Beloved Canadian country foursome, the James Barker Band announced a record deal with Villa 40/Sony Music Nashville on May 14.
The Platinum-certified group—James Barker (lead vocals/guitar), Taylor Abram (guitar/background vocals), Connor Stephen (drums), and Bobby Martin (bass)—officially arrived in Music City with two No.1 hits under their belt and a new single, “Over All Over Again,” already climbing country radio in Canada. Now, the band is navigating newfound Nashville stardom, while maintaining their loyal listener base back home.
“It’s a unique situation,” Barker tells American Songwriter over the phone. “We are trying to [reach] people that haven’t heard us before, while still being mindful of fans we’ve made and what we’ve already built in Canada. So our new work still feels ‘band-y’ within that JBB vibe with a catchy melody and a clever lyric—two boxes we try to check on every song.”
One thing that made Music City a must was the unrivaled community of talented songwriters. Collaborating with some of Nashville’s biggest names, JBB was able to expand their soundscape into something universally country.
“There is a confidence that comes from writing with people who we write with here,” says Barker. “Everyone in town has the same mentality. And now that we are officially here, we are on the same page. No more fooling around, we’re here to make great songs. The bar is set high and stays there forever.”
In 2017, they sent their single “Chills” straight to the top of Billboard’s Canadian Hot 100 chart. The upbeat anthem also achieved Platinum status, alongside other songs from their introductory LP Game On, earning them numerous national awards. In addition, they’ve achieved another Platinum-certified and six Gold-certified tracks: “There’s A Drink For That”, “Just Sayin’,” “It’s Working,” “Lawn Chair Lazy,” “Good Together, and ” “Keep It Simple” (Platinum).
This radio success propelled their music career, after working hard to establish an impressive baseline of support at their live shows, self-booking fairs and festivals for the two previous years. Barker recalls, “So then all of a sudden to be driving to a gig and hearing yourselves on the radio, and hearing fans sing all the words back to you at the shows, it was just like throwing jet fuel on a fire.”
Now, nearly 800 miles from home, JBB remains grounded in their deep-run rural roots.
“Yes, Canada is a different country, but it carries over. It’s huge there,” Barker says. “When you’re from the area we’re from, outside of Toronto, it’s all anyone listens to. The small town thing rings true wherever you go.”
“Over All Over Again” exhibits the band’s growth while honing their craft in Nashville. Barker points to a “specific marriage between melody lyric and the inflection of my voice, the way someone talks, at end of the verse. And when the chorus hits, you’re in high gear.” He continues, “It mimics the feeling after you’ve had a few drinks, night starts moving fast— gets in hyper mode, and locks in that motion.”
Listen to “Over All Over Again,” here.