songwriter found music came easy, lyrics were harder on debut album
Everyone has a tale to tell, and local musician Graham Barnes’ debut album How the Story Goes has functioned as his personal storytelling outlet. Released in late June, the album is a hodgepodge of raw tales about loss, relationships gone wrong, and the thoughts or actions tied to these particular occurrences. “I wanted it to be music people enjoyed listening to, in addition to getting stuff off my chest,” Barnes said.
Barnes said he struggles to categorize his music under one specific genre. His eccentric sound has a lot to do with the wide range of music he was exposed to early on. During his childhood, Barnes said he was free to explore a variety of music and acquired a versatile musical taste. “I tried to put a little bit of everything in there, because I like a little bit of everything,” he said.
Generating riffs and other major components of the music on How the Story Goes came easily for Barnes, he said. Writing the lyrics, however, was not so simple. This aspect of the creative process was unmapped territory for the musician when he first embarked on his How the Story Goes journey.
“I hate writing lyrics,” he said. “It’s a painstaking process of writing stuff and scribbling it out. It took me a lot of practice to be able to come up with subject matter, make it interesting, stick to it, and then make it flow and rhyme.” However, the exasperation proved worthwhile. Barnes feels that he’s grown immensely as a lyricist because of the album. He’s found that he now embraces the lyric-writing process more and even finds it fun to come up with subject matter.
While recording How the Story Goes, Barnes worked with a handful of other local musicians. Some were individuals he knows well – while others, like the woman who played the strings in the song “Eleven Weighs,” were friends of friends that he’s never even met, but who were willing to contribute.
Barnes said he is appreciative towards the supportive circle of musicians in the Eau Claire area. His right-hand man throughout the entire process was long-time friend Todd Barneson, who was also the album’s producer and engineer. “I needed his extra advice, extra push, to finish,” Barnes said. “We worked really well together.”
“It’s extremely validating to me when people tell me they like my work,” Barnes said. “I take all of that to heart and it still blows my mind that people think that.” Looking forward, Barnes said there’s the potential for more albums down the line. For future songs, he hopes to stray away from “songs of despair” and instead focus on more uplifting subject matter.
Barnes will be performing at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series on Aug. 9 and is in the process of getting other local performances lined up for the fall. You can stream How the Story Goes on Spotify.