James Barrett is a musician and songwriter. He recently released his third album, “Twenty.” He has performed at clubs such as Ale Mary’s, Smiler’s, Adezzo and Andy Gavin’s. Barrett is a native of Clarks Summit and is a graduate of Abington Heights High School. He is employed by Caravia Fresh Foods in Clarks Summit and lives in Clarks Summit.
Meet James Barrett …
You’re only 20 years old, yet you’ve already released three albums. When did you first start writing songs?
I started writing when I was 11 or 12. They were obviously really bad. What can a 12 year old write about? (Laughs.) It really didn’t start clicking until I was probably about 16, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I probably have hundreds of songs written, I just don’t use them because I don’t think they’re up to the level of the ones that I release.
What inspires you to write?
Usually, it’s when I’m feeling an emotion that’s very present or I’m feeling an emotion that’s very strong that I’ll try to write about it. Unfortunately, most of the time, I’m not very good at writing songs when there a positive times in my life. I get happy, and I don’t want to. I usually end up writing when there’s something wrong. (Laughs.) My best songs usually come out when I’m upset about something, but that’s just because I feel strongly about whatever’s bothering me.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
The Gaslight Anthem were a big influence. And The Menzingers, from Scranton. And I grew up listening to a lot of my dad’s music, like the Beatles, the Stones, and Van Morrison, because he was always playing them in his car. My dad also played music, and my brother is a drummer — he plays in my band, Embera, so I was always around music growing up.
Does your band also do original material?
Yes. It started when I was a sophomore. I just wanted to write heavier music that I couldn’t play by myself. We released stuff when I was in high school and we’ve just recorded some more songs. After I wrote a solo record that did really well, I started focusing on that more than the band, but I like to do both.
Outside of music, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I like to watch TV. And I have four dogs that I hang out with a lot. And I like to be outside, just sitting on my porch or on my deck.
Do you follow sports?
I love the Dallas Cowboys. I love Dak. I love Zeke. I think they’re on to something good.
All-time favorite movie?
Either “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or “Sweeney Todd.”
Favorite TV shows?
“The Office” and “Lost.”
I’ve been a vegetarian since 2008, and I love Eden: A Vegan Café in Scranton. I get their meatball sub. It’s my big thing.
I love New York, but I don’t go enough. I’m always in Philly, so I’ll go with Philly, since I’m there all the time.
Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t vacation, but if I could choose, it would be somewhere like Vermont. Somewhere outside, in nature, where it’s not super-hot. I’m not a big fan of the beach, but anywhere interesting. Maybe Nashville.
Favorite thing about NEPA?
I like that there’s a lot of trees. And I like that there are a lot of good bands from this area.
This is going to sound crazy, but I have a pretty bad back. I’ve been going to a chiropractor since I was 16. And so when it’s late at night and my back is killing me and I want to feel better, I watch videos of chiropractor therapy of people getting their bones adjusted. I love seeing people that are in a lot of pain and they can’t move a certain part of their body, and they get adjusted, and their neck is straightened out. To me, it’s very interesting.
But that doesn’t help your back?
No, it doesn’t help my back. (Laughs.) But I find comfort in knowing somebody else is getting help.
People that chew with their mouth open and people who wear sunglasses inside.
Is there anything about you that might surprise even your friends?
When I was in fifth grade, I had a friend who bought a unicycle, and I thought it was the coolest thing, so I bought a unicycle. I was 11 when I learned how to ride it, and I can still do it today, I just don’t do it. It one thing to see an 11 year old doing it, but when I’m 20, with facial hair, I don’t think people want to see me riding unicycle around Clarks Summit. (Laughs.)
Have you had an event in your life, or a person in your life, that has had the greatest impact on you and has helped shape you into the person you are today?
My dad. My dad, when I was growing up, always played guitar and I was just constantly surrounded by music. And because of my brother drumming, I started playing bass, and then I taught myself guitar. And every time I play at a bar, my dad is always there. It definitely has to be my dad.
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org