Interview with Clive Barnes

this article was first published in The Evening Echo [Cork] on 2017-04-6

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Wexford man Clive Barnes has been internationally renowned as a guitarist and songwriter for nearly twenty years, his 2002 record ‘Welcome To Farewell’ was Acoustic Guitar Magazine’s album of the year, and he is regularly out on the road in the US or Europe when he not touring in Ireland.

While best known as a ‘roots & blues’ musician, Clive has also organised whole gigs where he plays just Queens Of The Stone Age songs or ‘Grunge Rock’ era bands. He contends that keeping his ears open to all types of music and genres feeds into his playing abilities, he can also be regularly seen playing as an accompanist with acts as varied as Hamell On Trial, Jim White and Luan Parle, with whom he is performing a double-header concert with in Ballincollig on Thursday 20 April.

Clive has a very clear reasoning for touring so much, “I need to gig, I truly feel comfortable playing music for people. I need to challenge myself musically and insert myself into as many different musical situations as I can. I’ve been incredibly blessed with the people I’ve toured with.”

As opposed to considering it an exercise that keeps him ‘ticking over’, Clive credits this work as inspiring his own creativity, “I’m light years away from the player I was even five years ago. As an accompanying guitarist I learn so much from each act I play with, sometimes through osmosis, sometimes through traveling and talking with these incredible songwriters, musicians and characters. You’re an idiot if you stop listening and learning. I notice all this come out in my playing, songwriting and stagecraft. It adds to my solo situation greatly.”

This constantly evolving musicality has also fed into Clive making decisions to scrap completed work even though he intends releasing a new record this year, “musical leaps I’ve made has caused me to basically ditch maybe two albums worth of fully recorded music. I’m starting again at the end of April, the album is being recorded and produced by Ian Doyle (who performs his own music as The Man Whom), we intend to have it finished by the end of June. Ian pushes me in great directions, he has brought out of me the idea to treat recording as an instrument of expression in and of itself. In the past I would just try recreate the live experience to tape, which is all well and good but the idea of treating each as a separate entity of creativity is way more appealing.”
Having a creative foil like that has helped many artists throughout history, a situation Clive now relishes as it is not uncommon for him to spend long periods of time in his own bubble, “recently, I did 14 days straight on my own in England/Scotland and Wales, all I saw was the inside of the venue, the hotel and the motorway.”

With that in mind playing with Luan Parle are gigs full of musical potential for Clive, “I play electric guitar, lap steel guitar and acoustic guitar… there’s guitars and amps everywhere! We collaborate a bit in songwriting, it’s happening more and more too. I start the night by playing a solo set and we sing together quite a bit too. It’s loose structurally, there’s always new stuff; new original songs and new covers. Of course there’s well known old songs and lesser known old songs that haven’t been played in a while too. It may sound biased for me to be saying this but I truly believe Luan has one of the purest voices I’ve ever heard. The effortlessness of her talent is stunning. Her songs are beautifully simple which is the hardest thing to do as a musician. We’ve just come back from a tour of Finland, over there we decided to really push the boat out and have some fun with the songs and it went down a storm, so we can’t wait to play The White Horse.”

Clive’s almost two decades of touring has made him well acquainted with what makes a good venue, and he is enamoured with the venue in Ballincollig, “I’ve known Joe Carey (the venue’s owner) from when I lived in Cork in the early 2000’s, he’s a great musician himself and a top man, and the attitude he personally has towards music has been transferred to his venue. It’s a stunning room, the sound is incredible and the welcome to the musician is second to none. It can be a domino effect for an act who is on tour; maybe they’ve driven all day, been away from home maybe for weeks; they arrive and the way Joe and his staff takes care of each and every detail which helps the show to the nth degree. Being a musician himself, Joe understands that, I just wish there were more places like The White Horse!”
Luan Parle & Clive Barnes play The White Horse in Ballincollig on Thursday 20 April, ticket information available via www.whitehorse.ie

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