James Barker Band made their country debut this week with their first release, Game On, out Friday (April 21). Their eclectic seven-track EP introduces the Canadian four-piece to the masses and showcases both their fun and sentimental sides.
While songs like the comical “Living the Dream” where the guys chant “I drink beer and I smoke pot and I’ve thrown punches in the parking lot” recall Hank Jr.‘s “Family Tradition” with its sing-along chorus, infectious current single “Chills” solidify the band’s staying power. Sounds Like Nashville caught up with front man James Barker recently to learn more about the band’s new music and the stories behind several of their songs.
Barker met band mate and drummer Connor Stephen in high school at band camp and the two kept in touch, eventually entering a Battle of the Bands where they came to meet Taylor Abram who knew bassist Bobby Martin. A band since 2013, the Ontario-based outfit find influences in traditional and modern country as well as funk and rock music and each of these styles is woven through Game On.
“We wanted to try and find a way to incorporate all of those, and make it all into one sound,” Barker tells Sounds Like Nashville over the phone. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t stick to just one side of our personality, or make it seem like we were just a party band, or make it seem like we were just these really emotional guys. We wanted it to be as diverse as we’d like to think we are.”
While “Living the Dream” pushes some boundaries, Barker says the band loves comedic storytelling songs. As it turns out, fans do too as “Living the Dream” has long been a favorite at their live shows as the band got their start playing bars throughout Canada. Written while performing at a festival, Barker recalls walking from campsite to campsite and writing the song line by line as they visited each. By the week’s end they had the song.
The band’s current single is “Chills,” which Barker co-wrote with Travis (T-Buck) Wood, Donovan Woods and Gavin Slate. A song that has many people approaching the band saying it took them back to the first date with their husband or wife, Barker recalls sitting down to write the emotional song with the idea of “I get chills.”
“That idea on its own is so cool because a lot of people will say butterflies, but if you actually get chills then you know that whoever you’re telling that story about has really got you by the heart,” he explains. “We went in and just tossed around that idea. It was one of those songs that was written it one sitting, which is weird. Sometimes you think it’s the ‘Living the Dream’s’ that are written in one sitting and I’ve found, often times, it’s not [but] those darker, more emotional ones.”
Barker says he strives to make the songs he writes relatable because if he’s singing them he wants each one to be about his life.
“You want to feel something. When you hear ‘Lawn Chair Lazy,’ you feel happy. You feel like sitting with your buddies and having a beer. When you hear ‘Chills,’ you want to go home and kiss your significant other. Or, if you don’t have one, it makes you want to find one,” he reasons. “Each song has a different feeling associated with it, and I think that people should walk away and want to come back and listen to it again and should be able to relate it to their own lives.”
James Barker Band’s Game On is out now.