With success already over in the States, we were intrigued by the Missouri-born Barna Howard and Dallas, country/soul singer Andrew Combs, who’ll be venturing across the sea to perform at Leeds’ Fox & Newt on 12 September. These two are definitely drumming up fans with Barna described as a ‘master storyteller’ by the Guardian and Andrew dubbed as a ‘singer-songwriter you need to know in 2015’ by the Rolling Stone. We caught up with them to get the low-down on memorable gigs, musical influences and the impact of their hometowns.
You’re both touring the UK soon, with a local show in Leeds on the 12th of September. Is there anything you’re looking forward to in particular about coming to these shores?
Barna: Walking and taking a good look around is ideal for me. The UK is still a stranger to me. It’ll be nice to see much more of it this next visit.
Andrew: I always look forward to playing to the quiet, respectful British audiences.
What would you say are the best or most memorable gigs you’ve played in the past?
B: I was thrilled to have the opportunity to open up for Sixto Rodriguez here in Portland. That was a very big show and a first for me.
A: End of the Road Festival is always great. Union Chapel was a treat, opening for Justin Townes Earle.
Tying into the last question a bit, what sort of gigs and venues do you prefer to play?
B: I always seem to steer towards the mid-sized venues. They work the best, I believe, for both the musician and the fan.
A: Anywhere that people listen.
While your musical styles are slightly different, you’re both
singers and write your own music. What are your feelings on the music industry nowadays to how it was in the past?
B: I’m fairly pleased. I just hope newer artists keep their wits about them when it comes to really owning what they produce, and to not get discouraged by the non-tangibility of it all. The internet has been the big game changer, but it has also been a good one in ways. There is a fine line that needs to be held up there.
A: Oh I don’t know. I try and keep my head down and focus on writing and performing. I figure if I do that, the business side of things will work itself out.
Who would you say your biggest influences are, and are there any bands/artists that you would recommend fans check out?
B: Neil Young, John Prine, Guy Clark, Blaze Foley are some of my heroes. Lately, I highly recommend folks check out The Deslondes. Some very fine songwriters floating around in that bunch.
Artist: Andrew Combs
Video via Youtube
A: Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, and Mickey Newbury are my writing heroes. I’m not too up to snuff with the current scene, but I like the new Jessica Pratt record, as well as anything Bill Callahan does.
You’re both from rather musical areas of the United States (Andrew hailing from Nashville and Barna from Portland). How influenced would you say you’ve been by the local music scene where you’re from and what is it like being from such areas?
B: Since moving to Portland from Missouri, I have been heavily influenced, and it was hard not to be. It didn’t take long before I started to meet other musicians, painters, designers, leather workers, etc. The town is saturated with a good creative energy. I’ve made many wonderful friends here. It’s nice to be able to share and slingshot one another forward.
A: The best songwriters and musicians hail from Nashville, in my opinion. So that in itself forces you to be better at your craft.
‘Title: Indiana Rose’
Artist: Barna Howard
Director: Paul Bridgewater
Video via Youtube
Here at York Calling, we’ve been listening to your latest releases (‘Quite A Feelin’ by Barna Howard and ‘All These Dreams’ by Andrew Combs were both released earlier this year) and we like what we’ve heard. How would you both describe the writing process?
B: It comes and goes. It might take a couple hours to get something down, it might take a month. I may overhear an interesting conversation and an idea might hit. I can never force it, but I have to always work towards it.
A: I have no set formula. Sometimes it comes from a melody, other times a song title or the first line. It really just depends.
Would you say you prefer writing songs and recording in the studio or playing live shows? They must both be rather different experiences.
B: Both are wonderful, and yes, they are different. You can’t have too much of one. It’s a back and forth relationship for me.
A: I prefer writing and recording.
What can people expect from your shows?
B: Hopefully something they can take from, or relate to. That’s my goal at least.
A: Four handsome dudes on stage singing and playing their instruments.
Any last words for the fans?
B: Thanks everyone.
A: Buy my record.
Barna Howard and Andrew Combs are playing at The Fox & Newt, Leeds on Saturday 12 September 2015