Tim Barry’s been kicking around the musical underground for nearly 20 years, first as the front man for Virginia punk heroes Avail, and more recently as a singer-songwriter with a penchant for constructing beautiful folk and country tunes. Dude’s been particularly busy the past few years, gigging relentlessly, including a couple months on the inaugural Revival Tour with fellow travelers Chuck Ragan, Ben Nichols, and Tom Gabel, and generating a steady stream of recordings. In late 2009 he’ll release a split 7” EP with pal Frank Turner (a co-release by Epitaph and Suburban Home), while 2010 will see the arrival of 28th and Stonewall, Barry’s third full length recording, a masterful collection of heartsick dirges, wry commentary, and upbeat stomp-alongs (Suburban Home).
With this barrage of new music on the way, he wanted to give listeners a little more insight into his life and craft. Consider the following text an alternative to the standard Wikipedia-style bio.
-Barry has decidedly mixed feelings about this media-saturated age. “I’m a believer in turning off the computer, unhooking the television IV…and living.” He can’t imagine devoting the bulk of his life to watching movies and “fiddling around on the Internet.”
-Not surprisingly, his philosophy on life is intertwined with his theories on songwriting: “If you don’t have a big life outside of music, you’re probably not going to write good songs.”
-He appreciates Steve Earle’s approach to songcraft. “To paraphrase Steve Earle, if you put nothing in, nothing comes out,” Barry says.
-Barry’s favorite quote about songwriting comes from a lyric by fellow Richmond denizen Josh Small: “Writing songs ain’t pushing boulders, it’s more like talking instead.”
-After two decades of touring, Barry – a self described “current events junkie” – generally finds himself more interested in talking about ideas and news than the music biz.
-“I read every newspaper I can get my hands on, whether people label it conservative or liberal,” he says, adding that he also seeks out the alt-weeklies in each town he plays, and is a fan of the New Yorker.
-By contrast, Barry spends “little to no time reading on the Internet.” But, he maintains, “I’m in no way a Luddite.”
-He has a habit of “home schooling” – picking different topics and educating himself on “everything from auto repair to economics.”
-When he’s not on the road, he works for the Richmond Ballet – Virginia’s state ballet company — helping to produce The Nutcracker. At the ballet, Barry does everything from driving trucks to building scenery. Little known fact: Thanks to the ballet gig, he’s licensed to build and move pyrotechnic devices. “I have a great appreciation for the athleticism of the dancers,” Barry says with complete sincerity.
-At present he claims to be writing a book, although he won’t really tell anyone what it’s about.
-Barry rarely socializes when he’s not touring, because, after playing hundreds of shows a year, he finds crowds overwhelming.
-One thing he likes about Richmond is that it’s “a place where no one cares if you play music.” He’s not a fan of musicians “who create their identity and ego based on musical accomplishments.”
-Barry chooses to dwell in a one-room garage/shed with no running water, accompanied by two cats (Bumble Bee and Bernie) and a dog (Emma Goldman) – which is pretty fitting for a guy with a propensity for singing about simple living.
-He’s developed an interest in growing his own vegetables and now has a sizable plot, which will be featured in an upcoming documentary on sustainable gardening.
-Music is in his blood. Both of Barry’s parents sang in the choir at his Catholic parish, and his mother played guitar. (A teenage devotee of Slayer, Barry says he wasn’t exactly enthralled by the folky church music his folks played.) His sister Caitlin Barry Hunt – who often accompanies Barry — is a classically trained violinist, while brother James Barry is an avant garde composer.
-Performing as a solo artist has been a seismic shift for him. “I speak for myself now. When I’m on stage I can say whatever I want. I don’t have to think about the guys in the band and how they’re gonna react to what I say. It’s the ultimate in freedom.”
-Barry’s quick to give props to his supporting crew, especially producer Lance Koehler (“he’s acted as my right-hand man and producer since I started making this music”), road manager Tim Shaw (who gets clowned on 28th and Stonewall), merch guru Matt Gere, web-dude and screen printer Logan Kornhauser, booking agent Margie Alban, and publicist Vanessa Burt.