Music can be made with lots of texture, but it doesn't happen to be complicated, at least for the band Barefoot Truth. The Mystic, Conn.-based group, which crosses the genres of folk, rock, jam and pop, released its new CD "threads" on Feb. 16, and has begun a tour which will hit nearby venue Red Square in Albany, N.Y. Friday night.
On Monday, bass player and Pittsfield High School graduate Andy Wrba, 24, was kind enough to make the trip back home on behalf of the band to talk about the new album, sharing a venue with Bruce Hornsby and Crosby & Nash, and the relationship between music and the "green" revolution.
Q: How long has Barefoot Truth been around?
A: It started back in 2004 with Jay Driscoll (lap steel/acoustic/electric guitar) and Will Evans (lead vocals, drums, acoustic guitar), and a couple of acoustic guitars.
I believe it was in January 2006 when a mutual friend of mine and theirs brought me out to see them play the Iron Horse in Northampton. And I heard of these guys before and heard that they were looking for an upright bass player so it was a perfect time to go and see what they sounded like and meet them, and soon after that I was with them.
Q: Prior to joining up with Jay, Will, and meeting the other band members (Garrett Duffy, harmonica and John ‘Wayno' Waynelovich, piano/keyboards), did you play music around the Berkshires?
A: I played a little bit. In high school I had a rock band called Korean Connection. Our lead singer was Korean. It was kind of similar to what we're [Barefoot Truth] playing now. We played shows on Onota Lake and open mics and stuff. It was a lot of fun. You learn a lot at that age, whether you like it, whether you want to play in front of people.
Q: Did you study music?
A: I was a jazz major at Westfield State College.
Q: How did you guys develop your sound?
A: The earlier stuff is much more acoustic-based with a very simple melody line. Then when we came together, you know, everyone has their likes and dislikes, but everyone brings their own sound. I brought the sort of jazz and funk that I like into it, and the other guys brought their own, and we kind of got this roots/rock/funk thing together. People always ask what style it is that we play, and that's always the hardest thing for a band to answer. With Barefoot, it's across the board, which is kind of fun for us to play.
Q: Someone once described Barefoot Truth as a jam band.
A: You know, we were all Dispatch fans in high school. Which is funny because later we were actually on tour with Pete Francis (singer-songwriter, guitarist formerly of Dispatch). We were actually on tour with him for about six months last year. He actually produced the second album that Will and Jay did (2006 release "The Clubhouse Sessions," also with support from Dispatch producer Jack Gauthier).
Q: What's been key to keeping the band together over the years? What do each of the guys bring to the band?
A: Aw, man. And these are certainly not the only things, but a quick rundown: Garrett is very business driven and handles a lot of paperwork, contacts, and he loves it. He's good at it.
Will is a brilliant songwriter and lyricist. He's always striving to create something new.
Jay is one of the greatest guy's I know on this planet. He's a genuinely nice person and really keeps everyone in check.
Wayno's kind of the same way where he's just a great-spirited guy. We went to college together and studied music, so for me personally he really challenges me. Musically, we really push each other.
Q: How about yourself?
A: Uh, you can ask the rest of the guys. (Laughs)
Q: How have you guys garnered fans?
A: We have a very young fan base. We [recently] played two sold-out shows in Boston (Cafe 939 at Berklee College of Music), where the average fan age was around 15 or 16. But it's really kind of great because that's the age when everyone's starting to get into music. We always try to make a connection with the fans, go out and talk with them after shows. We also have fans who are "reps," who help with everything from promoting a show to working a merchandise table.
Q: What's the most memorable show you've played?
A: We did an Obama rally in ‘08, before the last pre-election campaign debate. It was at Hofstra University in Long Island (N.Y.). We played right before Crosby & Nash. We actually played between -- first, Bruce Hornsby played -- then Crosby & Nash played, and that was pretty wild. So you see Bruce Hornsby come off the stage, we walk off, then you see Crosby & Nash walking on. That doesn't happen, I mean it was surreal.
Q: You mentioned that you were that age when you started playing guitar and getting more into music. Do you think that process has changed over the years?
A: I think the way you find music now, digitally and online, that opens up so many doors. But it also makes it hard for people to find us too. But we've had a lot of luck with Pandora (a customized online radio station). We've gotten more than 4 million plays to date, particularly with a song called "Roll if Ya Fall" (from the 2006 album "Changes in the Weather").
Q: So you all come from different necks of the woods. How do you keep all the music making organized?
A: We all live together, actually, in a house we rent in Mystic, Conn., which makes it interesting. We live, work, and travel and everything together. Sometimes it gets to be a lot, but we're all really good friends. I think that brotherhood connection, people will really read in the band. It just really works.
Q: Tell me about the process for putting an album together. How did you put this new one, "threads" together?
A: Well, the process always varies. As an artist, you're always creating. And with five of us, we're always bringing things to the table. For the most part, almost entirely, Will does all the lyrics.
On this album, I think we tried to keep the variety on there. This record actually took well over a year to put together. We were probably in six different [recording] session, and six different studios between Massachusetts and Vermont. Unlike all of our other CDs, this one was produced by Scott Riebling who used to play with the band Letters to Cleo, so he's got that great pop attitude towards things that can help make it marketable.
Q: What do you want people to think or feel when you guys are playing live music?
A: We always get a lot of feedback from our fans. One of the best things that can happen is that people walk away with a smile on their face talking about how they had a great time. The lyrics come into play pretty heavily too. Those are Will's words. This album has a lot of environmentally themed lyrics. Our "threads" promo video talks about universal consciousness and how we share this planet and are borrowing our time here.
Q: Tell us a little more about that. Why is it that there is this marriage between music and the environment?
A: It's funny how things work out like that. Will and Garrett are the front-runners for this for the group. We're affiliated with a number of environmental organizations, including "1% for the Planet" (www.onepercentfortheplanet.org). This means we donate one percent of our annual income to environmental causes. We also do Rock the Earth (www.rocktheearth.org). We just think it's important and we love to be a part of it.
Q: So new album, new tour, rising success -- what's the long-term plan for Barefoot Truth?
A: We love making music and it's the greatest job in the world. It's also one of the hardest to achieve. But if we can make a career out of this without driving ourselves crazy or burning ourselves out that would be amazing.
To reach Jenn Smith: (413) 496-6211, firstname.lastname@example.org