Nashville, Tennessee is world renowned as the epicentre of country music and as much as Texas has also been a big part of shaping the genre, the Golden State has also been massively influential in the evolution of the genre. The stories of the likes of Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Bonnie Raitt and Dwight Yoakham have California at the heart and the sun kissed sounds from the west coast continue to be at the forefront of country music in 2021 with the emergence of artists such as Jon Pardi, Brett Young, Devin Dawson, Leah Turner, Tyler Rich and Cam.
As Brits, we seem to have a big draw to the guys who trade California for Music City with what is incorporated in sound and lyrics, where we think we have discovered another artist that fits right into this. Hailing from Tiburon, CA which is just north of San Francisco, Lockwood Barr creates a smooth and enticing sound that is a beautiful and natural blend of contemporary country and Americana like you hear with her new single “Already Gone”. Barr co-wrote the track with Fredrick Wayne Shafer and Jamey Perrenot, who also produced the track. This rich, raw and emotionally driven track is all about finding the strength to accept the difficult truths of an ending relationship to which Lockwood previously had shared: “I know this song is angry and emotional, but it’s shamelessly fun to sing. It’s all about the groove. There's no winning side to a breakup, and oftentimes people choose to stay and let it linger rather than ripping the Band-Aid off. Writing this was all about ripping that metaphorical Band-Aid off."
Jamie recently hung out with the banjo wielding, Vanderbilt graduate who now calls Nashville home over Zoom to learn more about her, the new single, her connection to Lake Tahoe and pretty much everything else in between. We began by talking about her initial move to Nashville which was to study as much as beginning to establish herself as an artist. Nashville, in addition to it being this city that is centred on music has a vast array of educational establishments, which some of them are unexpectedly renowned for developing and learning the craft and the industry specifically. Lockwood however went to Vanderbilt which is a college that is not solely focused on music as a university so I found it really interesting to hear about her studies and how studying more academically allowed her to integrate in the culture of music city as an artist whilst still being able to enjoy life in college. “I moved here to go to college but I already knew at that point that I wanted to do music. The reason I wanted to go to college in Nashville was because of the music scene. My mum grew up in Nashville so I have a lot of family in the area and cousins that were in college at Vanderbilt at the time that I went there. I have had such a crush on the city for my whole life from growing up and visiting, then when I started writing music in middle school I had my sights set on it and if I hadn’t got into Vanderbilt I would have applied to another Nashville college. That was my parent’s stipulation where they 100% agreed this was a career and would completely support me but I needed to finish school and go to college if I wanted them behind me. I loved every second of Vanderbilt, it was wonderful. I came here for school and just haven’t left yet!”
“I studied child psychology and Vanderbilt has a classical school of music, so I did take classes in things like music theory and music literature. I took my vitamins and minerals if you will but instead of doing the practice hours necessary to actually have a certificate on my degree, I just started playing shows around the city. I find the field of psychology to be a field with so many creative brains and the study of humanity so for me I loved it growing up it made me a better songwriter. When I realised it was my plan to finish university and then fully launch into music, I was already writing music, already putting bands together and doing all this stuff so I thought what do I want out of college? For me, I wanted to become the best possible thinker I could become and the most disciplined version of myself that I could become. I felt that Vanderbilt was the school that could form me into that and push me. I remember visiting one of my older cousins when she was in her first year there and felt there were really interesting people in all of her classes and it was the network of people that I wanted.
“I feel like it prepared me well for a crazy industry too and I have an escape. To this day there are still a ton of people from Vanderbilt that I work with who ended up in the industry in other various ways, like one of my dearest friends from university is my entertainment lawyer. As the music industry is so crazy, I am grateful to have this network that is also completely removed from the industry that keeps my butt in, well I hate to say normal because there is no such thing as normal but the non-industry world and for me that’s helped keep my head on straight and keep perspective. Then my dad is a great businessman and he always said that in any industry, whatever that may be, it’s important to have one foot in the circle and one foot outside of the circle. There have been times where I would get so caught up in the inner workings of a group of songwriters then my Vanderbilt friends are the ones who pluck me out and remind me what I am doing music for, that I’m doing it for the listeners, doing it for the fans when I tour and things like that which I feel brings this really wonderful balance for me.”
Being raised on the west coast would not automatically draw you to country music and to want to study in Nashville but there must be a spark from somewhere and Lockwood talked about her influences and whether country music was always the only musical direction for her: “On one hand I attribute my current writing style to the fact that I grew up in California to very country parents. My dad has a bunch of Kentucky family and he is the one that taught me the banjo then my mum lived in Nashville and played professionally for a time when she was my age so I had these deep country influences and also I grew up in church with a lot of southern influence from my parents so I had that whole southern, country music storytelling tradition engrained in me whilst being exposed to life in California. I knew I would be a performer, that I always knew. If you had asked ten year old Lockwood, I might have said Broadway because I was a huge musical theatre nerd but the thing that kept coming back to me was there was just something primal that would happen to me when I would listen to country music. It made me feel deeply connected to my roots, I was in the minority growing up and California has its own wonderful cultural traditions but church and Gospel music are not one of them. Primal is the word that keeps coming back, I felt connected to my roots and my ancestry. I remember going to church services when we went to see relatives in Tennessee and Kentucky where I felt so connected to my cousins and everything through this music and the deeply rooted tradition of musical storytelling which keeps growing as I loosely use the word adult. I keep learning about it more and more, I just found out that in Eastern Kentucky it’s mostly Scottish when you look back at immigration over hundreds of years where it’s not just Kentucky but I can trace back through the Leslie clan! Even though looking back I think ten-year-old Lockwood would be equally prone to Broadway or country music, I think I was always going to end up in country music.” She had touched on how she learnt the banjo from her father which when you listen to her voice (which I hear a lot of Natasha Bedingfield in her vocal style) combined with her style of country music which has a lot of contemporary elements bringing in aspects of slick rock and roll with smooth R&B vibes may not be a typically traditional combination. I explored how this affects her writing process along with what has inspired her creativity when working the banjo into songs? “I think it depends on the writing session because there’s definitely songs that pretty quickly off the bat that I can tell that I can just shred banjo on and when we get a couple of bars in, I am already hearing the picking patterns. I also feel that banjo has got a bit pigeonholed in pop culture into a bluegrass and traditional country thing. Not that there is anything wrong with that and it’s iconic, Scruggs is like my lifetime hero but I think it’s a sonically diverse instrument which I think people don’t quite realise that. My goal going into a writing session is to get the best possible song and tell the best possible story with whatever that arrangement that might be or whichever artist that would be for. If its for me, yay but if it’s for another artist in the room, that’s great so let’s just make it the best it can be. What I’ve found is that the banjo can fit in anywhere, it’s a really magnificent instrument in that sense.”
“This doesn’t necessarily fit into talking about “Already Gone” but this artist is a great example of helping push my boundaries of what I personally thought was possible for banjo and that is Kate Rusby. I adore her and frankly her songwriting reminds me a lot of the songwriting that I grew up on from eastern Kentucky with the folk tradition. Obviously, she is not putting out rock jammers like “Already Gone” but her band is so good and just the way that banjo is used in her music. I discovered her through a friend who had spent part of her childhood in the US but was from the UK and was now back there for university. She would send me Kate Rusby songs and I would just sit on my bed in my college dorm and just play along. I think that was the beginning of me seeing banjo fits on anything.” Lockwood had touched on her latest single “Already Gone” which she had recently released and was created during the pandemic. “I toyed a lot with what my lockdown was going to look like and I put out two singles pretty early on, then I thought if I can’t tour with the singles, should I put more music out? I just went into this rabbit hole of songwriting, I would occasionally do television shows and some other stuff if there was an opportunity for a COVID safe show but I really just wrote! Jamey Perrenot, who produced the track for me actually brought the chorus of “Already Gone” to me, it was unfinished and they wanted to play with it so asked what did I think? I was really honoured because it’s a very vulnerable song lyrically so I was deeply touched that they trusted me with the story to put my flavour into it lyrically. Because I do have that theatre training and that musical theatre love, I always approach songs kind of like a monologue where I’m performing a story. Obviously, this came from their original story but this is a universal emotion. Everybody knows that feeling of a relationship of any description dying off because everybody has been there. We toyed with it, I have six different Google Docs from playing with this song because I wanted to honour the original storyline but also make sure that it would fit with the vibe and also be believable coming from me because this is now a story that I am taking on as my own. This was a lockdown write and one of those songs that we kept coming back to, there was something about this and I think it was the groove which won out the battle for which song we were going to release next. Even putting the banjo on, I remember sitting in the studio and thinking this was so fun where obviously we are biased because wrote the track but we can’t be the only ones who want to groove to this? Then here we have this angry, sad and vulnerable song that is so fun to sing.”
From here we began discussing what is on the horizon beyond “Already Gone” and how things are looking in terms of playing live shows: “I have decided that my plan for the foreseeable future is to keep releasing singles right now and the other thing is to try and live out of hope, not fear so am working on solidifying some tour plans right now. Whether or not Delta squashes them remains to be seen but I’m going to plan for it because if they get cancelled, I can always rebook livestreams and I will figure it out and make things work. I don’t know if they will actually happen but I’m trying and there is lots of new music on the horizon. I think one of the beautiful things during COVID was that it showed me whatever is going on in the world, art is needed and, in this day, and age of internet access, we can find ways to reach people with that. Of course, in person is ideal because there is that unmistakable bond that happens between artist and audience but what I can guarantee is that I will be putting out new music and finding ways to reach audiences.”
With the release of “Already Gone” Lockwood was using the song to highlight attention to a cause very close to her heart which is the protection and conservation of Lake Tahoe and the Keep Tahoe Blue organisation. “For why I specifically chose Keep Tahoe Blue, firstly is the obvious reason that I grew up with the Sierra’s as like a second home as it was two or three hours away so every chance we could get we would be in the mountains. Camping, hiking or on the lake, just put me in the mountains and I’m spiritually at peace so there was a local connection to that but I also feel Keep Tahoe Blue has done a really good job creating opportunities for everyday people to contribute. I think something that happens all too often with the taking care of the planet conversation is that it almost becomes too obtuse where the world is ending and we can’t do anything about it or it becomes the blame game yelling at the soccer mom for driving her SUV when she’s just trying to get her kids to school on time. I think Keep Tahoe Blue set a really good example for other organisations that would like to do the same thing, they want people to be involved and they are very transparent about where their money goes. It was such an obvious choice because here we are in wildfire season and I have friends that live in Tahoe who are affected by all the air, the sky in San Francisco was orange last year just from the wind pattern then I have dear friends in Arizona whose primary place of residence was, I kid you not thirty feet away from being taken by a wildfire! We are at the point now where I think everybody has been touched by it and I would encourage everyone to go and look up: Keep Tahoe Blue (Website HERE) as we can’t all do everything but everyone can do something and I feel they can offer a way that you can feel you can contribute. We can’t just feel hopeless or helpless, we can’t just sit in shame and guilt but we just need to put one foot in front of the other and see what we can do.”
“Me sitting and hating myself for driving an SUV that fits all my sound equipment isn’t going to solve anything! Are there other ways that I can cut my carbon footprint or are there organisations that can help me find other ways? Keep Tahoe Blue started out protecting Lake Tahoe but this year I was inspired when I was listening to their yearly reports talking about how regular citizens can mitigate wildfire spread and look for signs which is something that we can all do and is approachable!” Whilst we had talked about climate change and the actions that we can undertake to preserve our planet, Lockwood had also been heavily involved in another incredibly meaningful and necessary level of action for a vital benefit to society. After the tragic loss of her friend during high school, Lockwood was instrumental in the campaigning that has led to the creation of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. “San Francisco is this magical, iconic, world class city and first of all we had a problem with people dying by suicide locally because the bridge was so easily accessible but it wasn’t just local because people came from all over the world for what they saw as a glamorous end to their life. Most of the studies that have come out in the last fifteen years show that suicidal ideations last for an average of eight hours, so if we can get a person past that eight hours and literally keep them alive until the impulse dies off, we can save them. I think part of the problem with the bridge is that it allows for someone to be completely impulsive. It’s just a four-foot barrier, nobody is watching and you can look either way, hop over and be gone. Every single person that has survived jumping that bridge which is in single digits because you would hit the water at seventy-five miles per hour, has said they regretted it the second that they jumped! That’s what I wanted to focus on, maybe you can’t save everybody but I don’t think that’s a reason we shouldn’t be trying. This suicide barrier will literally save lives because it takes away the chance to be impulsive but I think it’s also a greater societal symbol where we are also putting our money where our mouths are saying that we value life and that every person matters! We can say that all day long but calendars and chequebooks don’t lie, so I think this is also very symbolic. We know that when we remove impulsive opportunities the numbers go down and this thing works if we remove access to that impulsivity. Then especially for children, we know that our prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until our twenties, so it’s like we are setting children up to fail as they are not physiologically able to make a lifesaving decision for themselves in a lot of cases and we need to protect them. In these really crazy times throughout the world where there is all this fighting and the social media division, I have been so inspired by the mental health advocates out there. I think this is just something where we can’t do everything but everybody can do something.”
Then finally with the Scottish heritage she had talked about and the fact that she has such an incandescent personality which I feel fans over on this side of the Atlantic would completely be infatuated by, we talked about the prospect of when things in the world calm down a little more, whether heading to Europe is something that her future could hold: “I would love to head over there! I mentioned Kate Rusby but the other band that I really loved and even my family say let’s be real, they made you want to start songwriting because I grew up on The Corrs! My sister had me put a choir together and we performed “Runaway” for her first dance song at her wedding, so my life long dream and I’ve never said this before but now I’m manifesting it in the universe and I WANT TO OPEN FOR THE CORRS! They were really inspiring because I grew up singing with my whole family and we had family bands growing up but as much as I want to play with The Corrs and Kate Rubsy, I would love nothing more than to come over and spend time with you guys!”
The new single “Already Gone” from Lockwood Barr is available to stream now. The track shines a spotlight on the Keep Tahoe Blue campaign from The League to Save Lake Tahoe which you can learn more about HERE. To learn more about Lockwood and to keep up to date with her, you can check out her WEBSITE or follow her socially on INSTAGRAMTWITTERFACEBOOKYOUTUBE & TIKTOK.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks