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“It’s time to knuckle down a little bit and do some adult stuff” – Kris Barras on returning to playing music

Interview by Adrian Hextall

With the launch show of The Kris Barras Band album ‘The Divine and Dirty’ out of the way and the album flying off the shelves both physically and digitally, it would seem that the cows have finally come home and Kris, a man who has always had the blues coursing through his veins, can now take his music to the masses and step out of the shadows to a much much wider audience.

From a quiet return to music a couple of years ago with the ‘Lucky 13′ album, one of the hardest working acts on the club circuit has relentlessly pursued the musical dream and following a storming set at Ramblin’ Man Fair in 2017, the new album, released through Mascot Label Records, sees Kris and his band starting to hit the big time. 

We sat down with Kris before he went on stage in Sittingbourne, Kent at the Bourne To The Blues event at the local UKP Leisure Club which saw the band perform, with Jack J Hutchinson in support, to a sold out and hugely receptive crowd.

Jack J Hutchinson

AH: Congratulations on the album. Straight in to the top of the charts. You must be really happy with that.

KB: Yeah, definitely. You never know how it’s going to go. You don’t know, how sales are going to be, how reviews are going to be, things like that. So, yes it’s great. It’s a nice surprise and particularly for like the physical sales. It’s the first time we’ve ever been on Amazon for physical sales. We were just doing it through our website before. And then you got to get much higher numbers in the digital to get up in the charts so that was nice to achieve.

AH: The push for this, compared to say, the efforts you had for ‘Lucky 13’. I mean it’s just gone through the roof. Hasn’t it?

KB: Yeah`, I mean also I’m signed to top class label and then the best record label in the world for what I do. The guys that work there are brilliant.

AH: Quite a level of support definitely. Now the two lead singles haven’t done you any harm whatsoever, almost an inspired choice as far as I’m concerned. What triggered the choice as to release them?

KB: Yeah, I didn’t actually choose them. It is the record label who chose. So I submitted the album and they chose the tracks that they wanted to have as singles. I kind of always knew Hail Mary would be one. That’s kind of my biggest song. We’ve been playing it live for about a year now and it’s always been one of our biggest songs live. People picked up on it like instantly. 

With Propane, I thought we could go one way or another. I mean, it’s got, you know, it’s a very different song compared to some of the others on the album and I thought, maybe they would want to show the contrast or maybe they wouldn’t, and obviously they chose to show it.

AH: I like that. Coming back then to Hail Mary, you’re absolutely right. It was that made me just stop absolutely there as I was listening to the album. What is it about that track? I’ve noted [goes through interview notes] that it’s like that moment you see in The Blues Brothers when John Belushi gets hit by the bolt of light in the church. What is it about that song and what was the writing process involved there? You obviously hit gold at that particular moment.

KB: Yeah. I mean. With that particular song, it started off as the riff, the main riff. I came up with that first of all and honestly built a song from there, really. It’s quite a big chorus, a very catchy chorus yeah, I just suppose that’s it really. I think it’s got melodies that people can latch on to sort of good drive and groove behind it.

AH: Now the rest of the album, it’s not what you would ever classify as your typical blues album. One of the things I put in my review from the Islington Show was that by having the four of you on stage incorporating the keys as well, it gives it a whole extra layer, doesn’t it?

The Kris Barras Band – album launch show, Thousand Island, London, March 20 2018

You know, a lot of the Blues actually, you see being promoted at the moment, it’s lead singer and guitarist, bass and the drummer but you’ve got soul, you’ve got blues, you’ve got gospel in there as well, all added into it which gives you a whole different feel. Very unique, I would argue. 

KB: Yeah, I mean, I think you know, I found a wide range of influences through my life. I’ve listened to a lot of different music. I think overall the album’s like a Blues influence but quite strong like southern rock vibe, and I think a lot of southern rock bands like Skynyrd and stuff they’d always have big backing vocals similar to what we did and…

AH: Also they never shy away from the piano and that sort of thing.

KB: That’s right. Yeah. I mean I don’t really put too much thought into styles when I’m writing songs, I won’t necessarily sit down and go on and do this or do that. I just sit down and write songs and what comes out, comes out.

AH: You played Ramblin’ Man fair last year and it was a really enjoyable set as well. It felt like it was one of those moments where you’d kind of really nailed what you’re good at. It must have been great to get the call from the label as well to help push the new album. Did it all come together off the back of that show?

KB: You know it’s been quite steep climbing first really, starting with this reincarnation of my musical career. Started playing again since like Christmas 2014, start gigging around April 2015,  It is 3 years gigging and we’ve gone from plain pub gigs to selling out 400 capacity venues. You know it’s has been a quite steep climb. Yeah, I mean with Lucky 13, we opened up a lot of doors, it got us a lot new fans, got us into some gigs and festivals and set us up. Ultimately off the back of that, things like Ramblin’ Man Fair, we signed into Mascot and did our European tour last Autumn playing at RAWA Blues Festivals, the largest single Blues festival in the world. https://rawablues.com/en/about-festival

Yeah, that all came at the back of  Lucky 13. It was a good also an independent release. It was just a good stepping stone leading on to the next level that we’re at now with Mascot beyond this.

AH: You were saying about reinvigorating your music in 2014. Listening to the way you’ve play, you clearly didn’t stop playing when you were fighting [Kris is a former MMA fighter, check out some of the highlights from that career below]…. 

KB: Yeah I was still gigging every weekend though just playing in pub bands so I just didn’t write– I wasn’t writing music, you know. I wasn’t bothered about trying to make it or trying to have my own music heard. I didn’t really care, I was just playing bluesy rock covers in bars just for money, singing that stuff for cash and then I was training full time in the week.

I mean a lot of times it just annoyed me to be honest, you know it is just full of drunk people asking you to play. Fucking Mustang Sally…… come on [sighs] and it’s was just like– but yeah…

So there’s good times and bad. We did have some good gigs. We played some good pubs but then we played some shockers too you know,

AH: I was talking to an old friend of yours earlier today, Mark Pascal [Lead singer of Bristol based rockers Departed]  Mark was saying you and he used to play together many many moons ago?

KB: Yeah, yeah that’s right yeah. They [a band called Morph the time I believe] lost their bass player and I stepped in on the bass for quite a few months here. These were cool gigs actually. We did like Cambridge Rock Festival and were probably going back, I don’t know, more like 12 years. It was early, I was 20 probably, early twenties. That would have been when I was fighting, like just playing gigs on weekends. Yeah we did some good gigs. 

AH: He passed on his best wishes, he seemed really pleased to see how it was going for you. Hopefully Departed will be following suit as well.

KB: Yeah, I think you know who can ride in the same boat You’re all trying to make it. You’ll trying to have your songs heard and thing like that. I’ve been very fortunate to get a lucky break, very fortunate with Mascot for getting me signed up and that’s opened up a lot of doors and some other plans are sheer crazy, a lot really crazy. 

AH: I can imagine. Just in terms of the planning phase, what convinced you to sort of stop fighting and make this once again your focus?

KB: Yeah it wasn’t like that necessarily. I had my last fight in Thailand of Southern Asia. Just after that, I thought like I’m just gonna construct my life a bit more. In the fighting world, unless you’re at right the top of the game, you don’t earn enough– much money you know? It’s only few guys at the very very very top that earn good good money. I decided– I said enough of all the diet and all the training, I’ve had more than enough fights so I got some great experiences for. I say now, it’s time to knuckle down little bit and do some adult stuff and that’s when I start saving up to buy a house and things like that.  And then I think what happened is I needed an outlet. I needed something to do to focus my energy on and that’s lot what ultimately what lead me to writing songs again. 

AH: Outside of the band, do you still go to the gym? Do you still do some coaching [at the gym he owns] or you’re not going to have time to do that anymore?

KB: Yeah I’m still there in around tours, but I’m on like a 6 weeks tour announced so I’m won’t be in for a while.

AH: [Looking at the current KBB tour schedule] So it’s kind of a huge list of dates, isn’t it?

KB: It’s is huge [laughs] but, I mean everyday, at the moment it’s [the gym] my– it’s still my bread and butter so up there was to pay, the band’s is just doing well but it’s not, you know it’s gonna be a while before the stage where I can replace my gym income. Hopefully in the next few months that will happen. 

Take this tour. It was booked before I signed with Mascot. So we booked– me and my manager Mark; we booked this tour in like just few days. We start along Monday morning, by Wednesday lunchtime it was booked and confirmed. And because at that stage, we weren’t really big enough just to go right we’re gonna go to this city and hope that people turn up, we didn’t have that backing us support so we were still unsigned.

We can only do shows in these places where we have done festivals there or shows there before, where we’ve done gigs there before or the established blues clubs which obviously what led us to choose the Borne to the Blues club tonight [in Sittingbourne]. So, that’s kind of how we build the tour.

I’ve still got a long journey but our next tour we’re moving up to like, 250 – 300 capacity and some 350-400 capacity places around the country and some of the places that we haven’t played before. And just cause we got bit more PR behind us we got a lot of press. Hell a lot of press behind us and …

AH: Down south, we get you back at The Borderline in June, a warm up for Ramblin’ Man fair just over a week later in Maidstone. You’ve moved from the Rising [new acts] stage to the main Blues Stage this year?

KB: Yes and this year the Blue Stage is gonna be outdoors taking the place of, what’s that, [the Grooverider] stage. I’m not sure what’s happening with them if they go in the tent or this gonna be three outdoor stages, I don’t know. Yes it’s gonna be nice, it’s gonna be the biggest stage and it’s great to be invited back cause the real highlight for me, I mean, there’s such a great atmosphere. It’s one of my favorite festivals that I’ve ever been to regardless of playing it or not.

AH: Hopefully no clashes like last time?

KB: Monster truck was the big one near us — that buggered us up a bit because just as we are playing ,obviously see the weather was pretty bad that weekend. The sun came out about half an hour before we’re on and then it started belting down. Yeah Monster Truck were on the main stage and they sounded phenomenal and they were one of my favorite bands so I actually love Monster Truck. As I set along our pedal board I sing along to their songs so therefore they definitely nicked some of the of the crowd from us [laughter].

Kris is currently on tour playing solo shows and also in support to Beth Hart on her UK tour. 

Details of upcoming shows are below: 

http://www.krisbarrasband.com/tour/

Festival Dates for the diary: 

Camden Rocks Festival – June 2nd

Ramblin’ Man Fair – June 3oth – July 1st 

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