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For Blues Rocker Chris "BadNews" Barnes - Nashville Is a Ten Month Town

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Chris "BadNews" Barnes - the former Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock & Carol Burnett Show writer and performer - made a career pivot ten years ago that was born out of his stand-up comedy days working the clubs in New York City when he first performed under his blues incarnation and shock rocker persona. Working strictly within a forgotten and controversial sub-category of "Hokum" Barnes embraced this new character as a perfect outlet for his particularly racy and blue brand of humor.

Chris "BadNews" Barnes made a triumphant return to 3rd and Lindsley in August.

As Barnes gained notoriety in the field he sought to further embellish his sound and a trip to Nashville resulted in the critically acclaimed Tom Hambridge-produced BADNEWS RISING. Seeking to build on the momentum gained from that project, Chris returned to Music City for a quick follow-up with the famed Buddy Guy drummer. What happened next was completely unexpected. Barnes - with roots and a well-respected business back in New York City's Hell's Kitchen (Flaming Saddles NYC) - decided to relocate to Nashville in late 2022.

With his decades of professional experience and virtual rolodex of entertainment industry contacts - Barnes has accomplished in ten months in Nashville what usually takes the normal dreamer 10 years to achieve. His first big showcase occurred in May at 3rd and Lindsley followed by numerous local radio and television appearances and a big feature article in the Nashville Scene. A return engagement to the venue on August 01, 2023 is where we caught up with the captivating comedian to ask him how he did it.

Hokum with a guest shot of Gary Hoey is most definitely not hooey - not in the least!

MCN: With two successful shows at 3rd & Lindsley, multiple appearances on local TV and radio and a recent big feature in the Nashville Scene it seems you are well on your way in Music City. Congratulations! But, you jumped the queue!

C"BN"B: I don't jump queues. That's an airport habit I picked up. I just want to get to my seat!!!!!!!

MCN: But, seriously. There is a popular saying here that "Nashville Is a Ten Year Town". Meaning there is a general belief that it takes the average person coming here 10 years to hone their own artistry and make all the connections and contacts they need to achieve their goals or have any level of success in the industry in Music City. You have essentially knocked it out of the park in one-tenth the time. How do you account for that?

C"BN"B: Very interesting. I am not aware of that saying as a Nashville thing. Yet, ironically it has been my mantra that it takes ten years to just mount the stage worthy show and my first "BadNews" Barnes Show was April 20th, 2013 ... and My first 3rd & Lindsley was May 16th, 2023. So, I put the Ten Years in and true to form it just happened to land in Nashville 10 years and one month on. Truth is Richard, I have been working my ass off for ten years from the northeast to the Midwest and back really, really hard and I'm honored that all roads led to Nashville. But, you have to understand was truly coincidental. I finished my second Tom Hambridge album recorded on Music Row at Sound Stage studios. I just haven't left.

The BluesBallers were a big band on a revered stage in Nashville.

MCN: Chris - you are certainly no stranger to the entertainment world as you have worked behind the scenes as a television writer and have been a live support act as a comedian for a long time. But, wider fame and recognition seems to be coming your way. How do you prepare for that potential change to you public and private life?

C"BN"B: When your younger you don't believe you deserve it. Because, you don't. You're young and talented and that's great but it never feels right. The way you're treated, your name is on a parking space, on a green room door. They have people trying to keep their jobs that are making sure you are taken care of and that gets out of hand and you start believing you deserve THAT kind of attention. But you don't. No one does - and then you start to anesthetize and dramatize. I turned into what Freud termed "His Majesty The Baby".

It got very dark and for me came oblivion - a gran mal seizure on the floor of Chez Jays in Santa Monica. Now sober after 30 years and 3 decades of humility I now understand that any and all recognition is for my songwriting and performing and that recognition is to be used only to further a following which is the only way to make a living doing this. So recognition now means I'm doing my job and does not mean I'm something special. I'm not. I do hope my songs are special to the audience. That's it! It's also sometimes referred to as growing up... LOL. I'm just a late bloomer.

MCN: Did any of your famous friends (Carol Burnett, the Belushi brothers, the Murrays) give you any advice or provide insight into the impacts of fame at the highest level?

C"BN"B: No. Never. It's Dorothy when Glenda The Witch tells her - "you could have clicked your heels 3 times at ANY time and got back to Kansas" - and Dorothy looks at her and says "Why didn't you tell me that the first time we met?" And Glenda simply says, "You wouldn't have believed me" - and you know that witch is right!!!

Was this the "Guitar Event of the Year"? It came pretty close!

MCN: You are winning accolades and acquiring new fans at a pretty steady rate from your new Nashville base within a fringe subset of the often-overlooked blues genre. Hokum isn't necessarily the first thing folks think of when considering Nashville. Is it a matter that perhaps maybe people are ready for something new? This category achieved commercial success 100 years ago. Are you the act chosen by destiny to actually bring it back to the mainstream???

C"BN"B: Well, Richard, if you're asking me this question - you can be damn sure I've been asking myself this same question. And here is what I think: New York City is for Broadway Musical actors whose gift is their song and dance skills; Los Angeles is a city for Film and Television - so for dramatic and comedic actors it's the only place; Nashville? Nashville honors the songwriter. Nashville is the only city where a show (Listening Room, Blue Bird, 3rd & Lindsley and more) - where a songwriter sits on a bar stool and sing songs they've written to a packed audience. Sometimes it's 12 NOON. The songwriter is revered and honored.

I'm performing only original songs with Nashville Ace studio Musicians so I have the Nashville Sonic and I have my authentic, original lyrics, and yes, these songs are humorous, and satiric, while also juxtaposed to the other side of the clown coin, Tragic. Tampa red and Georgia Tom wrote "It Hurts Me Too" one of the most heartfelt Blues songs ever written and I am a student and a disciple of this form. I think my Second City training taught me to stay present with my material and I'm always looking for the similarities in life rather than the differences and the audience is responding to that.

MCN: Speaking of Bill Murray - you certainly have had your own personal experiences with the actor and comedian over the years. Are you surprised that the idea of random encounters with the man has elevated to such a mythical level in our culture over the past decade or so? It seems to be saying something about him as a person and the need for real human connection.

C"BN"B: What the damage of the Covid epidemic has done to us all, is in fact epic, the computer screen with zoom and facetime, have replaced the in person connection. We need to be back in touch with each other. We need to be eye to eye, skin to skin, asses to elbows. But, most important, we need to remove the fear. It's the fear that keeping us away and not just from spreading a virus. We fear each other and God does Not want that. The most repeated sentence in the Bible are the words from Jesus - "Be Not Afraid!" That's what comedians from Aristophonies, to Moliere to Neil Simon, to Mel Brooks, to my new Nashville mentor Ray Stevens to Bill Murray and - yes, Chris "BadNews" Barnes do. We try and remove the fear. Am I the Act Chosen by Destiny as you asked earlier??? Well, I'm from a Long Line of Clowns who know Comedy is other people's pain. But, the best comedians wear the target on their own backs to take the pain for all of us! So, Yes! I say Yes to The Pain. It's What I do!

Don't let the "Hokum" fool you. Chris "BadNews" Barnes is True Blues.

As for the Nashville show? Chris "BadNews" Barnes and his hilariously named band The BluesBallers were impressive with a guitar heavy presence punctuated by a smart horn section. The nearly two-hour show featured many new tracks off of the upcoming record. But, it wasn't all fun and games. There was a serious side to the music, too. The title track from the Hambridge-produced follow-up True Blues recalls the most painful memory in young Barnes' life. "I Slow Danced with Joni Mitchell" revealed more troubled moments from the Blues rocker's personal history and recounts the rocky relationship he had with his father.

However - the star-studded crowd that counted Pam Tillis, Wendy Motten, Tabitha Fair, The McCrary Sisters, Dave Pomeroy among members in the audience - didn't seem to mind. Throw in guest appearances by Gary Hoey, Albert Castiglia and a special show stopping set from Gail Mayes joining the band and there appears to be nothing but good news on the horizon for Chris "BadNews" Barnes and his band of BluesBallers.

Gail Mayes closed out the night with a big set of Blues standards and deep cuts.

Related Links: For more information on CHRIS "BADNEWS" BARNES and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Chris "BadNews" Barnes | Bluesman Chris "BadNews" Barnes Is On the Rise in Nashville | 3rd and Lindsley


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