INTERVIEW: Barton Hartshorn discusses inspirations and influences ahead of new EP ‘Everything…’

Having already made a serious mark on the new music scene in recent years, fast-rising artist Barton Hartshorn recently returned with his dazzling new single ‘Sister Bird’.

Lifted from his forthcoming new EP ‘Everything…’, which is out on the 31st May, ‘Sister Bird’ sees him harness more of that warm and emotive direction he is revered for. So with the new single available now, we caught up with him to discuss his influences and inspirations over the years.

What was the first rock song or artist that made an impact on you?

That would be Cream. I have an early memory of my uncle blasting out ‘I Feel Free’ & ‘The White Room’ from what seemed like HUGE speakers. Given what people listen to music on today they probably were! 

Who are some of your biggest musical influences within the rock genre?
West Coast American. Generally, the stuff with a bit of Art Rock thrown in…Steely Dan are a huge influence even though I did have to grow into them. The first time I heard a track (Hey 19) I couldn’t get a handle on it melodically. It was just so nebulous…I was hooked from the word go, even though I didn’t get it. It was beamed in from another planet…

Are there any non-rock musicians or genres that have also influenced your music?

My main influence is folk really but  I’ll nick a few chords now and then and try to hide them in the midst of more socially accepted ones…

I can whistle all the really weird keyboard and sax solos from Bill Bruford’s Earthworks! album. Not much use as far as party tricks go…but that’s how much I listened to it! Love Jazz, just can’t play it to save my life.

I love the artists that transcend genre. Talk Talk did it, Radiohead too (although why they bother doing solo projects that sound like Radiohead escapes me…isn’t the point of a side-project to do something different guys?)  I’ll listen to anything by Tom Waits…even when it’s unlistenable. Phillip Glass & the Penguin Café Orchestra for hypnotic pieces… Kip Hanrahan for strange Latin-unclassifiable word and music soundscapes…

What is your main inspiration when looking to write new music?

To not repeat myself (or split infinitives). I don’t actually go looking for inspiration, I’m lucky in that it finds me, usually while I’m asleep. I’m not joking. I wake up, sometimes 3 or 4 times a night having just dreamt songs and instrumental pieces. I record them on my phone at 3 am then work on them after breakfast…  The band I fronted before my solo career was called Dictafone because all the songs started on a tiny cassette in the middle of the night – before mobile phones and voice notes.

What do you enjoy most about performing live and do you have any memorable live performance experiences you’d like to share?

Opening a BIG festival in Switzerland in the glorious afternoon sun…playing the Lincoln Center in New York…but I remember the smaller gigs just as well. Playing to 3 people in Dayton Ohio was somehow just as memorable. I guess it’s not about the size of the audience…

What has been a particularly rewarding moment in your musical journey so far?
Working with legendary producer Ken Scott was a special moment. You realise that you’re now in a list of musicians that starts with The Beatles, Bowie, Lou Reed… It’s enough to make you freeze in front of the microphone. In fact, I did…I was supposed to put a harmony down but my (normally harmonically proficient) brain just went AWOL. It took about 20 takes in an LA studio to do what I normally would have done in 1 or 2.

How would you define success as a musician?
Today…just getting stuff out there. I was delighted to see that one of my songs was up on the Ultimate-Guitar-TAB site with a video showing people how to play it. I’d love to hear a busker playing one of my songs (without them knowing I was there!) I value songwriting above the rest of the art form so if a song goes off and has a successful life of its own, then I’ve done my job successfully.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists who are just starting out?

Collaborate as much as possible. I’ve always been amazed at the results. You end up surprising yourself and that’s always a good thing. It also stops you from falling into a repetitive pattern. I think there’s what I call the ‘Prince Myth’ where people think they can do everything successfully themselves. Some can, but mostly we’re just trying to prove something to ourselves that doesn’t serve the end result in the best way.

Listen to Barton Hartshorn’s new single ‘Sister Bird’ below.