Since the release of the Divine and Dirty things have only continued to get bigger and better for Kris Barras.
Over the last 18 months, Barras has produced a string of radio playlisted singles whilst simultaneously undertaking a none stop schedule including tours with both his band and high profile side project Supersonic Blues Machine. The future is certainly looking bright for the in-demand blues rocker.
As Barras moves into the next chapter in his career he continues to walk that illuminated path so to speak with new album Light It Up. And the lead single Ignite has already become a firm favourite on Planet Rock Radio.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Kris Barras to get the low down on his new album and to talk about his current UK tour.
You’ve had a busy summer so far, with festival appearances at the likes of Ramblin Man Fair. You’ve been out on the Bon Jovi cruise and you have also been doing some shows with Supersonic Blues Machine. How’s the summer been going for you so far?
Yes, it’s been a bit hectic. We’ve been all over the place. Lots of festivals in Europe. I feel like I’ve been travelling by plane more than any other vehicle this summer. Yeah, it’s been good though.
Ramblin Man Fair, in particular, seems to have become a bit of a home away from home for you. I mean, over the last three years I’ve watched you go from the Rising Stage to the Blues Stage to this year you finally made it to the Main Stage. I mean, that festival must have a bit of a special place in your heart?
Yeah, I mean, I love it there – not only as like a performer but as a fan. They’ve always got such great acts there. And I think the atmosphere is probably one of the best of any festival I’ve played at as well. Just walking around the place, there’s always such a great buzz and it’s such a friendly family atmosphere at the festival and I love that. It’s a great privilege and honour that they’ve got behind me so much and invited me back for the past three years, it’s been great.
And then the first thing I noticed this time when I saw you at Ramblin Man was your backing vocalists. They really gave your band a whole new dynamic and it introduced some amazing harmonies to songs which I’d heard previously, but they kind of had a different edge to them. How did that change come about and is it something you’ve been thinking about for a while?
They play such an important role in the studio albums. I’ve been wanting to bring them out live for a while. It was just finances, you know, when you are a band coming up through the ranks, there’s not a lot of money involved. I’m finally at a stage now where I can afford to bring them out. And they’ll be doing the whole of the UK tour.
So you’ve got a new album out which is called Light It Up. Can you tell us a little bit about your starting point for this record? What did you have in mind?
There wasn’t any real plan. I just think I didn’t feel like I had to conform to any one genre. I didn’t feel like, you know, it has to be a blues album or whatever. I just felt I was writing songs for about a year, I probably wrote close to 30 songs, I whittled it down to my favourite thirteen. And you know, I just did an album that I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like I had to conform in any way. There wasn’t any real thought in like the direction necessarily. It was just more about what was coming out naturally. I kind of feel a lot more comfortable in myself as an artist now and I’ve developed a sound that I’m comfortable with.
Your past as a Mixed MartialArts fighter seems to feature in some of the tracks. I mean just listening to the lyrics of songs like Broken Teeth and Vegas Son. Do you still find that your time in the ring is a constant source of inspiration for your music?
Well, what you’ve got to remember is that I was doing that for most of my adult life. So it’s a huge part of who I am. A lot of my experiences were centred around the fighting world. That’s what I did from the age of 19 to 32, or whatever it’s what I did. So yeah, I mean, of course, during that period in my life I experienced so many different things, but at the heart of it was always my fighting career. So yeah, it’s had a massive effect on shaping me to be the person I am today.
I know you went into the studio over Christmas to record this album and obviously, you’ve been on the road so much over the last couple of years. It must’ve been difficult trying to put time aside to write for this record. I mean, how have you managed to kind of fit it all in?
Well, I’m always jotting down ideas. So, it might be a soundcheck or whatever. I’m just playing around on the guitar and I come up with a little riff and I’ll record it down on my voice memo on my phone. And then, maybe I would be driving somewhere and I would come up with just little lyric ideas or maybe like a song theme, just maybe even the melody. I’m always jotting things down on my phone. And when I get home I tend to just kind of play around with them and just develop them from the little ideas. Sometimes I’ll listen back and think, what the hell was I thinking? That’s not a good idea. Other times I will be like oh, that’s cool. So yeah, I’m just always making notes. I’m always thinking about it. And then when I’m back home, I love writing songs, so it’s not a chore.
Light It Up follows quickly on the release of The Divine and Dirty, which came out last year and the album did well. Was it your intention to kind of go in and capitalize on the momentum and the gains that you’ve made so far?
Yeah, I mean I’ve had a few people say that, but it’s actually 18 months. So from when The Divine and Dirty was released until when this is released, it feels a bit shorter. I think just because I’ve been so busy, there hasn’t been any lull. There hasn’t been like a period where people have been like, where’s Kris Barras Band? I haven’t heard of him in a while, because I’ve just been nonstop. So I think that’s probably why it seems a bit shorter.
It’s been 18 months, which I think is a decent amount of time. It helps keep the momentum going. You know, it’s nice to have some new songs to perform live as well. We’ve done like four UK tours back to back, six months apart, you know, – well this is our fourth one. Three of those, they are all songs from The Divine and Dirty. So I’m looking forward to getting out there and being able to play some of the new songs for the fans and get them to hear something a little bit different, something new.
This album showcases many different styles of your playing, but there’s one track in particular that stood out and that’s Not Fading, which certainly feels like one of your fastest and heaviest tracks a date. Was that intentional to turn it up a notch with that one and kind of showcase a different style of your repertoire so to speak.
The thing is I listen to lots of different types of music. I’ve been influenced by a lot of different people. You know, everything from jazz to heavy metal. And like I said when I did this. I didn’t feel like I had to conform to any genre.
That started life off as like the main riff. I was hammering around with it and I was like, Oh, it’s a little bit heavier than anything I’ve done before. And I was like, who cares. it’s like it’s what I want to do, you know, it is what it is. It’s something that, it’s my playing style. I’ve never been a traditional blues guy. That’s not what I do. I’m not a blues guy – I can play the blues, I love the blues and there’s still a lot of that influence in my music. But, I’m a lot more than that. I’ve been in metal bands, in jazz bands, I’ve done a lot of different stuff. And I think all of that helps shape me as the artist that I am now.
Listening to the album there seem to be quite a few potential singles on there. I know that you’ve already had, some on Planet Rock. You’ve got What You Get is out there at the moment and I know you recently released, I think it was a video for Vegas Son. I was just wondering what are your thoughts on future singles from this album? Have you got a few in mind?
Yeah, I mean there is like a plan in place between myself and the label. We decided which songs would work best for radio and there was a bunch that have been chosen. We led with Ignite – that’s done well. That’s been on the Planet Rock A list. What You Get is the next single, and that’s on the Planet Rock A list as well now.
Vegas Son is not actually a single, it’s an Instant Grat track. So anyone that’s bought the download gets that early before the preorder, but that’s not being pushed to radio yet. Depends on how you want to view what a single is these days. But yeah, there’s a couple of others I think. What A Way To Go will be coming at some point. I’m not entirely certain on the others. I think that we are looking at about six singles in total, not entirely certain what the other two were decided on in the end, but I think What A Way To Go would be the next one.
It feels like there’s a bit of a story behind the song Counterfeit People. I was just wondering, can you kind of walk us through that one a little bit?
Yeah, I mean it’s just, I think a lot of people will be able to relate to that one – in all walks of life. You meet a lot of people that are bullshitters, fakers and, you know, it’s just a song about those kinds of people. You know, people that bullshit so much that they end up believing their own lies, you know?
It seems that right now, there’s kind of a bit of a British rock renaissance, particularly with the likes of the New Wave of Classic Rock movement. I was wondering do you feel that scene has ben particularly supportive or beneficial to you so far?
The group? Yeah, I mean they are a great bunch of guys. It’s a great platform for bands to be able to share stuff. You see the t-shirts popping up everywhere, which is great. Yeah, I think it’s really good. I think maybe these days it seems like there are so many bands everyone’s posting in there, I’m not sure how much gets through to the 14,000 members of whatever they’ve got these days, because you get bombarded with, you know, 10,000 bands posts. Sometimes it’s hard to see everything.
But, yeah, I feel very fortunate to have a lot of those guys follow me. It’s always hard to tell, isn’t it? You don’t always know where your fan base is coming from. You know, you’ve got other things going on. You know, Planet Rock singles to being in Classic Rock magazine, to being on, BBC Radio 2, to the NWOCR group – you don’t always know where fans are coming from. But, I definitely see a lot of their t-shirts at our gigs, which is great.
So you’re about a year and a bit into fronting Supersonic Blues Machine, as well. How has that experience been for you so far?
Yeah, it’s been really good. Playing with a band of that calibre. I mean these guys are world-class musicians, they are people I look up to. Yeah, it’s amazing. To get to stand on stage with Billy Gibbons every night is unbelievable. It wasn’t that long ago I was playing ZZ top covers in a pub and now I get to play the songs stood next to the guy himself. Yeah, it’s great.
So this album had a release date of Friday the 13th, which is often regarded as unlucky for some. I was just wondering, was that a kind of conscious decision to release the record on that date?
It was, not by me. It was a date chosen by the record label. It’s a lot more to do with scheduling it around the releases that the label has going on rather than anyone’s potential superstitions. Also, it’s a busy label with lots of world-class acts too. You know, we recorded the album in December, we had it all finished, mixed and mastered by February kind of time. We handed it over to the label and said, you choose the time we will just go whenever you want to go. So yeah, I didn’t really have a say in the release date. I just knew it would be around the end of the summer.
Obviously, your first album was Lucky 13, so I thought maybe there was some kind of tenuous connection there.
Yeah, well maybe subconsciously there is, but it wasn’t on my account, I didn’t do anything.
So you’ve got a full headline tour coming up. I just wondered how much of the new record do you think you’ll feature in the show. Have you kind of thought about the setlist so far?
Yeah, I mean, I want to do quite a few songs because like I said, we’ve done so many shows in the UK now from promoting The Divine and Dirty that, you know, I think the fans deserve some new tracks. I think it’ll probably be half new and then half old favourites. You know, as a rough guesstimate. It’ll probably be that. But you know, because we’ve had such great support from radio stations with the first two singles, by the time the tour rolls around, hopefully, those songs will start to feel comfortable and people will be used to them.
We’re very quickly approaching the end of 2019, have you kind of got the next 12 months mapped out. You know, what’s on the cards?
Yeah, we do. Again, there are no signs of it slowing down at any time. It’s mainly gonna be rolling out into Europe now. We’ve done well in the UK building up, you know, we’ve gone from playing to 50 people show up to 500/600 people. But we’ve got a lot of countries in Europe that want a piece of it now. We do fairly well, Germany, that’s picking up, so we’re going to spend a lot more time over in those countries. And give the UK a little bit of a rest. We will be doing some festivals and stuff, but we won’t do a headline tour probably for at least 12 months towards the end of next year.
Light It Up by the Kris Barras Band is out now. Kris is currently touring the UK extensively in support of his new album, for dates and ticket information visit the social links below.