Pageant Archive: Joey Barnes, (formerly) of Daughtry

Interview with: Joey Barnes of Daughtry
Interviewer: Shauna Brock


Talking to Daughtry drummer Joey Barnes is like stepping into a Robert Frost poem – you never know which road you will take and it will be many miles before you rest. The drummer of pop rocks reigning band is a study in tangents; ask him about education and he will tell you about Christianity. Ask about books and he will speak of Morrissey. A Dylan-esque mind trapped in a world of 140 character twitter feeds and formulaic radio hits, Barnes is as unafraid of the world he is a part of as he is welcoming of the experiences life has given him.


It began innocently enough. A game of phone tag led to a brief conversation about his 13-year old-dog, but quickly our conversation tracked into the maze of the mind Joey Barnes possesses.


So, the obvious question first, how did you get hooked up with Daughtry?
It was five years ago, maybe. We played on the same circuit in bands around Greensboro (North Carolina.) There was one show, a Battle of the Bands, and I was playing in two different bands. I played guitar and sang in one and was playing drums in the other. It was that night we made the connection. He won – he invited everyone he knew. And so really, I lost twice to him that night. But we talked and made a connection. He worked up the street from where I lived – I took my car there, so we were able to keep that connection. We were working toward the same thing. Then he went and did the Idol thing. When he was back in town, we ran into each other at a theater and I went up to him, stuck out my hand, and said, “I’m your drummer if you need one.” We met up on MySpace later and I was in LA pretty quick.

You have a solo career; describe the difference in your creative processes between working with Daughtry and working alone.
Working with Daughtry… you’re working with five guys who are all different. The first album was completely Chris and studio musicians and I had nothing to do with that first record. But, we spent time on the road together for three years, which brought us together as a band and let us gel together. The new record is the culmination of that. It’s the culmination of the five of us being on the road, sharing ideas, running from hotel room to hotel room and getting opinions on ideas. But when working solo, if I get an idea, I can record a basic idea or record a basic riff, and it will just snowball. I’m playing all the instruments on my stuff – the guitar tracks or the piano tracks – and it just keeps going until it turns into a monster. When it’s just you, it’s a longer process. You have full and complete control over what you do and you do exactly what you want and you aren’t doing it for anyone else. In order to have a band, you have to make room for opinion, make room for egos, be humble, swallow pride, and give things a shot that you normally wouldn’t do. You’re trying to please four other dudes.


You released two solo EP’s this year. Was there a reason for the two separate releases?
Whenever we’d have a break, we’d come home and I’d go to the studio and stay there. I recorded thirty songs. It just happened to start that way and I was finishing songs in groups of five so I’d release some here or there and it felt right. I got positive feedback and personally I’d like to keep releasing the five song EPs until the end of the Daughtry tour and then do a full album. What goes on in my head. I don’t stay in one genre. I am working on a new EP for the year and two of the songs are going to raise money for, which is a small version of One. Planetwise does just as much good but it’s smaller and doesn’t have the problems that the bigger organizations have. I wrote two songs when we went to Africa for One and did some work over there. I wanted to do the songs with them but there were so many people to go through that I ended up seeking out other places and that’s how I found Planetwise. The song proceeds are going to them – they’ll be available for download at Planetwise. The EP is called Change.


Do you prefer writing, singing, or playing?
The creative process… The Beatles stopped touring in 1966 and stayed in the studio and put out records and never toured again. They broke up. Playing again would have given them the spark back. You can’t… you have to have shows. As a performing artist… there are people who write soundtracks but performing artists have to perform it. Once you get an intimate view, it makes sense. They need each other. Can’t imagine creating without sharing.


What are your favorite songs on Last Request and Always?
I like… I really like (on Always) The Wire. It’s the first track. It’s what started the concept – got me going on all the songs. A lot are about the same character… person going through the same thing. It’s a young person who is a tight rope walker and he’s the best and his parents were the best. He does it because his parents did. It’s all he knows but it’s not what he wants to do. It’s a metaphor for being placed on a platform. Very much how the media/Hollywood/America like to hold you up and make you and break you. You start to lose focus on why you did it and how you got there. Do they like you, do they care? You just want to be happy and play. Like as a kid but then it becomes a business and you’re being sold. People only like you when they are being entertained as they want to be entertained. I’d like to do a “Wire 2” and close it out and have the live show be like a traveling circus and have some substance. It would be better than just seeing a bunch of dudes in jeans. What’s the point of getting on stage if you aren’t going to be someone else? Not a lot of people get paid for being someone else. I’ve always wanted to be that character. The stage is another world and you can do whatever you want to do. Dialog, visual and sensory overload. Video. I’m sorry, where was I?


Oh. On Last Request, I think it’s the title track. I think… it was the first time I ever tried to play piano. Seven or eight years ago. I always messed around but it was then that it began. I thought, I want to give this a shot. Everybody has a story to tell. And so I joined the ranks of writing for therapy, you know. Up until then, I’d always messed around, but it didn’t click. It didn’t make sense until that moment. It’s something I don’t want to take for granted and it became addicting.


Your website sells albums for Patrick Rock. Who is he and how did you hook up with him?
We’ve been jamming for a long, long time. Over a decade. Done and been through a lot together. Done what we could to stay afloat and make money. Tried to make it work – in fact, I’m playing with him tonight. He’s always been a big supporter and he is just tops with song writing. I really think he’s the next Tom Petty. He’s like U2 and Pearl Jam mixed – just… American rock. His record got me started.


So, the reason you caught my attention was your completely different take on the liner notes of the most recent Daughtry album. What inspired that?
Just… I wanted to not be normal. That’s my goal for life. Why spend life in a certain mold? I had to get it done in the moment and I didn’t want to be boring. I had nothing to be afraid of and I wanted to not make sense and have no boundaries. I wanted to… there was a time I liked all the cliques but I want to push boundaries and push buttons and get in trouble and now I just want to be remembered. I don’t take everything so seriously and I wanted to take a big time moment and make light of it. I let it come out naturally and it was a last second thing and they were literally pushing me to get it done and it all came out really quick.


So, switching gears, what is your educational background?
Well, I can’t read. (Laughing)


Actually, I grew up in a really Christian environment. We were in church all the time and school was a Christian school. There was just something about having to fit a certain style and when you’re young, you don’t question all that stuff or ask “Why am I doing this?” We actually went to public school for two and a half years and we got into so much trouble because it was a whole new world. “You can say that?” was a common question. I mean, this stuff was heard about but it was totally on the DL. Especially music. I actually remember in 7th grade being a part of a cussing club and we thought it was the coolest shit in the world. We just couldn’t be ourselves. We had to please certain people and divide the school person from the outside person. I used to sneak pictures of the guys in Duran Duran and A-Ha – those cut outs from the teeny bopper magazines – into my locker so they couldn’t see them but at locker checks they’d always find them and we’d get punished. But see, growing up like that makes you the person you are if you chose to learn from it. You have the opportunity to seek out truth and it’s your choice to delve into it. Everything you possibly believe in (and in my case it was) could turn out to be shit. (Christianity) doesn’t work for me. Whatever makes me a better person, then that is what I’m about. But I have friends who are die-hard Christians and they are the epitome of what they should be. But there are people who use God as a crutch. But there are also people who are not afraid to admit they’re human.


What is your favorite book?
Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde and Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. I like the way it was told, with the devil in the 3rd person. I think he was in an altered state when he wrote it – the visuals and scenarios are just wicked.


I got into Oscar Wilde during my Goth phase. I was one of those kids who was more into the substance and the style, not just the “I’m wearing black on the outside because it represents me on the inside” mentality. So, I got into the artists that inspired some of my favorite musicians. Morrissey was really inspired by Oscar Wilde and getting into stuff like that opens up a Pandora’s box of excellence.


And your musical influences and current favorite bands?
Well, it’s been established that I love the Beatles. They are the end all for me. They make sense of this hodge podge. But more, they took it all [musical styles] and put it into a big gumbo. They changed recording and pop music recording. It hasn’t been the same sense then and they are the only band who can put out the old stuff and still be number one. Morrissey was part of my Goth/dark phase and Duran Duran was really my fab five. They were so different than the mainstream 80’s bands. I have every A-ha album, and Tears for Fears was so underrated. Their 2004 album was phenomenal. Recently I’ve been into Silverchair – the Diorama album blew my face off. He is an absolute genius. Recently, I’ve also been into MuteMath who are this art rock, not emo, band. They are their own kind. Musically, they are visual. Artists. They’re on their own cloud and a new record just came out. Muse is a genius band – they mix funk and classical and metal. White Lies is this great UK band. The CD should have been released in the 80’s. They sound different, but fresh. Like 80’s rock. Magnet (Evan Johnson) out of Norway is my favorite singer/songwriter.


I like hard to find artists. I search for certain people. Top 40 is just so full of bands with a couple of songs on a record but singles are fucking boring. There is a formula for singles. It’s hard to listen to an album front to back anymore that gives you an idea of that person; something that is cohesive.


Thankfully, the music business is dying. The kids don’t need the record industry anymore and we’re going back to grass roots again. We don’t need to worry about paying back a big loan . everything we need is at our fingertips and we can load it into the van and head out. That’s what kids don’t realize when the sign a big contract. You have to pay it back. The kids can weed out the bad and connect the good and the more you put yourself out there, for good, the more people will be attracted to you.


Okay, to wrap it up, I lived in North Carolina for six years. I understand just how important sports is to the culture. Are you a sports guy?
You know, in North Carolina you are pretty much born with a basketball or football in hand. I was amazing in sports (not to toot my own horn). I loved football. Part of me wants to be the quarterback. You know, to be “that guy.” I was in school sports and summer sports and then I broke my leg and realized I wanted to be an entertainer. But that still didn’t make sense until I started living life. I still play from time to time but I don’t really care anymore. I don’t want to be around that anymore. It’s like they’re speaking in tongues around me when we’re watching fames. “What does that mean,” I ask. But if I had to chose a team it would be Duke. College sports, especially basketball, is one of those things where it’s all about the moment. Not getting paid. Leaving it all on the court. I just don’t get watching overpaid babies making millions for a kids game. That’s the problem. That’s where the money is. It’s become about gambling.


As we wrapped up the hour we’d spent on the phone, I realized I could have asked a million more questions and just listen to him and his tangents. These few questions only touched on where he could really take you with his thought process. Signing off, he told me to send the bill to him for the therapy I’d offered.


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