By: Zachary Kolesar, In The Record Store staff writer.
Speaking with Columbus guitarist and vocalist George Barrie has been a long time in the making for me. Of the handful of local musicians I have had the pleasure of speaking with, Barrie’s name has constantly come up as a joy to collaborate with.
He is one of the founding members of funk outfit Mojoflo, so when I talked with the band’s frontwoman Amber Knicole in January, Barrie’s humbled importance came up in conversation. He covered the guitar parts and produced for the spunky collaborative Doc Robinson, so Nick D’Andrea and Jon Elliott mentioned in February about how they had a blast recording in Barrie’s home studio.
And on top of all of that, he curated The George Barrie Band, a rock group with a hint of blues and a touch of groove that became a solid structure a couple of years ago.
“It's not only for them to have a space to do it, but for me to be creative with an artist and get some more experience doing that stuff,” Barrie said of his multiple engagements.
When speaking with Barrie, one would not peg him as the type to front a band with his name plastered in the title. He is reserved when speaking about his talents, but is not shy when showing his equal love for the aspects of performing, recording and producing music. It was fueled through his passion for recording and enrollment at Capital University that he was able to find his fit in the local music scene through a trial-and-error process
Barrie was first able to emerge as an artist in Columbus music scene through Mojoflo, which came to light in 2008, two years before he would graduate from Capital. Although Barrie was involved in multiple music groups throughout college, it was the tenacity that Mojoflo — formed by his roommate Walter K. and Knicole — showed by scheduling four to five gigs a week that first allowed Barrie to flourish in Columbus.
“Everyone else in the band was in the same place; they had been playing with a bunch of different bands trying to get gigs and stuff,” Barrie said. “So we were all ready to book a lot of shows and play.”
The exposure that Mojoflo received from the hard-working mindset Barrie explained has allowed the band to be a Columbus staple for nearly a decade. However, while Mojoflo treats audiences to a spectacle both pleasing to the eyes and ears, Barrie’s own experiment is a little more dialed back.
Although he has been playing gigs under his own name since high school, The George Barrie Band officially became a group two years back when Barrie started working on the group’s debut album, “Keep Dreaming,” with regular collaborators Jake Levy (drums) and Jeff Bass (bass). Both groups have the ability to provide music to groove to, but The George Barrie Band provides a more relaxing backdrop.
The intro to “Keep Dreaming,” which was released in the summer of 2016, is a lush rush of Barrie’s soothing voice with a guitar riff that reeks of nostalgia. It is the calming presence leading to an album full of upbeat soft rock grooves full of slightly quirky surprises on the production end. With assistance from keyboardist Todd Hamrick, the George Barrie Band is given a defined and refined groove amongst the Columbus music scene on its 2016 project.
On the track “Born to Die,” falling water precedes a mollifying mixture of Barrie’s amorphous vocals, rattling drums and gliding keyboard. The thoughts that Barrie puts over the aforementioned soundscape (“Will I ever get the chance to see?/Will I ever get the chance to find my way out of this dream?”) are bleak when read on paper, but aspire hope when put in context with the band’s soothing sounds.
Barrie mentioned how he enjoyed having extra hands, such as Elliott’s vocals on “I Believe,” but also indicated that because it is a project under his name, he can “switch things up on a whim.” With a one-year anniversary of the album approaching, Barrie is ready to get the second installment released.
“It's been over a year since we wrapped this up, so we need to get crackin' man,” Barrie said. “We need to get to work.”
Before I let Barrie go, I ask him about turning 30 this year when I found out that we share the same busy birthday of December 31, another sign that we should have talked long before this past week. Knowing how difficult it is to make plans on top of one of the biggest celebrations of the year, Barrie shared with me that he has been playing shows on his birthday, a big gig night, for the past seven years.
He does not seem irked by this, however. In fact, Barrie seems perfectly content in his role as a professional musician. “It still feels kind of weird to be like, ‘I'm a musician,’ but I don't know if the age has anything to do with it,” Barrie said.
Mr. George Barrie has an upcoming show with Mojoflo at Park Street Saloon for the Leading Ladies event this Friday at 8 p.m. and will be playing with Doc Robinson for the free ITRS show at Ace of Cups on Friday, April 14 at 9 p.m.