Not only did I get a glimpse into the life of these two, I also got an education on music in general. Sit back, relax and have a cold one as I bring you Barley Station.
First off, let me thank you for this interview. Making music doesn't seem too easy, so I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules. First question first, and the most obvious one, how long have you two been playing music?
Barley Station (Randy) - Brian and I met in 2001, I think, and we’ve been playing and singing together since. Brian and I fronted another band previous to this, then ventured on our own for awhile. We realized we had just the right chemistry together, and so now we've been together again since 2011 under the name Barley Station. We've played with our drummer Steve since around 2003. He left for awhile to finish his Masters Degree in Music, but is now back with us. We are pretty tight knit.
That's great! Your bands lasted longer than most marriages do these days. Kudos for that. Where about do you two reside?
Barley Station (Randy) - Presently, around the outside edge of the St. Louis Metro area, west and south. Brian’s a native Texan though.
Great, you guys are from Missouri then. Beings I'm from Illinois, we always claim Missourians are the worst drivers in the country. How true is that statement?
Barley Station (Randy) - We have not, but we’ve played in Springfield, Missouri and they loved us there, so we should.
For those readers who do not know this, Springfield, Missouri is an hour north of Branson. Branson is a little family getaway with country roots. A very nice and relaxing family vacation spot. Enough about Branson, I'm not getting paid to plug them, so lets get back to you guys. Where is the furthest you guys have ever gone to play a gig?
Barley Station (Randy) - I think the furthest would be New York City. We played at Kenny’s Castaways there some years ago. Funny story behind that is when we stayed at a friend’s on the beach in New Jersey, Steve was allergic to her cats, so he slept in the van. He was all wrapped up in his sheets like a mummy. In the morning, a group of kids walked by and saw him asleep in there and said “there’s a dude in there!! Is he dead?” (laughs) The furthest West we've gone is probably Rapid City, South Dakota. We've been to Abilene, TX, which was a long drive. We’ve been around. We haven’t been out of the country yet, but we strongly believe we’d do great in Europe, Australia, and South America. We’ve had a lot of radio play there too. Probably more than in the U.S.
That is a great story. Probably one of those stories you could tell twenty years from now and still get a good laugh at. It's interesting you mentioned believing you would do great in Europe. Your song, "Younger Summer Memories" has kind of a Beatles or Monkees vibe to it. I could see you guys doing well in Europe too. This kind of leads into my next question. I have you guys in our Alternative Country page, but you guys clearly cross many different genres. What do you say to people who say you should concentrate on one particular genre?
A lot of our music is mixing and blending genres, so to pick one genre would be difficult anyway. Why focus on only one genre when most of the time we are not definable anyway? We’re musical misfits. We’re fine with that. Some country folks say we aren’t country enough. Other people may say we are too country. We don’t fit in. Good. Who cares. There was one reviewer that said he had to create a whole new genre for us. Is that bad? I don’t see it that way. If you like variety, then it’s good. Variety is the spice of life. We have a lot of country influences and a country undertone for sure, but other things too. Even the biggest genre purists have a decent collection of music. We have friends in music from all genres, and we all respect each other’s work and support each other.
Let’s go back in time. The Beatles, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac. All diverse album material. Queen had a diverse musical catalog too. They were different. Look at the top selling albums of all time. They had different sounds, and explored on the same album with different genres and sounds. A lot of them had multiple songwriters, often in the same band, and/or multiple singers. With the exception of Adele’s 21, and maybe a couple others, the top thirty or forty best sellers of all time are from years and years ago. Mostly from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. I think we should be able to do better than that in the music industry, don’t you?
Barley Station (Randy) - There are music sites where we have songs in five or more different sub genres (not extremely different) and they are all doing well. There are probably fans of certain songs, to be sure, but the fans who are fans of Barley Station in general understand what it’s all about. Not to say everyone likes every song, they don’t, but you always know that if you don’t like track 3, you WILL like track 4 or 5, or both. We are artists and we grow, and we experiment and paint with sound. The genres we dabble into aren’t THAT extremely different anyway. We have our own sound. You still know it’s us. People like radio with variety, so why not a band with variety? As long as we make good music in whatever flavor you want to call it, then who cares?
We’ve had numerous fan mail that say things like “don’t ever stop doing what you’re doing” and things of that nature. It's fans that count. Not the opinion of some industry mogul in a suit that thinks they know “how it's done”. Sure they know how to make quick money, but do they know how to make good music? Like I said, when you have to go back twenty, thirty or forty years for the date of recording for the best selling albums of all time, it speaks volumes, and the numbers don’t lie. Some of those older folks from the industry are still around who made that happen, and I’m sure there’s not a few newer adventurous mavericks. Who knows, maybe they are rooting us on as we speak? ;)
Now my second answer - on the pragmatic side - would it be easier to promote if we were just one narrowed thing? Probably for someone. We aren’t ignorant about it, we just do what we do best, and it comes out how it comes out. With crossover, we reach a wider audience, but its not intentional. We are what we are.
Barley Station (Randy) - We love both. Sometimes one more than the other. Like I said earlier, right now we need a booking person outside of ourselves. Our hands are full enough not to have to keep messing with that, not to mention everything else, and we need to focus more on writing, practicing, and recording. So we hope to get back out there soon enough. We’ve played hundreds of gigs, and many all over the country, but right now we are chiefly going to focus on finishing our third album and doing some videos and finding the right teams to build behind us.
I’ve asked other musicians this question before, but with the millions and millions of songs recorded, how are people able to come up with different melodies and tunes? Isn’t there going to come a point in time when there are no new note arrangements without sounding like someone else?
Barley Station (Randy) - Well, it’s a good question. But if there are billions of people on the planet and no two are exactly alike, I guess why not with songs? And the huge universe, I’m sure, has no two stars or planets exactly alike, so why not melodies? The possibilities are endless. I always wondered that, but then I just look up in the sky and it blows me away. Plus look at eastern music that uses quarter tones. It’s unlimited.
I knew the deepness all of you musicians have would come out. Haha! Either way, well said. Let's talk about being an Independent artist. Are you self-financed, and if so, what the most difficult part of being independent?
Barley Station (Randy) - Well, that IS the most difficult part. You have to have marketing and advertising. That’s the biggest challenge. You can only do so much on a shoe string budget, even with social media in the picture. You have to be wise. You don’t want to go into huge debt either. Then the debtors try to call the shots.
Barley Station (Randy) - We know that a couple have had interest in watching us. Getting a big label shouldn’t be your goal as an artist. I’d rather have a good supportive small or medium label. The goal shouldn’t be to “get discovered” anyway, but to go out and discover who your fans are, and will be, and get your music to them. You do the discovering! I think a big label is probably best when a smaller label just can’t manage it anymore, or when you have created such a demand that the supply is getting too high to deal with otherwise. We would just need a good solid maverick label who believes in us, if anything. Right now, we just run our own, but I'm thinking it’s going to get to be too much at some point sooner than later. We know people who have been dropped from big labels and left to foot the bill they ran up. So when you say “sniff” could you mean that? We don’t have stars in our eyes, just musical notes.
Ha! I would say well said, but I would be redundant in this interview. Why are musicians so deep? I must ask this question though Randy, has anyone ever told you that you resemble Joaquin Phoenix?
Barley Station (Randy) - Actually, I get that a lot. Ha ha. In fact, when we were playing a gig in Memphis, TN, we played with a guy who had been one of the extra’s in "Walk The Line" with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. The first thing he said to me was “Has anyone told you you look like Joaquin Phoenix?!” He told us some behind the scenes stories about the movie.
Barley Station (Randy) - Jenny Queen. Really love her style.
I would agree with you on that. The lady has it going on. Now for the last question. The Beatles or The Monkees?
Barley Station (Randy) - The Beatles.
Oh man, Randy! I was hoping you would have picked The Monkees. Then I could have recommended you guys giving their great song, "Shades of Gray" a whirl the next time you're in the studio. In my opinion, it would completely fit you guys. Either way, I want to thank you again for taking the time to do the interview. I will admit, you provided some of the most well thought out responses to some of the questions we've had on this site. Thank you for giving our readers a glimpse into the life of being an Independent artist and we wish you much success in the future.
If you would like to learn more about Barley Station, please visit their website at
By way of Missouri, Barley Station was founded in 2011. The group consists of Randy Wayne Belt on vocals and bass, Brian Olen Kious on vocals, guitar, mandolin and harmonica, and Steve Meyers on drums, percussion, accordion and horns. It doesn't seem all that fair these three guys can play so many different instruments, and play them well. Not to mention the easy to listen to vocals provided by Randy and Brian.
I enjoy that these two specific songs are so completely different. With "True," the song reminds me of something you would hear in the hills of Tennessee, and "Younger Summer Memories" takes you back to the days of your childhood summers. Outstanding guys!
By Maxim Daniels