From 7th Avenue to Catching Dreams
The Barry Myers Biography
The musical influences of Floridian singer, songwriter and musician Barry Myers range from Dan Fogelberg to Pink Floyd.
But as his debut album 7th Avenue and the outstanding follow-up Starseeds and Dreamcatchers highlight to great effect, Barry has crafted his own highly captivating sound.
Barry hails from Hobe Sound in Florida and started playing the piano at the age of seven, following in the finger-steps of his mother:
“My mom is a classically trained pianist and vocalist while my dad sang in bands in college, so music was always in the house. I can still hear my mom doing vocal exercises before singing in the choir every Sunday.”
Barry then graduated to violin and drums before picking up a guitar in his teens. Finding his voice through the six-string Barry started to write song after song on his instrument of choice and he’s never looked back.
In November 2010 Barry released his debut album 7th Avenue, garnering attention around not just Florida but much further afield via iTunes and Amazon availability.
At the heart of 7th Avenue is an open, soft-rock sound but there are also some clever arrangements, a little cool jazz and plenty of melody, all linked by a vocal that uses intelligent phrasing and not an over-abundance of notes to perfectly complement the music.
The fact that all those ingredients are fused into a well-crafted whole is not a surprise given Barry’s ear for melody and an appreciation for the musical styles that have helped hone his songwriting talents:
“My earliest influence were the Beatles. Then I got into Dan Fogelberg, Loggins & Messina and Pink Floyd. My dad used to play Stan Kenton records and he loved horns, so I later fell in love with Miles Davis. My dad also played Vic Damone records, so I really love the crooners.”
There’s a very British/ progressive underpinning to 7th Avenue, a textured album that takes its lead from an earlier era where free-flowing creativity won over forced commerciality – the airy vibe of ‘South Side of the Moon,’ the acoustic and Beatles-esque ‘House of Mirrors’ and the uplifting funky fun of ‘Illuminate’ are just three of the many highlights you’ll find on the debut release from Barry Myers.
But as strong as the music and songwriting is on the album its featured musicians, sound and production are their equal.
And one particular guest performer tells you all you need to know about the quality of the music and how highly respected Barry is as a songwriter…
Pat Travers, a true rock guitar legend, is not just a near-neighbour of Barry’s he’s a genuine fan of Barry’s music – to such an extent that he gladly gave of his time to put down some great lead and harmony guitar work on the album.
Barry met Pat through drummer and producer Sean Shannon (Pat Travers Band, Molly Hatchet, Outbound Road).
Sean was another musician keen to make his way down 7th Avenue:
“Sean heard some of my tunes and said ‘You need to do something with these’” recalls Barry.
“When we started to work on what became 7th Avenue Sean said he could get Pat to play lead on it. Sean was playing with Pat at the time and mentioned that when he and Pat were out on the road they listened to roughs of what we had done in the studio.
“It turned out Pat really liked the tunes. To have someone of Pat’s stature say he liked what he heard, then play on the record… that really made me feel good.”
Sean Shannon played drums and percussion on 7th Avenue and co-wrote two of the numbers.
He also produced, engineered, mixed and mastered the album; abilities Barry is quick to highlight:
“Sean is an exceptional drummer but he also gets a great sound in his studio – his production and mixing skills are superb.”
Other performers on 7th Avenue include Michael Stewart (keyboards and orchestration), Jamie Baker (bass) and Monica Travers (additional vocals and backing vocals).
Barry continued to promote 7th Avenue throughout 2010 and 2011 but by the following year the multi-instrumentalist was sowing the starseeds of an outstanding, semi-conceptual melodic rock release.
Prior to the full-length follow-up to Barry’s debut album however the lighter and personal side of the musician was heard on ‘Beautiful Girl,’ a non-album single released in March of 2014.
The song’s short and sweet charm is in its simplicity – and its inspiration:
“Beautiful Girl was just a little acoustic, vocal and keyboard lullaby for our grandchild Everlyn; I used my Baby Taylor guitar for a real ‘baby’ effect. The song is probably a little Dan Fogelberg or Loggins & Messina trying to get out of me!”
It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman.
In the case of Barry’s second album, Starseeds and Dreamcatchers, there’s a solid argument for stating that behind this great song writer is a great authoress because a number of the tracks could be musical accompaniments to The Keeper of Clarity, the first book in a new series of New Age fiction by Ivy Gilbert – Barry’s wife.
The inspiration for both book and album is as interesting a tale as the stories contained in the end products…
In 2012 Barry and Ivy took a trip to Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island in Maine.
“Bar Harbor is a great little artsy, tourist town. On our travels we visited a New Age gift shop called Eden Rising where the owner mentioned we should read The Starseed Transmissions by Ken Carey; Ivy also bought herself a Dreamcatcher at a Native American store.
“It turned out to be an incredible trip and the whole vibe of my second album came from our time in the town discussing Dreamcatchers, the Starseed theory and the whole Mayan Calendar end-of-the-world prophecy.
“So the record came from where we may have come from, where we are now and where we are going – musical questions, so to speak.”
In a fascinating creative parallel Ivy found herself writing a past, present and where we may be heading storyline while Barry was composing on similar themes.
It turned out to be quite the double creative whammy – The Keeper of Clarity hit #1 on Amazon.com’s Best Sellers list during the summer months of 2014 and Starseeds and Dreamcatchers is nothing less than one of the strongest rock releases of 2014.
The album may have very specific influences and conceptual ideas threaded throughout its nine tracks and thirty-six minutes but at its sonic heart is a hook-laden and atmospheric sound – the album can be as conceptually cosmic or as melodically down to earth as the listener wishes, or interprets, it to be.
The opening brace are a best of both worlds case in point.
The questioning lyrics of the title track are set within a melodic, mid-tempo framework that can be compared to the best star rock of the 70’s while the spacey ‘Dreamcatcher’ has an almost hypnotic ambience guided by a pulsating, rhythmic drum pattern from Sean Shannon who once again contributes on both sides of the studio glass.
Sean is not the only returnee – many who first met on 7th Avenue are reunited on Barry’s second album including keyboard and Hammond B3 player Michael Stewart and Pat Travers, who has produced some outstanding lead lines that float across the perfectly arranged musical soundscapes.
A number of the songs on Starseeds and Dreamcatchers demand airplay on any and every rock and pop radio station you care to mention but none more so than ‘Angels and Elvis,’ an infectious slice of other worldly melodic rock that’s layered over a heavy acoustic foundation.
You’ll just need to hear the song once to have Elvis and his winged friends in your head all day.
What makes the album all the more interesting is that shortly after the Bar Harbor trip Barry wasn’t picking up any musical vibe, let alone picking up his guitar, but a few weeks later the songs came pouring out of him, one after another. Some came to Barry almost fully formed including the closing piece ‘I Am,’ written in under a minute:
“That’s true, I’m not kidding; ‘I Am’ was written in forty-five seconds. But in the studio we extended the song and added a middle section featuring cello and trumpet.”
Using such instrumentation is thinking outside the normal rock box and gives ‘I Am’ a very distinct sound with an almost ethereal arrangement; the song is based on dreams Ivy’s son Kris was having regularly at 3:14 in the morning (the recorded version lasts 3 minutes and 14 seconds).
If 7th Avenue was the announcement that Barry Myers had arrived as a musician and songwriter, Starseeds and Dreamcatchers is the exclamation point.
But that’s simply the first chapter of Barry’s musical career because, just like Ivy’s first book in the Clarity series, there’s clearly a lot more to come – and all the prophecies point to a Musical Calendar that isn’t predicted to end anytime soon.
Music Writer & Music Critic
Ross Muir writes at:
Putting the Words to the Music