Artist: Nate Barnes
Interviewer: Jennifer Smith
In a world of so much uncertainty, there was nothing uncertain about the path Michigan native Nate Barnes he needed to take, the road that lead him straight to music and a home at Quartz Hill Records.
Being a virtual unknown who just marched right in with a highly praised and well received debut single, "You Ain't Pretty", I was intrigued to find out more about the person behind the song ... Who is Nate Barnes? What sets him apart? Why should I talk to my audience about he and his music?
Nate was kind enough to take some time on a plane ride between radio stops to shed some light on this and more. Check out my interview below with Nate and then once you've finished reading, please download or stream "You Ain't Pretty", watch the video below and talk about it to other music fans.
Thank you Nate for spending some time on us!
Q: Who is Nate Barnes - tell us a little about yourself, both personally and as a songwriter. What did you do before you realized music was where you wanted to be? What drives you?
What made you chose country music versus another genre?
A: I’m just a small-town boy from South Haven, Michigan. I worked at a nuclear power plant for the last 12 years as a carrier and I worked at a blueberry farm on and off. I’ve been gigging and playing music since I was in middle school. I started writing music around 11-12 years old on piano and guitar. I also love playing drums. This whole thing started when I was a young boy when my granddad would have westerns on the tv and blues or country playing on the radio and he would tell me stories for hours about blues musicians and life. I loved every minute of it. He was the best storyteller I’ve ever known and he loved and knew so much about music. My granddad never knew it but he breathed this desire into me to do music and to tell stories to people – to touch people’s lives through song. That desire never left me. I knew at a young age that this was what I was going do. Even when I tried to run away from it, it kept calling me back. It wasn’t until my buddy Dennis - my mentor - came into my life when I was 20 that I knew I wanted to be a part of country music. He showed me country music in a way I had never heard it before. It was like this was the missing piece I’d been searching for my whole life. It just felt like home. Country music tells the truth and there’s no fluff. Before that I wasn’t ready to go there.
Q: How long have you been in Nashville and tell us a little about your journey as an artist and as a songwriter, the obstacles you encountered and what led you to Quartz Hill and how you knew they were the right fit for you.
A: I’ve been in Nashville for a year and a half now. It’s been a rough, but exciting and new world for me. I left everything and everyone I knew in Michigan - and a dang good job in the nuclear industry. I packed my stuff and my dog in my truck and moved down here in a hotel room for over a year in the middle of a pandemic! It sounds crazy but this opportunity Benny Brown has given me is so big. . I’m so blessed and honored to be here and part of the amazing Quartz Hill Records team. Benny, Paul Brown and Jason Sellers have changed my life forever. It’s been amazing to see my dreams coming true.
Q: Your debut single is “You Ain’t Pretty” - Why this song? What is the “behind the song” story?
A: It’s simply about building people up and not tearing them down. So many people these days don’t like who they are and are struggling with inner demons. So, this cuts out all that doubt and fear and goes to the real truth - that you are something so special.
Q: Since being in Nashville, has there been a moment, other than connecting with Quartz Hill and signing a deal, that really inspired you and told you to keep going?
A: Sounds kinda funny but my dog Nash. He truly provided me with so much love through all this and helped me stay focused. And definitely the Quartz Hill team - we are a family and we’ve got each other’s backs. We’re in this together.
Q: You’re currently on a radio tour for the single. How is that going and are you learning things you hadn’t known about the industry that are helping with your growth?
A: It’s going great! It’s been awesome getting to know everyone at radio. They have been so kind to us and I truly appreciate everyone that has met with us. I’m also definitely learning a lot. I mean I have the best of the best on this team. April Rider - who is head of our promotion staff - has been so amazing and she put an awesome team together. They all are teaching me things every day. Like be yourself be honest and genuine and real. Play every song like it’s the first time but the last time. Stay in the moment and really care about people.
Q: Who are your personal and writing influences and why?
A: Just life and all the experiences I’ve had. I’d like to say that, boy, I’ve lived some life good and some life bad so I’m not letting any of that go to waste. I write about god, my family, my heartache and my pain and also things I’ve overcome in my life. I love writing songs with grit and honesty that gives people hope.
Q: Is there any piece of advice that someone’s given you that really stands out in your mind and has been a motivational factor for you?
A: There are so many people that have helped inspire to get where I’m at, to be honest with you but my favorite is a quote from Wayne Dyer: “Don’t die with your music still Inside you.” I believe in that so strongly. We only get one life and I sure don’t want to lay on my death bed and say, man, I could’ve done more or why did I say no? I’d say don’t give up on your dreams and most importantly don’t give on yourself. Give it all you got and I promise your life will be amazing whatever that is.
Q: If there was one thing you could change about your journey and the music industry,
what would it be and why?
A: Well absolutely nothing. I literally was working at a nuclear power plant a year and a half ago. Now I’m writing this on a plane to Vegas to meet radio and have the biggest shot and opportunity of my life to do music and touch people’s lives through song! I’m loving every minute of it and am so proud to be a part of this team.
Q: Has your musical journey had a deliberate direction or did it simply gradually evolve in
whatever direction it found?
A: It definitely evolved from playing churches and then in some rock bands and then into country.
Q: What does your music say about you to the listener?
A: That’s hard to say – it’s really up to the listener to decide. That’s the best part - these songs aren’t about me, they are about the listeners, their lives and what it means to them.
Q: If we were to look at the artists you are listening to, who would be the most played artists on your current playlist?
A: Tyler Childers, Luke Combs, Brooks and Dunn, George Strait, Jon Pardi and Lainey Wilson
Q: Tell us what's coming down the pipe that we can look forward to.
A: CMT world premiered the music video for “You Ain’t Pretty” a few weeks ago and you can also see it on my YouTube channel. We plan to have an EP out a little later this year.
Q: How can fans connect with you online?
A: They can find me at @natebarnesmusic on all platforms and can also head over to my website for the latest news, updates and tour stop information at https://www.natebarnesmusic.com.
Q: If you could write a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you tell yourself?
A: Don’t give up. What you’re going through is meant for something bigger than you. Just forgive yourself and others and quit worrying about what others think of you.