Interview With Carbon Leaf’s Barry Privett

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Barry Privett of Carbon Leaf Chats With RARAs Farm

Over the past twenty years or so, I’ve heard a bunch of references to this interesting and engaging band out of Virginia.  They’ve developed a rabid, loyal fan base and quite the reputation as excellent live performers.

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I’m a sucker for creative rock bands, and even more so for bands boasting any kind of folksy Irish flair. This eclectic quintet, though, somehow kept slipping through my radar, but that’s about to change, as they are headed to Orlando for a show at The Social on Friday, January 23rd.  To prep for my first Carbon Leaf experience, I caught up with frontman Barry Privett for an engaging interview.

Cretin: There seems to be a recent trend for bands to reimagine previously successful releases. You recently did that with Indian Summer Revisited, what drove that decision?
Barry  Privett: Several reasons: Indian Summer was turning 10 years old, and the label still owned the master recording, but not the songs themselves, so what better way to celebrate than re-record the album – which legally we were now permitted to do – and return the Indian Summer project back into Carbon Leaf’s control. Fans were very enthused by it, and of course the original album still exists. We had a lot of fun making it, and have been around for 21 years, so we’d like to do this with all of our older material, and introduce the music to new fans who may not be familiar with some of it. It’s a great thing to do in between writing and recording new material.

Cretin: When you finished the new album, with ten years of life experiences added to your conscience did you find any one or two songs that took on a totally new meaning to you?
Barry  Privett: We certainly are better at playing the songs now than back then! I can’t say that songs mean something else to me now, though the original subjects of certain songs to fade in and out of memory more now when performing them. I would say the songs become their own thing and the focus is on the energy of the crowd that is singing them back, rather than pondering about a breakup or something. I think that’s a good thing. “One Prairie Outpost” is perhaps the most nostalgic one for me on the album, so that takes me back a bit I think. But I don’t think of ole Jenny every time I sing “Life Less Ordinary.” Not every time anyway.

Cretin: In your live set, what versions of the songs will the fans be hearing?
Barry  Privett: Either more stopped down acoustic or maybe even some around 1-mic, but typically these songs feel the best when the whole band is behind them. Indian Summer was a pretty dense record.

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Cretin: The music has very obvious Celtic influences, especially vocally, but it is not really Celtic rock. How would you classify the band’s style?
Barry  Privett: Right. The Celtic influence percentage is fairly small, but it leaves an obvious footprint. Some of the songs are overt Celtic-rock, but then there’s “Desperation Song,” or “She’s Gone,” or “Oi” that have some of those folk elements more as passing textures. Maybe “She’s Gone” not so much, I don’t know…I should do a spreadsheet. But yeah, you put us next to a beer swilling, Celtic rock band and it’s a different thing, which will often frustrate some people who want to swing beers more. I’m happy to be left of center of that when we choose to work in the genre.

Cretin: For a first timer coming out to see you guys live (like me), what should I expect to see/hear?
Barry  Privett: There will be a lot of styles and instruments. Generally we try to be engaging, fun, but hopefully play well enough where people walk out thinking we are a really great band with good tunes! It’s a fun night.

Cretin: The band has shared the stage with some great names in the music business over your 23 year career. Were there any acts you played with who really influenced the band’s sound?
Barry  Privett: When we were really plying the Celtic stuff early on as a younger band, Great Big Sea was a big influence, but they have kind of a special thing and you can’t just jump up there and be that. And we didn’t, but their fan base was very receptive to us and we still benefit from that association for the few tours we supported them.

Cretin: So you’ve got one show in Orlando before you hit the high seas for The Rock Boat. Sharing the stages with Sister Hazel, BNL, The Mowglis and a handful of other diverse bands. How did this gig come about?
Barry  Privett: It’s maybe our 7th year? We’d played a show or two with Sister Hazel in the past.  I’m not sure how it came about, other than our agent got the gig at the time. It’s great to see some old friends, and see music, which you don’t get to do when you’re in a band, ironically enough. It’s good to commune a bit, and meet fans too. Pretty relaxed atmosphere.

Cretin: Any of the bands on the Rockboat you are particularly excited to see?
Barry  Privett: There are so many I’ve not even heard of, so yeah I will have my list, when we have the free time. I’ve not seen Michael Franti yet, and we’ve ganged around to varying degrees with Sister Hazel, Gaelic Storm, Red Wanting Blue, Will Hoge, Scars on 45, Von Grey….but yeah, most the boat artists this year are new to us, so it should be a great time. The artists are always solid on TRB.

You can catch Barry and his Carbon Leaf mates at The Social on Friday, January 23rd, before they hit the high seas with The Rock Boat, leaving Miami on the 24th.

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  1. Great Big Sea, indeed. That is what brought me to Carbon Leaf, and Carbon Leaf to me over a decade ago. Nice interview. Great guys.

  2. and I’m just the opposite. I heard of Carbon Leaf first and saw them for the 1st time as the opening act for Great Big Sea. They are both my favorite bands and we go see them every time either of them are in the area, even tho now it’s just Alan Doyle. Don’t ever break up, Carbon Leaf!

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