Dave Barnes Breaks Down New Album With Track-by-Track

Dave Barnes dropped his new album, ‘Dreaming in Electric Blue’ on Friday (check it out on all streaming services) and between the title tracks and two singles – “Be Without You” and “Love Somebody!” – as well as some sneaky good tracks there is a lot to be excited about this release.

This marks Barnes’ ninth studio album and continues a trend of him releasing a new collection every two years – something he has done every other year since 2004.

His third album, ‘Me and You and the World,’ was his first major critical success and it was followed up by stellar offerings ‘What We Want, What We Get,’ in 2010; ‘Stories to Tell’ in 2012, and ‘Golden Days’ in 2014.

Barnes wanted to give an explanation of what went into each track on ‘Dreaming in Electric Blue’ to fans and readers of American Songwriter, in his own words.

This is how Barnes described the inspiration for some songs on this album.

Be Without You – I feel like one of the tricks of having double digit amount of albums out is finding 1. new things to say. 2. new ways to say new things. I was in a round with a few hit LA pop songwriters, and i was so inspired by how wonderfully simple and hooky their songs were – so little of the song was wasted. The next day I decided to try to write something in that vein – simple, memorable yet lyrically still true to me and my life and i wrote this song. I love that first verse – it’s so true about my wife. Also love the line “All these little encores that i never knew.” It’s so hard to write new lyrics having done this so long now, and i always get really excited about lines like that that feel new. I LOVE Mark Trussell’s electric part – i feel like it really nailed a poppy but soulful vibe. The response vocal parts are one of my favorite parts of the song too. I kept randomly hearing in my head a sax doing the solo, and really struggled with wondering if that was too out of nowhere and 80s, but went for it. It’s been fun to see how many people have commented about there being a sax solo on the album!

Dreaming in Electric Blue – I’m really really proud of this one, and it’s proof too of how much we all benefit from having more ears on a project than just our own – I’ve made most of my records with my dear friend and producer Ed Cash, so i wanted to play these songs for him even though i was going to produce it myself. I had written a previous version of Dreaming In Electric Blue and i played it for him. After hearing the songs, he said – “I really like them – my one thought is i don’t LOVE the Dreaming in Electric Blue song as much as i love that title. I think you should rewrite that song and keep the title,” which super bummed me out but i knew he was right. A few days later, i had a random melody pop in my head, but i didn’t like the words i was singing and realized that DIEB would work perfectly with the melody – i had a loop i had found and bada boom i was off to the races! I’ve never really had a song like this and it’s been fun seeing fans really be (hopefully pleasantly) surprised! I LOVE the bridge key change. I’d been listening to a bunch of 80s music where key changes were rampant, so i really wanted to throw a little surprise in there. I still enjoy listening to this song almost a year after it’s been recorded – Always a good sign!

Sorry’s So Hard to Say – I love this song. That’s maybe weird for the writer to say, but i really do. I found that loop and LOVED it and started playing those major 7 chords over it and pretty much sang that chorus melody and most of the words pretty quickly. I don’t remember this song taking long to write, which is always a really good sign. Marriage is no joke, it’s so rewarding and beautiful and life giving, but it’s really tough too and this song is about that. I tried to have little hooks in the song because it is such a long song, and there is a good bit of space in the recording too. Trussell’s guitar part in the song is 10/10. I also really layered the bgvs so it felt filled out the chorus. I wrote this on keys, and it’s so interesting the places you go when you write on an instrument you aren’t as familiar with – the bridge is a good example of that. I never would have written that on guitar. 

Love Somebody – I had that chorus pretty early on and didn’t really know what kind of verses should go with it. I didn’t want the verses to be as easy or straight ahead, if you will, but more heartfelt as the chorus was so approachable and simple. I’m weird like that. Most people would probably think to make the whole thing easy but i’m always trying to balance heartfelt and approachable, which might be my achilles heel! I stumbled upon that guitar part, and realized it would be a great fit to the chorus – a little left of center and guitar based, which i really dug. It’s another song where i really stacked the chorus bgvs, which is pretty new for me. The lyric is true to my life too, which always makes these songs more special to me.

Hard Feelings – This is another song i wrote on keys – Dustin Ransom played most of the keys on the recorded version and made some really amazing/smart tweaks in the patterns to go with the groove better. The band KILLED this song. I was so excited to bring it in to them and see what they would do. I had the title and was really excited about figuring out what kind of song that title would be, and i thought it would be fun to write a groovy song to what feels like a heavy title. Another bridge i wrote on keys, which i can tell immediately – changes i wouldn’t have thought to do on guitar. Love the horns on this too. Sorry’s So Hard to Say and Hard Feelings live in the same lyrical stratosphere – i love having songs that cover similar ground on the same album. I think it helps the backbone of the record. “Being right don’t mean you ain’t wrong” is either one of my best lyrics of all time or cheesiest. Verdict is still out for me. 

Take Me Back To Nashville – I really love playing songs in Drop D, and i had that guitar figure for quite a while trying to figure out what to do with it. I’ve also always loved songs about Nashville, and hadn’t written one yet, so it was fun to put the two together. Dustin Ransom, who played keys on the record, absolutely slays me on this song. Such beautiful playing and parts. I feel the same about Trussell’s electric playing – and the interplay between them is everything i love about making records. One of the things i love about living in Nashville is that even though i don’t play country music, it has a way of sneaking into my songs, and this song is proof of that. Maggie Rose sang on this song and sounds SO STINKING AMAZING. The outro is super random which felt really fun and surprising to me. 

You’ve Always Been Good To Me – I try to have a song like this on each album i put out. Something really stripped down, true, and heartfelt. I cried singing the vocal to the demo of this song and it still wrecks me to this day. Ben Shive played keys and arranged all the strings and they are so gorgeous. The string part on “Now how i laugh the same way” is one of my favorite moments on the album. Maggie Rose sings on this song also, and her voice is such a great compliment to mine. 

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