Chris Kokesh and Jonathan Byrd from The Barn Birds tell the story of how they met, discuss “social music” vs “performing music,” and make the call of the barn birds. They also perform three of the songs live in the studio.
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The Barn Birds info
The Barn Birds interview recap
Chris Kokesh and Jonathan Byrd, working together under the name The Barn Birds, join Calvin in the studio to talk about their music and perform live acoustic versions of some of their songs.
Chris Kokesh talks about how she and Jonathan Byrd met. She says they met at the Sisters Folk Festival in central Oregon She used to live in Portland Oregon until a couple of months ago when she moved to Wisconsin They met at the American Song Academy which happens just before the festival starts. They were both teaching songwriting at the Academy. At the last jam, they met each other and played some songs together. Jonathan says he didn’t notice much of anybody at the Academy. He was very focused on the classes he was teaching. But on the last day of the Academy someone started a fire outside and there was a jam that night around the fire and the thing that made Jonathan notice Chris was when she pulled out her fiddle. Jonathan said that he invited Chris to play on stage with him and that performance got them invited back to play the next year.
Jonathan talks about the making of The Barn Birds. He says they recorded The Barn Birds album twice. The first time was at the Sisters Festival where they met. He says, “We thought we could borrow a couple of microphones and record the albums ourselves in an old barn, and I think we were very optimistic and hopeful which is nice in a young person. But it didn’t quite work out. It was raining that day and there was a bare tin roof on the barn. And there were these birds that lived in the walls of the barn that would erupt into song every now and then.” Chris and Jonathan imitate the sounds of the barn birds that were interrupting them when they were recording in the barn. They realized they were not going to be able to mix the album like they had hoped and they decided they had enough money to afford 10 hours of studio time and they booked the Blue Rock studio in Wimberly Texas to record the album the second time.
Jonathan introduces their “chart-topping hit” from The Barn Birds album.
[Jonathan Byrd and Chris Kokesh play “We Used To Be Birds” from The Barn Birds debut self-titled CD.]
Calvin asks Chris about advice she’d give to beginning songwriters. She says one of the most powerful things is to learn to trust your own voice and taste. “I think people can help you with the craft later on but I really think one of the first steps is getting confidence in what you want to say and what you have to say and how you’re going to say it. If you’re really being honest with yourself and you’re really being discerning with yourself, it doesn’t have to resonate with everybody if you really believe in it.” Jonathan says some friends, Leo Lorenzoni and Michael Kovic, were both working at High Strung Instruments on 9th street in Durham. They invited him to go to an old time music festival called The Rock Ridge Festival. “I didn’t really know what I was getting into, it just sounded like a cool hang. So I went up there and played old-time. It turned me on as far as it was not performance music. Old-time music is social music. It’s people getting together to dance to it. The simplest players and masters can all be in the same circle. Anyone is invited to be a part of it. There’s this repertoire of songs that’s fairly small.” He asked himself, “I wonder if I can write a song that can disappear into this, where if I play this song no one would ask me if I wrote it, they’d ask me where I learned it from.”
[Chris Kokesh and Jonathan Byrd play “Hazel Eyes” from The Barn Birds debut CD.]
Jonathan tells the story about his Carrboro days and the Carrboro music scene. He had been in the Navy for four years and he came back home with the distinct goal of working at Weaver Street Market because his life of Ramen Noodles and Delivery pizza was missing something. He says he worked at the Carrboro car wash for a day before getting into Weaver Street. He says “Weaver Street Market” created the scene we know of as Carrboro today.
Jonathan talks about playing the “Door To Door” program run by Joy Javits at the UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill. She arranges for musicians to play “door to door” at the hospital. They go to the charge nurse and she recommends rooms they can visit and play for. Jonathan played a solo gig there. He says, “Its very powerful for people. It changes the energy in the room in a way that just playing a regular show doesn’t. There’s even more of a void of that live art. They’ve been watching TV for a month and they haven’t had a live art experience. We went to the psychotics ward and I played a bunch of songs and they loved it. One of the guys in a wheel chair asked me where I got my soul. It’s rewarding in a completely different way from playing shows. I’m really glad that Joy Javits is making it happen.”
[Chris Kokesh and Jonathan Byrd play “Sundays Loving You” from The Barn Birds debut self-titled CD.]
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