Part alt-country and part pop confessional, Barnwell’s music defies easy categorization. But whatever you call it, the songwriting of bandleader and mastermind Tyler Gordon provides a solid foundation upon which he can create nuanced and foreboding guitar lines, the tender touch that elevates strum-along power chord bruisers. Gordon’s debut EP under the moniker, The First Ghost, arrived back in the spring. Looking forward to Barnwell’s upcoming performance at Art Bar, Free Times caught up with the Columbia-based Gordon for a quick chat touching on how his first record came about and what he plans for the future.
Free Times: Give me a little background on the formation of Barnwell. How and when did the project start, and why did you feel that this would be the best avenue for your songwriting?
Tyler Gordon: Barnwell started mainly because I wanted to get back to songwriting and recording. I hadn't played in a consistent band or anything in a while, and I had a few ideas I had been sitting on for a little bit. The circumstances didn't really allow for me to have a "band" in the traditional sense, so I decided to just write and record with the help of a couple friends and see what happened.
Where: Art Bar, 1211 Park St.
When: Saturday, Dec. 27, 8 p.m.
With: Megan Jean and the KFB, Dave Britt
More Info: 929-0198, artbarsc.com
Where and when did you begin recordingThe First Ghost, and who else was involved in the recording process?
Recording started late in 2013 with my friend Ben Cantrell in Augusta. We tracked the foundation of [the title track], and he's playing bass and keys on a couple of the final tracks. Another friend of mine, Seth Ely, who recently tracked and mixed the new Tweito record, played and tracked all the drums except for "Weaker" and "All Your Stones.”
What artists or albums were important influences on the album, and how do you feel that these influences are felt or represented on the finished product?
M. Ward was a big influence on the album, and on me in general. He's one of my favorite artists. John Mark McMillan was another big influence, as was Valley Maker. I don't know how much they are felt on the album. Any of the fuzzy guitar work is big-time M. Ward-influenced, and Valley Maker is represented in that [the band’s leader, Austin Crane,] is a big influence on me from a songwriting perspective. I latched onto his music because, first of all, it's amazing, but we also have kind of a similar cadence or whatever, singing-wise.
What is your favorite song on The First Ghost? What inspired it, or what is it about?
My favorite is "The First Ghost." The lyrics are my favorite that I've written. It's sort of based on an idea from my favorite book,The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. The song is a conversation I'd imagine would happen between two of the characters (one of which is referred to as a “ghost,” and he's the first one, hence the title), one of which is someone who is in heaven, and the other is someone who is visiting from hell.
What do you feel is the overarching theme of the record?
It ended up with sort of a theme by accident. When I was writing these I was thinking a lot about the nature of faith in God, both my own personal faith and that of others, specifically faith to the point of reliance on God. Which I've found is the hardest thing to do, giving up the idea that I can control everything about life.
What does the future hold for Barnwell? Are there plans for a follow-up record? And if so, how might the material differ from that on The First Ghost?
There are plans for a follow-up. I'm writing it right now, and I plan to start recording it early in 2015. It will be different in that this album is being written 100 percent intentionally to be recorded together and released, whereas The First Ghost was more like, "I've got these songs, let's see if they go together." Musically, it will differ from the first album in that I'm going to be trying some new stuff, but it won't be any kind of radical shift.