We had the good fortune of connecting with Samuel & Kimberly Barker and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samuel & Kimberly, why did you pursue a creative career?
Samuel: From a young age, I was always interested in artistic endeavors. I would draw as a kid, build things out of clay and the like, but creative writing was where I first found a medium I excelled in. For the longest time, I wanted to grow up to be a journalist and story writer, so I always had composition books full of ideas lying around. When I was 15, I was up late watching 120 Minutes on MTV and saw a Primus video. I knew at the moment, I wanted to play music. I talked my mom into buying me a bass guitar for my birthday that year and I never stopped playing. Music provided a way to take my love of creative writing and give it a soundtrack. I loved it more than anything I had experienced to that point. As I grew older, I had “normal” jobs, and still do, but eventually, I really poured myself into honing my songwriting craft and making music something more than just a hobby. By the end of my 20s, I was playing 60-80 shows a year and I carried that workload up until the pandemic stopped everything last year. Due to my inability to sit still, I’ve worked on learning new instruments, new recording techniques and spent a lot of time learning from interviews with people I respect and admire in the music industry. This all lead to growing as an artist and a person. On our new album that we recorded during the shutdown, which just came out, I sang, played guitar, bass and drums. That’s really the reason why I have pursued an artistic career: It is an avenue to perpetual growth, endless inspiration and a community that builds its members up rather than tear them apart.
Kimberly: I was attracted to music as a child. My mother played piano and I discovered I had a voice and an ear for music and harmony when I was 7 or 8. At that age, I just wanted to sing, all day, every day. I wrote my first song when I was 9, and I wrote poetry after that. Writing was something I could do alone, because as much as I loved music, I never really learned to play an instrument. At 17, I couldn’t imagine my life without music and writing in it. I was in every music class I could fit into my high school schedule. Singing with others made me better than I would have ever been on my own. But then life happened and wanting to be a singer didn’t pay the bills. My art went on the back burner, and it stayed there – far longer than it should have. I almost forgot how much fun I had with music. But getting to know Sam six years ago reminded 9-year-old me how happy music had made me. Meeting his friends and people he played music with made me want to be a part of making art with other people again. It made me remember that art is so much more fun when you share it with others. 40-year-old me decided to put myself out there and see what happened. And here we are.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Brightwire is our band. We’ve both played music before but this is where we really found our musical home. It started out as just the two of us. We would work on songs together, then travel around the country to play anywhere they would let us set up. We spent many hours honing our craft and driving. We went to our wedding with all of our gear loaded and left the venue for a weeklong tour. We agreed to go to all the places we’d never seen before and play music. It really is exciting to travel to places you’ve never been and find people who you can connect with over art. It is even more exciting to go back again and have friends you made come back out to see you. We’ve built some special relationships from these travels. The first presale for the new album was to our friend, Bob, in Huntsville, AL, who we met because he came to our first show there. We never actively searched out other members. Helf joined us because he dug what we do and wanted to play with us. John Stoll has played guitar with us live and played many other instruments on our album, because he’s our friend and connects with our music. We also love he and Rebecca’s music, so that mutual admiration creates strong bonds and friendships. It is beneficial because you’re surrounded by folks who inspire you. That’s really the best way forward in music: surround yourself with those who inspire you and make you work harder. Losing touring due to the pandemic has been a huge challenge, but it did provide us a break we would not have otherwise taken. It allowed us to take the time to make the album that we have always wanted to make. We were able to work out each part, track them separately and really take our songs to their fullest potential. It has been pretty rewarding to see it come together. The new album is called: Cracked, Flawed and Frayed. It fit the way we felt as the parking brake was pulled on our lives. But the songs are all about overcoming that and finding a way to press on despite the bumps, bruises and scars we’ve acquired along the way. The number one lesson we’ve learned through our musical endeavors is that it’s a marathon. You have to be willing to show up and keep going no matter what. If you go somewhere new and only one person shows up, you give it your all because that one person could bring 10 friends next time…and even if they don’t, they decided to spend an hour of their life on your art, so you do your best for them. They could also turn out to become a great friend out in the world; those are always special.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Luckily, the Houston area has so many great places to visit. If someone came to spend a week with us here, this is where we would go:
Food: Fat Bao on Kirby, Merida on Navigation, City Acre Brewing (for food and drinks), Killen’s BBQ in Pearland, Tacos-A-Go-Go on Main St. and Stingaree Restaurant in Samuel’s hometown of Crystal Beach, TX.
Drinks: Brash Brewing, 8th Wonder Brewing, Devil and the Deep Brewing (Galveston, TX), Saint Arnold Brewing and Bohemeo’s, where we had our wedding.
Must visit: The Menil Collection, NASA, Galveston Seawall/Strand, The Orange Show and San Jacinto Monument.
Live Music: Dan Electro’s, White Oak Music Hall, Shady Acres Saloon, Continental Club, Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe and Notsuoh.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Music is something that you cannot excel in alone. There are so many people who are there along the way, who make you the artist you are and the one you will become. We have been fortunate enough to have many of those people in our lives. While we can’t list everyone, there are some people who were instrumental in the successes we’ve had with our band, Brightwire. First and foremost, we have a very talented artist and musician, Michael Helfenstein, who is also a member of Brightwire. He spent many years in The Grizzly Band, whose members were like family to us, so it was quite a treat to have him join our band in the wake of their breakup. He provides friendship, color commentary and has a knack for creating the catchiest leads. He really pulls everything together for us. Next up is our good friend and songwriting partner, Ben Hall. Unfortunately, we lost him to cancer last month, but he was an amazing singer-songwriter and has contributed to many songs of ours. We’ve also served as his backing band on a couple of his albums. Samuel also played in his band, The Dragliners. He was always a source of inspiration and encouragement. Few folks are as full of love and patience as Ben. Finally, our friends John and Rebecca Stoll of Grifters & Shills have been a huge support and honorary members of the band. They have gotten our feet in the door at many venues, provided knowledge when it came to recording, played instruments on our new album and have been the most important thing you can have in this field: supportive friends. As we said, there are so many folks we can list, but these three are definitely at the top of that list. We would not have this new album right now if it wasn’t for them. They’re that important to us.
Black and White Photo: Daniel Torres Music Video Photo: John Stoll Live at Old Quarter: John Stoll Union Tavern: Angie Emerson Grand Canyon: Samuel Barker Practice: Kimberly Barker