Two albums deep into his career and a decade of music biz experience in his pocket, Warren Barfield has done a lot of growing. He's grown as a songwriter as an artist, and as a human being. Barfield even considers his records to be a snapshot of what point of growth he's at during a particular season of his life.
Unfortunately for Barfield, he was unable to put to wax all the growth that took place between his eponymous debut and this year's Reach
for an unexpectedly long time. His original label sunk just as he began work on his second album, and during the time it took for his contract to be shopped around and eventually picked up by Essential Records, Barfield had no choice but to wait around patiently.
"When I first came into the music business I was just really green to it," Barfield explains, talking to Soul Shine from his Nashville home. "I mean I'd heard people's terrible stories and thought, 'Oh that can't happen to me.' But it did, and worst case scenario happened to me."
The harsh reality of the music business wasn't the only eye opener Barfield endured before the making of Reach
. His sister, Rena, was involved in a car crash that left her physically impaired, and killed her best friend instantly. The tragedy left Barfield with questions, the answers to which he began seeking. These questions present themselves on Reach
, even influencing the album's title: Barfield's reach for answers.
"You can't go through something like that without asking some questions, about life, and about God, and about faith. So I was asking those questions. And the songs show that. There are songs on the record that are full of questions and are full of me just searching and seeking out the answers to life," Barfield explains.
Whether it was experiencing disappointment when his music career was frozen in motion, grief at the accident of his sister and family friend, or the simple turning of the calendar page that did it, Barfield has grown exponentially since 2003's Warren Barfield
. Fans will not fail to notice the maturity that has infiltrated his music as well.
If there's one word that every review of Reach
inevitably uses, it's soul. There's new soul in Barfield's vocals, and it's obvious he poured his soul into the project, as evidenced on the album's 10 tracks. He also partnered up with producer Robert Altman, whom Barfield describes as "a really great guy, easy to work with," to help push Barfield's music to a new level.
The goals Barfield has for his music have changed too. His last album contained two top ten songs on the CCM chart, but charting is not a concern Barfield has these days.
"What I realized after the first record is that there's not too much I can do about it. All I can do is do the best that I can do, work as hard as I can work, and put everything I am into it," he says. "I can't make radio stations play my songs, and I can't make people go buy my records. So there's no need for me to stay up all night long worrying about it."
And like all artists worth their salt, Barfield is mostly in it for the fans. "When I first started I just did it because it was in me, there was music in me, and I wanted to play, I wanted to write," he says. "Now I think I'm more conscious of the audience, I realize that it's a pretty cool opportunity I have to be a part of people's lives. I want to be respectful of that, and honour that."
"Now, I play my music, I want to grow with people. I want to build relationships with the people that listen to my music and hopefully grow, grow together, and experience life. Be a part of their life, and they be a part of my life.
The obstacles that Warren Barfield faced over the past few years were daunting, to say the least, but through it all, Barfield stayed "focused on the fact that eventually this will all make sense, and good will come out of it." And he came out wiser on the other side, with his faith stronger than ever, and his words and lyrics prove it.
He now waxes philosophical on the record label issue: "Everyday people get signed and dropped. It's the rise and fall. Today's number one star is tomorrow's has-been. So I think I'm just aware of that now."
And as for all those questions he started asking following the car accident? Did he ever find the answers he was seeking? "I think you're always seeking. I don't think that there ever comes a time in life where you're done seeking. If there is I haven't experienced it yet. I'm still searching, I'm still seeking to know, 'What am I supposed to do today?' or 'What am I supposed to accomplish today, and tomorrow, and next week?' "
While he's wary of the roadblocks that could pop up between this album and next, this season of his life and next, Barfield is full of intrepidness: "I don't live my life being prepared for anything. I think that we do the best with what we've got, and when we find ourselves in a situation we work hard to make the best of it. So whatever tomorrow holds, hopefully I will work hard and make it happen."
And, of course, there's always growth. "Life is changing constantly," Barfield says. "As a husband, and as a friend, and as a believer, I'm constantly growing."
Check out Warren Barfield, his songs, and his lyrics, at www.warrenbarfield.com