Q&A: UT alumnus, banjo player Danny Barnes discusses new album ‘Man on Fire’

Avery Wohleb

He may have moved to Washington state, but UT alumnus Danny Barnes continues to pay homage to his Texas roots one banjo-dominated record at a time.

Barnes graduated from UT in 1985 with a degree in audio production. Before going solo in the early 2000s, Barnes was part of the local Austin band, Bad Livers. On March 6, Barnes is set to release his new album Man on Fire, which features musicians, such as Dave Matthews and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones.

The Daily Texan spoke with Barnes during a stop on his national tour about his upcoming album and his Texas roots.

The Daily Texan: What was the writing process like for this new album in comparison to previous work?

Danny Barnes: My process is really pretty much the same. I write a bunch of songs, a lot of music, (and) then I just pick through it. I had about 45 songs, and then my friends and I go over everything and sort of pick out what goes together and what makes sense. Then we make a little movie out of those songs. The songs end up being like scenes, and the record ends up being like a movie. It’s just a process of a lot of editing.

DT: Has the atmosphere of your shows remained the same over the years?

DB: I’m really lucky. To find out I even exist, you have to be a pretty smart person (and) like read books and stuff. I’m not a mainstream artist. I’m really lucky because the people that come to see me play are usually really nice people, like film directors and poets and artists and photographers and people who do cool stuff. In order to find out about me at all, you kind of have to do research and dig in there. I’m not really a household name, so it’s been pretty consistent.

DT: In what ways did Texas shape your music taste, and did (your taste) change when you moved to Austin?

DB: Oh, it completely shaped it. I grew up just listening to a lot of Texas music. I learned a lot when I first came (to Austin) because I began interacting with people that really knew a lot about music. 

DT: What would you say is your biggest message you’re hoping to convey with the new album?

DB: Well, most of poetry has to do with trying to have dignity as a poor person. The main thing I’m trying to get across is hope for someone that doesn’t have very much.

DT: Do you have any advice that you would give to aspiring musicians?

DB: To me, really good advice — and this is something I’ve learned my whole work (career) studying with people who are a lot better than me — is figure out a way you can fall in love with music even more. I think that’s kind of a shortcut for learning how to get better on your instrument and get better as an artist — figure out a way to fall in love with music more than you (are) now.