As a former Mixed Martial Artist, British blues guitarist and singer Kris Barras has fought in front of 8,000 people, lived it up in Las Vegas, dealt with bankruptcy, suffered a deep and personal loss, unleashed southern-fried blues fury on stages across Europe and been voted one of the best 13 Blues Guitarists in the World Right Now in 2017.
The year has started with a bang for Kris Barras following the release of his Amazon/iTunes Blues chart-topping new album The Divine and Dirty. We also recently learnt that Kris will be taking over from Lance Lopez in the Supersonic Blues Machine during the group’s forthcoming European tour. It’s fair to say that things are certainly looking good for this British blues maestro.
National Rock Review recently caught up with Kris Barras before his sold-out show at the Hartlepool Supporters Club to talk about his latest album, working with the Supersonic Blues Machine as well as life on the road.
NRR: So you are currently out on the road across the UK, you are about halfway through this run. How have the shows been going so far?
Kris: Yeah, it’s been really, really good. We’ve had five or six sellouts and all of the others were pretty close to selling out. It’s been amazing seeing and meeting all of these different people that have been turning up. Yeah, it’s been great.
NRR: You recently released your new album the Divine and Dirty. Could you tell us a little bit about the album and the inspiration behind it?
Kris: Yeah well, I took my time with it. It was written over a period of about 18 months and when we started writing and recording the album I wasn’t signed, so I recorded half the album because that’s all that I could afford to do and I used that to like promote. Then once I got signed I finished the album, so it was about 18 months of writing songs and gigging a lot of them too, we put a lot in the set.
NRR: I understand that following the release of your debut album Lucky 13, you were concerned that you weren’t going to be able to do any better than that record and subsequently you changed your approach with this album. I just wondered how did the writing and recording process for the Divine and Dirty differ from Lucky 13?
Kris: Yeah, it was a couple of things. Lucky 13 I recorded in my own studio, I engineered it myself and then me and the keyboard player mixed it; my keyboard player at the time. With this album I wanted to work with a producer, I wanted to work with someone that was gonna give me some input just so that I could really concentrate on the playing and the singing rather than worrying about what I was going to do in the mixing stage. It was good, it worked really well. I ended up recording with producer Josiah J, and he came highly recommended from several of my musician friends. Yeah, I teamed up with him and it was great.
With the songwriting, I tried to take some different approaches. I think with a guitarist it’s quite common to just write a riff and then write the chords, and then put the melody, the vocals and the lyrics after. So I tried to mix it up with this and there were several songs where I actually wrote the lyrics first, pretty much just like a poem and then put the music and the melodies around that.
NRR: “Hail Mary” has been getting a lot of airplay from Planet Rock radio, and we’ve been hearing a lot of it. I was just wondering have you been overwhelmed by the response you’ve received to the track?
Kris: Yeah, definitely – it’s been mad. Planet Rock has got right behind us and that’s really helped us with the tour as well, we’ve had a lot of people saying I had only heard of you last week on Planet Rock and then I Googled you and decided to buy some tickets. I’ve had that conversation with a lot of people on this tour. Yeah, so it’s been really good that the song has been so popular. And it’s crossed over as well, I started off making my name in the blues world, but “Hail Mary” has kind of crossed over into the rockier scene and it’s brought a whole bunch of new fans.
NRR: As both a blues guitarist and also a mixed martial arts fighter, you’ve obviously spent most of your life either on the stage or in the ring. I was just wondering what do you prefer and what gives you the biggest buzz?
Kris: I definitely prefer being on the stage. Sometimes when we are at some of the bigger gigs, you get a similar feeling, the adrenaline beforehand and just your body’s natural response you know flight or fight, but yeah I much prefer playing the guitar and singing to people, it’s a lot less painful.
NRR: We recently heard the news that you are going to be joining Supersonic Blues Machine on their forthcoming UK tour, which again is massive news. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how the opportunity came to fruition?
Kris: Yeah, so I’m going to be their new frontman for the UK and Europe dates and some other stuff towards the end of the year as well that hasn’t been announced yet. Yeah, it’s amazing, they are like one of my favourite bands so the chance to be in the band is incredible. We listen to it in the tour van all of the time, like both of their albums, it’s awesome stuff.
Yeah, I mean we got put forward to support them on the first date of the tour which is the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I think that’s how I first came to light. They already had a couple of guys in mind to become their new frontman and my agent suggested with a simple email, just one line, he just said what about Kris as the new frontman. Fabrizio Rossi, who runs the band – I think I put a bit of a spanner in the works because they didn’t know who I was before that. He loved what I did, he loved my energy and my passion, we had a few conversations, they had to have some meetings at their end and it was all done in about the space of a week. It was a really long week for me (laughing), waiting to find out if I had got it or not. Yeah, I got it and it’s really, really good.
NRR: So how does it work now, as your solo career is taking off and Supersonic Blues Machine is a new opportunity. Has it thrown a spanner in the works for you at all or are you going to be able to manage both projects?
Kris: Yeah, I mean there will be things that come up that are going to clash, and it will happen, but if Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top can do it, then I can do it. It is a collective supergroup and they are planning to tour more, they’ve only ever done something like 8 live dates, I think, they’ve only ever done a handful so far, they are looking to do more, obviously with the summer tour and some other things they’ve got planned. But I think that because of the people that are involved with like Billy Gibbons and some of the other huge names, Kenny Arenoft he plays with so many different people and he tours with John Fogerty all of the time, they’ve got such hectic schedules that they have to book the Supersonic stuff so far in advance that I can book my Kris Barras Band stuff around that.
I think like I said there will be some clashes, there already is a clash, I’ve had to cancel an appearance at a festival so that I can do the Supersonic stuff, but it’s going to massively raise my profile playing with legends, people that I grew up listening to, I’m going to be sharing a stage with them, it’s a no-brainer. I think they will work hand in hand.
The Divine and Dirty by the Kris Barras Band is out now via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. Kris is currently touring the UK alongside labelmate Beth Hart, and will also be performing at a variety of UK festivals during the course of the summer before commencing his role as the new frontman in the Supersonic Blues Machine.
Kris Barras UK Tour Dates:
27 Apr City Hall, Hull w/BETH HART
30 Apr Hexagon, Reading w/BETH HART
01 May Guild Hall, Portsmouth w/BETH HART
18 May The Abertillery Blues Rock Festival, Abertillery
02 Jun Camden Rocks Festival, London
15 Jun LoveRocks Festival, Ferndown
20 Jun The Borderline, London
21 Jun Rock City, Nottingham
22 Jun Marsh Blues Club, Huddersfield
23 Jun Durham Blues Rhythm & Rock Festival, Tyne & Wear
01 Jul Ramblin’ Man Fair, Maidstone
04 Jul Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK w/SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE ft BILLY F. GIBBONS
06 Jul Sierre Blues Festival, SWITZERLAND w/SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE ft BILLY F. GIBBONS
07 Jul Suwalki, POLAND w/SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE ft BILLY F. GIBBONS
15 Jul Pistoria Blues Festival, ITALY w/SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE ft BILLY F. GIBBONS
16 Jul Carroponte, Milan, ITALY w/SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE ft BILLY F. GIBBONS
18 Jul Narcao Blues Festival, Narcao (CI) ITALY w/SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE ft BILLY F. GIBBONS
Kris Barras Band
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