The Hard Truths
Roland Michael Barrett
Fuse the heartland stylings of Bob Seger and John Mellencamp with the introspective lyricism of David Gray and Ray Lamontagne, and you will begin to see a common thread in the music of Roland Barrett.
For the Victoria, British Columbia-based singer-songwriter, these names, their songs, begin to reveal the creative influences which inspire him.
Whether it’s the ambitious schedule of “cover” shows or events dedicated to showcasing his original material, Barrett has established himself as a stage veteran of any size. He has played intimate and understated “house concert” performances. He has shared the stage with established recording artists such as Shaun Verreault, Daniel Lapp and Mae Moore. And he has felt as “at home” as one can in front of an arena-sized audience, having performed before thousands during Canada Day celebrations to a hometown Victoria crowd.
He is that unique artist who has struck a working balance as both a solo artist and as the creative force within the band dynamic. Anchored by his band “The Hard Truths” and inspired by his latest full-length recording effort, “Dark Hearts And Other Stories” (UREL), recorded and produced by Canadian music industry bastion, Leeroy Stagger, he has truly refined his musical identity.
His first step into this musical world was an unlikely one.
In 2004, while serving in the Royal Canadian Navy, Barrett took a leap of faith.
At age 35, Barrett made the conscious decision that he would make music his livelihood. Five years of honing guitar skills and a cathartic approach to developing his songwriting eventually led him to his first humble venture onto a stage – an hour-long solo set in a local coffee shop, playing for tips, coffee and baked goods. It didn’t take long for word to spread of this upstart new talent on the Victoria music scene, and he quickly became a recognizable name among numerous Vancouver Island venues.
Barrett continued to develop his sound, eventually crafting a handful of original songs he knew in his heart deserved to be recorded. That opportunity arrived in 2012, and Barrett recorded his debut release – a five song EP, “Nomad Ballads”. Barrett would continue to take more material into the recording studio over the next few years, compiling a series of one-off recordings which would find their way onto the release of a re-imagined “Nomad Ballads”. Still, he knew he wanted more.
In late 2017, through invitation by Tom Mrnka (good friend and niche music venue owner) to a “Hard Truths” live show, Stagger met Barrett to discuss and begin what would eventually lead to the recording of Barrett’s first full-length album. In December of that year, Barrett journeyed to Stagger’s “Rebeltone Ranch” recording facility to record what would become “Dark Hearts And Other Stories”. Recorded live “off the floor” in a scant two days, the sessions featured industry heavy-hitters Russell Broom (Jan Arden), Brady Valgardson (Corb Lund), Victoria’s Daniel Lapp, and Leeroy’s own crew in Tyson Maiko and Michael Ayotte.
“Dark Hearts And Other Stories” is a ten-song journey through the best and worst life can offer. It is joyful and it is heartbreaking.
But through it all, it is unforgettable.
“Dark Hearts And Other Stories” release date – 23 June 2018
As “Hard Truths” go, Brad Robinson is more than happy to wear that label
The multi-instrumentalist is “the other” constant fixture in the “Rollie Barrett And The Hard Truths” organization, a role he does not take lightly.
Since joining Rollie Barrett in late 2012, he has seen that dynamic shift and evolve. Robinson was originally recruited as a drummer during an early incarnation of the band fronted by Barrett. It didn’t take him long to develop a feel for what Barrett was trying to capture and convey in his original songs. Adding touches of anything from light percussion to full-on drum accompaniment to these compositions. Soon he would begin to contribute backing vocals and harmonies, adding counterpoint and colour to Barrett’s melodies. His role expanded further as Robinson ventured back into playing piano and keyboard, further adding complexity to Barrett’s ever-evolving sound. These days, in live performances showcasing Barrett’s original material, all three elements are on ample display, with Robinson often playing drums, keys and singing backing vocals in any combination – and on some occasions, all three at once.
Robinson and Barrett have found common ground in the songwriters and artists they admire – David Gray, Ray Lamontagne and Jason Isbell. But Robinson’s influences and appreciations are also far-ranging into other genres. He cites drummer Stewart Copeland of The Police as a major influence, along with the music of contemporary artists such as Fink, Leif Vollebekk, and Snow Patrol.
Musically speaking, he subscribes heavily to the Miles Davis mantra; “Know when not to play”…choosing to not fill space with extra instrumentation if the song doesn’t want it. It’s an ideal and discipline which fits perfectly within the music of “Rollie Barrett & The Hard Truths”, as the pair craft exquisite sonic panoramas in bringing Barrett’s songs to the live stage.
For Robinson, that’s definitely a “Hard Truth” that comes easy.