Could bluesman Kris Barras be the hardest working man in rock right now? Ahead of Friday’s main stage set at Ramblin’ Man Fair, Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth quizzed a man on a mission.
Rushonrock: The new live record from Supersonic Blues Machine was released last week – how does it feel to be part of such a star-studded blues collective?
Kris Barras: Being part of that tour and playing with those guys up on stage every night was just fantastic. It was an amazing experience for me. I’d even go as far as to describe it as life-changing. And to have the whole thing documented live is just the icing on the cake. I still can’t quite believe it. The record really captures the energy of those shows. We didn’t go out on that tour to make a live record but every so often the guys back stage would decide to record a show. I think the audio came out best on the last show and that’s what they used.
Rushonrock: Was there a highlight from your time on the road with SBM?
KB: There were so many. But the first show was a really special moment for me. It was at Shepherd’s Bush Empire – an iconic venue that I’d always wanted to play. I couldn’t have asked for a bigger and better stage to make my live debut with Supersonic Blues Machine. It was daunting, of course. But it’s why I do this.
Rushonrock: The new Kris Barras Band album is released on September 13 – the artwork has already got people talking but what about the music?
KB: The artwork was actually something that I really wanted to out a lot of thought into and I spent a lot of time getting it right. I didn’t want to see my face plastered all over the cover or anything like that – I wanted to deliver a proper piece of art. Over the years I’ve got to know a guy called David Smith who’s a very famous sign writer and lives in my home town. He’s done album artwork for John Mayer and worked with Kings Of Leon and I just love his work. His art hangs on the walls of some very famous people. Incredibly, when he found out I was looking to bring him on board for the Light It Up album, he kindly agreed to do the artwork. As for the music? I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself as following any particular genre on Light It Up so I just wrote a bunch of songs and let them evolve. I told myself ‘what comes out is what comes out’. And it did. I guess it’s a lot more rocky than The Divine And Dirty but there’s no huge change in direction. It represents a progression – which it needed to do – but if you liked The Divine And Dirty then you’ll like Light It Up.
Rushonrock: Given the success you’ve achieved during a whirlwind 12 months did you feel greater pressure to deliver something special with Light It Up?
KB: I didn’t feel any extra pressure. In fact, I actually felt better about making the new record. It was the first time that I’d been given the chance to go into a studio for any length of time to record the album I wanted to make. I suddenly felt like a proper artist! Working in the studio for a month with a bunch of new songs felt so good. It was a huge contrast to making The Divine And Dirty – we had to record that in two halves over a significant period of time and I actually used two different line-ups. But when I started making that album I didn’t have a record deal and it was a case of needs must. I just loved the whole process of making an album properly and it felt like the first proper record I’ve done. I think the results speak for themselves.
Rushonrock: What have you learnt from the last 12 months?
KB: That we can’t take our foot off the pedal! It’s been a great year for the Kris Barras Band but we try to keep moving forward for several reasons. There’s a demand for our shows right now and I don’t like turning anything down. When we’re presented with good opportunities we go for them. And the bottom line is we need to be playing live in order to make money. The music industry is a tough business and we’ve gone from playing 100-200 capacity venues, which will never provide enough income to justify doing this full-time, to playing 500-600 capacity venues which can start to make a difference to you financially. We can’t stand still and we won’t.
Rushonrock: What are you looking forward to most about Ramblin’ Man Fair?
KB: I’ve played there and I’ve been there as a fan and I love the place. That’s why I’m gutted that I won’t really be there for any length of time this year. We’re supporting Black Stone Cherry on Thursday and as soon as we’re finished there we’re hot footing it down to Maidstone in time for our main stage set on the Friday. It’s quite a trek and I guess we might just arrive in time to have something to eat before we’re up. And we can’t hang around too long afterwards as we have a flight to Switzerland in the morning. I do like FM and The Darkness though so I’m hoping we can at least stay around long enough to catch the other bands on Friday…
Rushonrock: What advice can you give first-time Ramblers?
KB: It’s such a well thought out and friendly festival that you can’t go wrong. I’d just encourage first timers to see as many bands as they can and at Ramblin’ Man that’s easy – there’s not too much distance between stages and you can pack in so much. Definitely check out the Rising Stage – that’s where I made my first appearance at Ramblin’ Man and if it wasn’t for that opportunity I honestly don’t believe I’d be where I am now.
Rushonrock: If you could curate Barras Fest who would be your three headline acts?
KB: If it’s my festival then I suppose I’d have to be one of the headliners! But I’d also like to ask Lynyrd Skynyrd and Thunder if they’d fill the other two slots. Two great bands and I absolutely love Thunder – even though they’re way out of my league!