Friday, September 07, 2012

"It has to be the best" - George Barnett aims high

So, what had you done by your 18th birthday eh? I’d appeared on the local news very briefly with my conker collection (don’t ask) but that was pretty much it. George Barnett makes me feel slack. Very slack. 

From winning young drummer of the year at 14 (check out the video above) and recording an EP at 16 through to making a feature film and releasing a self produced debut album (you can stream it all right here) – all before his 18th  birthday – Barnett’s packed more into his first 18 years on earth than most. You’d expect a bit of an ego but he’s surprisingly modest about all this stuff, perhaps as a result of his less than conventional home schooling.

“It definitely shaped who I am, yeah. In a very positive way. I was exposed to a huge amount of music from early on, and was able to dedicate a lot of time to learning my instruments and writing music. My parents, particularly my mum, have been so tolerant, and I'd never take it for granted. Can you imagine a kid banging away on drums, badly, every day for five years? That was me. I'm slightly better now, but no less annoying.”

A quick skip through You Tube reveals that this humility is a huge understatement, but we’ll let that slip for fear of embarrassing him. Polite, humble, talented...let’s see if we get his blood boiling a bit eh? There’s a lot of talk these days about George’s generation being ‘lost’ or, to put it more accurately, ‘well and truly shafted’ by their parents/grandparents who’ve merrily spent the last few decades gorging themselves on the consumer boom leaving today’s teens with the bill. Surely that’s enough to get him foaming at mouth?

“I used to feel very strongly about that, particularly regarding tuition fees, student loans etc, but not as much anymore. If you want to go to uni, do it. I've realised the pressure's on no-one but yourself. There's still something in me that thinks if you truly know what you want from life you will go ahead and do it, regardless of outsiders' opinions or previous achievements. You make your own luck.”

For dozens of budding young performers making “their own luck” has involved jumping through hoops on prime time TV and balancing balls on their nose (not literally but that would be a darn sight more dignified sometimes). Has he ever been tempted? He visibly bristles at the thought.

Nah, never. I couldn't dream of not having control over how I perform. I don't know how the people who enter don't have the foresight to see how they will be exploited, during and after the series. I don't blame the creators behind the show, they've been extremely cunning. If it's entertainment for people, whatever. But I'm not interested.”

That explains 17 Days then, a hugely ambitious debut album written, played, sung and produced by Barnett who released one new track from it every 17 days for 6 months. If all that sounds like it might be a bit angst ridden or home spun prepare for a surprise. The whole thing’s a joy, merrily crossing genres from one track to the next, coming across like a cool mixtape of your new favourite tunes. Was this a deliberate decision to flex his musical muscles?

“No, it wasn't a deliberate decision, it's just the way I write at the moment. I think I listen to such a wide range of music it just rubs off. People have mentioned the genre-hopping, but it's honestly not me trying to be clever or consciously diverse. Maybe there's something wrong with me. I don't see those style boundaries at all. It's either good music or bad music.”

So, with the first album under his belt then what’s next?

“Well I'll be working on a couple of videos, writing more songs and playing a big show at Ludlow Castle (September 23rd). I'm always writing - I live for that creative buzz. One day, I want to make films that go with albums. Huge art installations as venues...”

You can almost hear the synapses fizzing away as a million and one new ideas pour into his head. It actually takes a moment for him to get back on track.

“I love having all this in front of me. I've already written most of a new album, but it's way too soon to release something so big. Besides, I want to live with the songs for a while, re-write and re-cut, and make it the best it can be.”

Another pause before he delivers what could well be his own personal credo.

“It has to be the best.”

If the next 18 years turn out to be half as productive as his first 18 that’s some promise...

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