Midlands-born, Leeds-based singer-songwriter Charlie Barnes wasn’t exactly expecting to be globetrotting after his debut release More Stately Mansions when he put it out in May 2015, and nor did he think that it would take three years to stick out the follow-up.
Life has a way of throwing curveballs however, and a large one – by the name of Bastille – put him on a rather different path to the one he was expecting.
“The timing was pretty hilarious,” he recalls with a laugh. “Gallivanting around the world with these guys, it’s been incredible. I remember walking off the tour bus, into the Zenith in Paris, where Muse recorded Hullaballoo and just couldn’t believe that this was my life now, that this was my job.” Recruited as a touring musician to join the BRIT Award-winning pop-rockers ahead of their sophomore effort Wild World, the 28-year-old musician has slowly constructed his own second album on the side, Oceanography. “I’ve just been threading it together on downtime between shows,” he adds, “like a patchwork effort. It’s very much a 21st century concoction!”
More Stately Mansions offered, in Barnes’ own words, “a bit of everything with the kitchen sink, from big riffs to piano ballads”. “I very much wanted to move away from the wall-of-sound production with this effort; this time, I was very keen to streamline things a bit and make an album of 10 to 12 songs that sat very well together.”
How does the record advance his own musical styles? “I think it shows some of my more esoteric influences. I really dig old twenties and thirties music, that vaudeville type world. They’ve got, dramatic harmonic structures; I wanted to make some proper drama queen pop.”
Barnes heads out on tour this month before getting back to his day job and is looking forward to showcasing his fresh cuts. The lead single, Will and Testament, already features a cameo from Bastille frontman Dan Smith, to give it a “shinier edge”. What does he most look forward to sharing with the fans? He mulls it over for a moment. “Ruins, definitely. Former Glories too. They both cover a lot of ground. That’s what I love about music; there’s always a journey to be had, and there’s always a lot of fun too.”
I very much wanted to move away from the wall-of-sound production with this effort; this time, I was very keen to streamline things a bit and make an album of 10 to 12 songs that sat very well together.Charlie Barnes
Charlie Barnes plays at Oporto on Wednesday March 7.