We recently interviewed David Barrett, world class composer of Themes like “One Shining Moment” from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, Pro Golf, the Olympics and more. He is also an accomplished solo artist – and his latest album, “First, Last & Everything In Between,” recently was released this year. Fundamental Tracks delves into this fine release.
FT: You called this album a compilation of songs that have been almost medicinal for you in dealing with life. When did you first start considering each one for this particular record?
DB: I certainly can’t speak for other writers, but for me, writing songs…particularly these songs came from “moments of perception” mixed with the inevitable task of reconciling heartaches, and joys of walking
down this road we all travel. In that sense, yes they are almost medicinal. Clearly these songs come from a place where I’m trying to explain the world…to myself…if nothing else. Hopefully others will recognize the view as well.
As those around me know, I write a lot of music, whether it be in the form of scores, songs, themes…whatever. I never judge how or why they are written. I have a wine cellar filled with songs that are just waiting for the light of day. So here are a handful. These all seemed to fit together for me…in that they all originated with the acoustic guitar and were aged in wood.
FT: This album is “decidedly acoustic.” Is it because the songs fit more of an acoustic realm themselves, or are you trying to tie the compilation together somehow, someway by the instrumentation?
DB: Well, I play the piano a great deal as well. When I’m writing a score, I gravitate to that instrument. Whereas these songs began pretty much with me sitting on my couch with a faraway look, fussing with my acoustic guitar…I call it rubbing two sticks together. When you get a spark and then a fire, then it really gets interesting…and when done well, gratifying. All of these songs pretty much started that way and seemed to come from the same family tree.
FT: In recording the album, how long did it take? Is it something you did in a short amount of time with the players, or like the songs, did the recording process simmer as well?
DB: Oh my…now there’s a question that should be simple to answer. But like most things I do, it isn’t.
The broad outlines were that I made a decision that touring around was not best for my family. I luckily was writing a lot of music for the networks at the time, so I could make this choice. But I was still writing a lot of songs and wanted to record them.
I was a producer in Chicago at one point and had the pleasure to work with some very gifted studio musicians who I invited up every once in awhile to record. I also have a few ringers from my hometown that were kind enough to show up. We’d lock into the studio for a weekend and make music…this music.
This went on for years, as they were kind enough to make the trip…and I didn’t run out of songs. I would tell them all that there is a good chance that the songs would not find the light of day…but they didn’t care, nor did I.
So to answer your simple question: The recordings themselves, spaced over many years, did not take too long…although I’m pretty fussy with the mixes…but it just took some time for me to decide to bring them out of the wine cellar.
FT: The album artwork is you on the cover as a young boy and the back cover as you are now. The title of the album seems to fit that theme of everything that has gone on between those two pictures. Was that your intent and if so, what songs capture your youth, and the other time periods of your life?
DB: Yes that was the idea for the artwork…to trying capture the road between innocence and a certain well earned honesty that comes with growing older.
Certainly the title song FIRST, LAST & EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN is an innocent devotional between young & old.
NUMBERED DAYS is an unblinking look at the tick…tick…of time…particularly when there is less of it than more of it.
ONE GOOD HEART DESERVES ANOTHER is about a love after the heartaches.
I tried to fold in some humor along the way with songs like APPLE PIE…or…I THOUGHT I WAS LEAVIN’ (BUT THEN YOU LEFT) because that too is part of the arc of things.
All of these represent snapshots along the way.
FT: Talk a little bit about the Title Track and the dedication to your daughter, Esther…
DB: She was going through a bit of a rough patch in her early 20’s…We were talking about it, and she intimated how disconnected she felt at the time…not understanding how fundamental she was to everything that matters to me. I wrote this song to clear that right up…
FT: You’ve done so many amazing instrumental soundtracks, winning a number of Emmys – what brings you back to the singer-songwriter gig and why is that important to you?
DB: When I’m asked to talk about writing music for a living, one of the things that has always served me well, and I trying encourage others to consider, is to not prejudge what you are allowed to write.
I know that can be a recipe for indulgence, but it really broadened and enriched my writing. There is definitely cross pollination between all these different shapes & forms of making music.
When I was “less than prosperous” playing all sorts of “less than rewarding” live gigs, I would go home at night and would write music that eventually ended up in the Olympics, or major network themes. I didn’t know any better. And I didn’t judge what I was allowed to do. I wrote a song about basketball, One Shining Moment that changed my life. If I had waited for permission from some gatekeeper, none of this would have happened.
Someone asked the great actor Spencer Tracy his secret of being so interesting onscreen. He said that while on camera, he was always thinking something. He had an idea, and it showed on camera. With the singer-songwriter style of writing, you can wade deeply into all sorts of ideas and subject matter that find their way back into the scoring.
It starts with an idea…
FT: Talk about the friends who helped you record this album – are they well known to each other – or a compilation over the years, like the songs? How do you get folks to play on your albums? Do you have a systematic process or is there another way that you do it?
DB: That too should be a simple question, but alas it is a bit more complicated. Let me say without hesitation that without the help of so many friends who tolerated my moody indulgences; who supported and encouraged me when things were mighty tough; who have remained dear personal friends throughout…I can’t begin to imagine where I’d be.
There are so many that if I name one, then I’d fill this page with only names. They know who they are. And yes the circle of musicians, engineers, singers, all know and appreciate each others exotic & unique talents. Like an acting troupe, I’ve used a lot of the same players throughout…while mixing in new flavors when called for. But when these guys show up…they bring a lifetime of talent, experience and soulfulness.
FT: What do you hope those that listen to the record will take away in enjoying it?
DB: Hmm…I hope anyone who listens finds something that speaks to them. I always encourage folks to take a look at the lyrics as well, because I spend a lot of time trying to get them “just so…” I’m fond of saying that a good song is one you want to hear again.
Hopefully there will be a few that they would like to hear again…
FT: Lastly, for fun – what wine would you pair with listening to First, Last & Everything in Between?
DB: Well then…that’s an interesting question. I have a friend who is a real aficionado of fine wine. I’m afraid I’m just an enjoy-er of a Merlot from time to time. I’m not sure if that represents anything symbolic…other than having no class saves me money!
But if one were to sip wine while listening, I hope & trust that they savor the taste of both the wine and the music…
Listen to David’s latest Album on Spotify here
For more about David Barrett, go to his website.