American Aquarium to Perform New Fighting Song From New Record in San Angelo Aug. 22
SAN ANGELO, TX-- BJ Barham along with his band American Aquarium, an Americana band consisting of members from Nashville, North Carolina, and Texas, released their new record Things Change on June 1 this year and set off on a North American tour, bringing new music and an all new lineup to fans old and new.
On April 2, 2017, five of the six members of American Aquarium left the band, leaving Barham to pick up the pieces and rebuild.
“Eight of my last twelve years were being played with the same band,” said Barham. “As with any human relationship sometimes those relationships sour and after eight years playing together and being in a van together 300 plus days a year, it ultimately took its toll on us. Toward the end of the last band it was a very volatile situation.”
His new band consists of three Texans, Joe Bybee, Ben Hussey, Shane Boeker and Nashvillian, Adam Kurtz. And the band seems to be getting along really well, playing cleaner and tighter than any time before, according to Barham.
“It’s a pretty copacetic vibe,” said Barham. “Everybody wants to be here. Everybody is enjoying playing the songs. That really inspires me to write more and to go out and play better shows.
For years, BJ Barnum’s most requested (and expected) fighting song was about a tough break-up . “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart” has been his top request since he introduced it about 10 years ago. It propelled Barnum into regional stardom in the Carolinas and Texas. The song connects with live audiences so much that Barnum doesn’t need to sing it. It has become a sing-along.
WATCH: "I Hope He Breaks Your Heart" (NSFW)
Hard break-ups from Barnum’s early years are now replaced with lyrics and topics with more weight. He is getting older, and with that comes a more mature perspective on life.
Today, a new band isn’t the only thing Barham is trying to grow and nourish. He also has a new daughter that he takes on tour with him as much as possible.
“The first ten days of the tour, my wife and my kid were out with me,” he said. “I brought them on tour. My daughter is four months old and she’s been to nine states. She is gonna be a tour baby. She’s gonna grow up on the road. She’s gonna grow up a little different than most kids and I’m excited for that. I’m excited to show her the country.”
In this iteration of the new band’s ten-track debut, Things Change Barham touches on the ideas of being a good father and being a good friend while everything is in a state of flux. The album title is particularly relevant to Barham’s life. Aside from a new daughter and a new band, many other have changed for the lead singer since his last album.
“[The album] documents the changes that I personally went through in the last two years,” commented Barham on the album. “Since we recorded our last record Wolves in 2015, I got married, I got sober, I had a kid, I had an entire band quit, I had an entire band join, and we had one of the most divisive presidential elections in our country’s history. I had a lot of stuff to write about. So, when I sat down to write all these songs, I had to make sure there was a constant theme, a constant idea running through all these songs.”
Barham draws this theme from the lessons his parents taught him as a kid; preservation, hope and hard work. Nowhere are these motifs stronger than in the opening track “The World Is On Fire”. The song incorporates the romantic sounds of a simple drumbeat layered with a steel guitar, accompanied by gruff and haunting lyrics.
“This ain’t the country my grandfather fought for, but I still see the hate he fought against/Give rest to the tired, give mercy to the poor; give warmth to the huddled masses,” it goes.
But the song is not without optimism. In the last verse of the song he leaves a message of hope:
“I got a baby girl comin' in the spring/ I worry 'bout the world she's comin' into/But she'll have my fight, she'll have her mama's fire/ If anyone builds a wall in her journey/ Baby, bust right through it.”
WATCH: "The World is on Fire"
Barham is not one to be afraid of sharing his opinions through his music. He chose this song to open the album for that specific purpose.
“I didn’t want it to be confused or for people to think ‘oh he accidently put that first’,” he described his reasoning behind the album’s track order. “[The World Is On Fire] wasn’t a middle of the record song, that is a statement song. That is a song that sets the tone for the entire record. That song leaves the listener no question how I feel about certain things. I wanted to come out swinging. I didn’t want to ease into something like that, I wanted to come out, first song. Put it in your CD player, and BOOM, that song hits you in the face. A lot of people call that my very political song, I call that a song about a guy that is just trying to make sense that he does not understand at that moment.”
Although something might not make sense at the moment for Barham, his music seems to be a safe haven. He considers this album to be his best songwriting work, especially the song “One Day At A Time”, that reflects on his relationship with alcohol and his challenges while getting sober. Musically and lyrically he considers it the best song of his career. It is a career that at the end of the day he sees as a way to connect with others.
“The biggest pay off as a songwriter is writing a song that hits people, that relates to people, that helps them through a hard time, or gets them through a bad day. That’s all I want, for my music to resonate with people and as long as I can keep writing songs that make people feel something then I’m doing my job.”
Barham, who experienced a second rise to relevance on the Texas Country Music circuit after years of popularity in North Carolina and the eastern U.S., doesn’t see a difference whether that connection is made through Country music or a newer label for this genre of music called “Americana.”
“Out in North Carolina we don’t call it Red Dirt, we don’t call it Texas Country, we call it Alt-Country or Americana,” he said. “It just has a different name. It’s the same thing everywhere. It’s just honest song writing that’s not being played on the radio. That’s all Texas Country is, that’s all Red Dirt music is. It’s just honest people writing honest songs about everyday life.”
The band hopes to keep writing music together and touring over the next few years. But for now, American Aquarium will bring that honest songwriting to Blaine’s Pub, 10 W. Harris Ave., in San Angelo on Aug. 22 as a part of their North American Tour. The band has played Blaine’s many times before and says it has a certain energy that makes it their home in San Angelo. To purchase tickets in advance, visit Blaine's Pub's event page.