Episode 14: Katie Barbato
This week has me sitting down with Katie Barbato. I love Katie. We've known each other for years, she introduced me to her husband who ended up engineering "On So Thin A Line", the record by The Way Home that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. We've played a ton of shows together throughout this time, so i was excited to have her on the show. She's a unique sort of writer, in that she doesn't let the genre or style get in the way of a good song. She's done some style hopping and tried some things, and I have nothing but respect for that. But at her core, she's a folk singer. That's how I met her, and that's how I choose to think of her. She sings songs that are relatable and human and full of truth. Even when she's singing someone else's words, she makes them her own (as is the case for her "Millay Tapes" record, which is all songs with the lyrics being Edna St. Vincent Millay poems).
The inspiration for this week's guest comes at the close of me getting back in the ol' rock band game for a brief little bit. I've talked about it on the show on and off, but for those who missed it: On April 4th, I got back up on stage with James and Nick, who were my bandmates in The Way Home and The Sobriquets over many years. James and I grew up together, learned to play guitar together, started our first bands together, and so on. Nick has been a part of my musical life since '08, and he is, without a doubt, the best drummer I've ever played with.
I left the band, and these two guys, back in 2013. I was in a strange place at the time. The band was slowly collapsing under the weight of what most bands collapse under: everyone had a different level of commitment. We had spent all of our money on a tour that had amounted to nothing. Our van had just kicked it. We were losing our rehearsal space. James and I weren't getting along at all. I was 33 and had been in bands since I was 16. I had made sacrifices and adjustments in my life for nearly 20 years so that I could continue to be in a band because that's (I thought) how you did it. I thought I could never imagine a life where I wasn't in a band until, one day, I realized that almost everything about being in a band made me unhappy at that moment. So I left.
It's incredibly difficult to be in a band with your friends. In fact, I'd say it's one of the riskiest relationship decisions you can make with someone you're not married to. Unless you are very good at separating things in your head, it's going to change things a lot. Even more so if you've been in a band together since you were teenagers. You don't even realize you're enacting the same roles with each other for a couple of decades until you get some distance and some clarity from it. Leaving the band gave me both, and it was very needed. I had to completely deprive myself of that aspect of my life in order to regain any sense of positive feeling about it. And it worked.
Getting back onstage with those guys (and Katie, too) was a welcome sort of closure. And a freakin’ blast. You never ever get over the sensation of putting your guitar over your shoulder, turing the volume up, and playing for people who are excited to see you. We never did get to give our last band, The Way Home, a proper send-off. Hell, I didn't even tell the guys at our final gig that it was in fact going to be our last gig together. And I truly believe that a few Saturdays ago was not the last time I'll get on stage with James and Nick. We didn't so much say good bye to anything as much as we stuck a pin in it for a while.
I do what I do here on the show because I was in a band. I know a lot of the guests because of my time playing around Philadelphia and the Eastern US. I would not be who I was without the experiences that I've had. And it's good to know that it's an aspect of my life I can walk back into whenever I feel like it again, and not let certain elements of it make me miserable. Being in a band is not an all or nothing deal, not like I thought it was when I was younger. You're not a failure if your band doesn't make it and you break up. You tried it at all, and that's a lot more than most do. And you'll always have it in you.
Be well over the next couple of weeks. Remember the things you used to do not as a bygone era or something you can never get back. Get that guitar back out. Sit down at those drums or that piano again. Pull out those oil paints or that sculpting clay. Take that pen and notebook back out that you used to write in. Sing your old songs with the people you used to sing them with, even if it’s just in a living room. Before there were expectations of success or fame or any of that crap, there was you and the voice inside you, and the thing that brought it out. Go get to know that thing again for a bit.
Enjoy Katie! She's such a talent! Check out her records here! Is it weird to schill at the end of the thoughtful thing? Also, at the end, I play you a new track from Ben Hughes from Episode 11. His April release (Remember his "one-a-month" record idea for 2015?) is outstanding, I had to share a taste. Okay, enough plugging. Catch you all in a coupe of weeks.