Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and genre-bending artists in contemporary roots music, Danny Barnes’ musical interests are varied and adventurous, and he incorporates that versatility into his progressive approach to the banjo.
Although he demonstrates an appreciation for the history of the bluegrass, country, and folk music from which the banjo’s reputation was born, his inventive take on the instrument, using the banjo to play non-traditional music like rock, fusion, and jazz with electronic percussion and loop elements, is what truly separates him from his contemporaries.
He’s also one of roots music’s great songwriters and performers. “A good song has a way of speaking to everybody,” Danny says. “I have faith that more people are going to hear my songs, which is really what I have to offer. I’m not one of those virtuoso instrumentalists, I can’t compete with those guys, but the one thing I can do is write really good songs.” Part Southern gentleman, part humble artist, Barnes is being more than a bit self-effacing with this statement.
Danny has come to redefine the banjo’s perceived image in an eclectic career for which genre definitions have merely been a polite suggestion. From his early days as the driving force behind the impressive Austin Texas–based Bad Livers, a band of pioneering Americana missionaries, through a prolific solo career and the development of his trademark “Barnyard Electronics” project, a startling approach that incorporates digital technology and various effect pedals to stretch the tonal range of the instrument, Danny has always listened to his proudly offbeat inner voice.
Danny Barnes teaches: