nick and Cory. When the five of us got in a room together for the first time, we felt an undeniable energy and a deep sense that there was a musical connection there. This EP was the perfect initial opportunity to really allow everyone’s talents, styles, and influences to come together as a collective body of work.
Dana (lead guitarist): From the production standpoint, the goal was to maintain the authentic and rootsy sound that comes from the songwriting, while leaving room to incorporate a degree of musical creativity, experimentation, and shine that’s inspired by some of the commercial influences we draw from.
Raised On It: What was the process like narrowing down the 6 songs that you included on Young?
Jordan (lead singer/songwriter): After we wrote our leading singles, “Young” and “Why Do I Bother”, we started thinking about putting an EP together. We kept coming back to these six songs, which lyrically all have a common thread. Each one was written with those raw emotions you experience when you’re navigating your early twenties and entering into adulthood. It’s a weird time with a lot of transitions – you’re trying to grow into the person you want to be while figuring out the world around you.
Raised On It: Why did you end up naming the EP, Young?
Jordan (lead singer/songwriter): “Young” was a word that popped up in a few of the songs that we’d chosen for the EP. Someone threw out the title while we were grabbing coffee one afternoon, and it just kind of stuck. It encompassed those themes of young adulthood, and also represented where we were as a new band. It’s the first big project that we’ve taken on as a group and are still in the early stages – at the beginning of what we hope is going to be a long career in music together.
Raised On It: Is there a song on here that live crowds have responded well to or a particular song that you’re most looking forward to performing live?
Cory (bass): The title track, “Young”, seems to be everyone’s favorite so far. I love playing it live because Nick and I hit the intro like a truck. It’s so much fun watching people light up when we come in.
Jordan (lead singer/songwriter): We end our show with “Why Do I Bother”, and I always look forward to playing it live. On the outro, Dana and Trey go off into these gorgeous, melodic solos to close everything out. It’s just a fun, high energy song where we get to rock out a bit.
Raised On It: What’s everyone’s favorite song on the EP and why? (It can be a quick sentence)
Nick (drums): “Young”. It takes me back, you know? A song to reminisce on the careless freedoms of youth. Big parties and late nights, figuring out the world. Then all of a sudden, we’re paying off student loans and we’ve got a mortgage and a minivan with kids in it…I think a lot of us can relate to it on many levels.
Trey (lead guitar): “Eventually” is probably my favorite. It’s simple, but has a big sound. I really dig how it developed.
Dana (lead guitarist): “Eventually”. I really love how the arrangement came out. From the start, I wanted there to be an emphasis on its simplicity and it ended up with this elegance that really resonates with me. Sonically, I love what the stereo image of it does, and the dynamic of the song as a whole. As a bonus, I asked David Fralin if he could throw some experimental B3 sounds my way, and the subtle part he played over the second verse was the perfect complement to Jordan’s vocal.
Raised On It: What has winning the Battle of the Bars competition done for your career as a band?
The Barrens: It gave us a boost of confidence and momentum in the midst of the pandemic, which has been a crazy time for musicians and everyone else in the world. It felt good to get our hard work recognized and supported by such established brands. Winning gave me some validity with peers in the country scene. It solidified our place in Austin just a bit more.
Raised On It: What do you think differentiates your sound and this EP project from other bands either in the Austin area or the next generation of country acts?
Dana (lead guitarist): As the saying goes, people like to put you in a box. Collectively, I feel like we’re all striving to carve out our own, niche sound and find an audience that wants to find us. We connect with a lot of the songwriting and Americana roots found here in Texas, but also resonate with the sonic direction and experimental production ideas heard across Alternative Rock and Pop influenced genres.
Cory (bass): I think the biggest differentiator is that we don’t follow trends with other country acts. Our sound comes from five individuals who are influenced by different music, shooting for a common goal.
Raised On It: What other artists come to mind when you think of the type of music you made for this EP and music going forward?
The Barrens: Maren Morris, Lanco, Dawes, Kacey Musgraves, Ruston Kelly, Michelle Branch.
Raised On It: Lastly, for your fans and potential new fans, when people listen to this project what do you hope they take away from it?
The Barrens: I hope that our listeners can see themselves in these songs, as cliche as that sounds. The beauty of music is that it’s the universal connector. It reminds us that we all experience the same things, in different ways. Hard stuff, happy stuff, confusing stuff. At the end of the day, we’re five real people trying to write real stories; trying to express ourselves through the words we string together and the sounds that we make. Our music is an invitation for people to live life with us.