Interview with Mandy Barnett
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Christian Lamitschka: Country Music has many new fans in Europe, who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who’s never seen or heard you before.
Mandy Barnett: I sing classic country music. That is my first love. But I also sing songs from the Great American Song book.
Christian Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were the highlights?
Mandy Barnett: I put out a Christmas record, “Winter Wonderland,” through Cracker Barrel Country Stores and Rounder Records, called “Winter Wonderland.” It will also be available this holiday season through Rounder.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s your latest CD and how’s it doing?
Mandy Barnett: I just released a collection of songs recorded by Patsy Cline, in support of the musical “Always…Patsy Cline,” which I’m performing in at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville this month and July. The album includes some of Patsy’s big hits, such as “Crazy,” “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams,” and others, but also includes some different types of songs that Patsy covered, such as the Irving Berlin standard “Always” and “Strange.” We thought it would be nice to take some stylistic liberties with some of the songs, while maintaining the overall integrity of the sound. It was a very creative process and fun to make. It’s something my fans have wanted for a while.
Christian Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD, is there a story behind it?
Mandy Barnett: “Sweet Dreams” was just a great title — it jumped right out, since it’s such a great and beloved song. I also had a long friendship with the writer, Don Gibson, who was a legendary singer and songwriter.
Christian Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself and if not, how do you go about finding the songs for the your CD?
Mandy Barnett: I don’t write. I’m an interpreter of song. I pick songs that are moving to me, songs that have the right emotional component and that are melodically dynamic.
Christian Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album.
Mandy Barnett: They are all wonderful classic songs, written by some incredible songwriters. I mentioned Irving Berlin and Don Gibson already, but there are many other stellar songwriters represented — Willie Nelson, Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran, Mel Tillis, to name a few.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s the difference between your last CD and the current one?
Mandy Barnett: My last CD, “Winter Wonderland,” was a Christmas record, and “Sweet Dreams” is a collection songs previously recorded by Patsy Cline. Both records harken back to the past a bit, in terms of style and production.
Christian Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Mandy Barnett: Songs with great melodies and memorable lyrics.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s your favorite song among all the songs you’ve recorded and what’s the story behind it?
Mandy Barnett: I don’t have a favorite song. From project to project, I always have my favorites. I keep moving forward. There are always new favorites.
Christian Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Mandy Barnett: At this point, I have much more than I have ever had, and it feels really good.
Christian Lamitschka: Who do you look up musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Mandy Barnett: I love all kinds of music. My favorite music is from the 1960s and earlier. I love the great female country singers, like Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette, and some of the legendary pop vocalists, like Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, Connie Francis, and Brenda Lee. Since I was a child, I’ve always listened to and performed an eclectic mix of music.
Christian Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s Country Music versus its roots and where do you see it going in the future?
Mandy Barnett: I think Country Music today has certainly often strayed from its roots. Like other genres, there can sometimes be a focus on mass producing records and stars. This has somewhat homogenized the format, but that isn’t just happening with the country format, other genres are affected as well.
Christian Lamitschka: In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between “traditional“ and “new“ country music?
Mandy Barnett: In my opinion, the traditional singers had a lot more time to develop their gifts and try to find songs to sing that were more meaningful. You could have a long career, developed over a stretch of time, to really discover who you were as an artist. It’s a different business now. The pressures are different. There’s not that same luxury of developing over time and finding your true voice and identity as an artist. Things happen faster, due to economic and other forces. You have to hit fast, or likely lose your record deal.
Christian Lamitschka: If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Mandy Barnett: Take more time to let artists hone their artistry and identities, and to let artists be individually expressive, outside of a mass-produced market.
Christian Lamitschka: As an artist you have to do so many different things such as recording, touring, doing interviews etc. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?
Mandy Barnett: I enjoy all of it.
Christian Lamitschka: What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Mandy Barnett: I auditioned for a musical called “Always…Patsy Cline.” It was a smash hit and since has toured all over the world with different casts, but our show at the Ryman Auditorium, back when, certainly help put it on the map.
Christian Lamitschka: Before you became a star, where your friends and family supportive or was it a struggle?
Mandy Barnett: I’ve always had a tremendous amount of support from my friends and family.
Christian Lamitschka: What inspired you to become an artist?
Mandy Barnett: My mother knew early on I had a talent for singing. It was something she cultivated in me and it was apparent to everyone that that’s what I should do with my life.
Christian Lamitschka: What drives you?
Mandy Barnett: Creativity and passion.
Christian Lamitschka: What does it take to be a country star?
Mandy Barnett: Determination.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that differentiates you from other artists?
Mandy Barnett: I’m focused on being a vocalist — an interpreter of incredible songs. I don’ write my own songs. I’m interested in singing songs written by great songwriters and I don’t pretend to be a great songwriter!
Christian Lamitschka: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you’re proud of?
Mandy Barnett: I’ve had many moments I’m proud of. I’m proud of every time I’m on the Grand Ole Opry stage. It’s truly thrilling. And I was proud to be asked to be on The Tonight Show and David Letterman’s show, without a “big hit record.”
Christian Lamitschka: Who’s your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Mandy Barnett: I always try to do my best, but artists are known for being self-critical…so probably me.
Christian Lamitschka: When you get time off, how do you like to relax?
Mandy Barnett: Spending time with family and friends. I also work on other creative projects to relax. I like to paint.
Christian Lamitschka: Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?
Mandy Barnett: I figure I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Christian Lamitschka: Many European fans travel to Nashville for CMA Music Festival (Fan Fair), because of the opportunity to see so many of their favorite stars at the same time. Will you be participating and how will the fans be able to find you?
Mandy Barnett: Yes, I am playing the WSM stage, signing at a couple of booths, playing the Grand Ole Opry Matinee and signing copies of my new record at the Opry Originals Store.
Christian Lamitschka: Is there anyplace you haven’t played that you would like to?
Mandy Barnett: I would love to do more international shows. Especially Europe.
Christian Lamitschka: What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?
Mandy Barnett: Lots of great music. I give all I have and I have a wonderful group of veteran musicians who back me up. Of course I always include a few Patsy songs as well.
Christian Lamitschka: When you’re on tour, do you have time to play tourist?
Mandy Barnett: Sometimes I do.
Christian Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their information about artists via the internet. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?
Mandy Barnett: Yes, my website is www.mandybarnett.com. I also have a Facebook fan page and am on Twitter and iTunes.
Christian Lamitschka: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Mandy Barnett: Your voice made me cry.
Christian Lamitschka: What message would you like to send your European fans?
Mandy Barnett: I want to see you soon!
Christian Lamitschka ( Ch.Lamitschka@t-online.de )