We were lucky to catch up with Samuel & Kimberly Barker recently and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Samuel & Kimberly thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. One of our favorite things to hear about is stories around the nicest thing someone has done for someone else – what’s the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
Samuel: Having any success in music comes from many other people in that world being ridiculously generous, supportive and kind to you. No matter how skilled you are, you won’t do much without the support of the entire community. I feel like my entire path has been filled with kindness and inclusion.
For this question, I will bring up the latest act of kindness, which was from our friends: Grifters & Shills. We were planning a summer tour with them this past winter, the first leg of which just concluded a week ago, and they got added to a festival the first weekend we were out. The festival did not have enough slots to include our band in the lineup, so rather than leave us on the sidelines, Grifters & Shills came up with the idea to combine our bands for a set so everyone got to play.
Not many folks would share their moment in the spotlight with those around them and spend a couple of months practicing to make it a reality. It worked out wonderfully, but it was never lost that they put in a lot of practice time and extra work to share a very special moment for them as a band with us.
Kimberly: Outside of Samuel’s example, which was so kind, I would mention our friend Ben Hall. When I first met him through Samuel, he asked me to do some vocal work on one of his solo albums. Rather than micromanage and pressure me, he gave me free reign and showed trust in what I brought to the table as a vocalist. Then, when we were going over parts and he was so complimentary, it gave me some much needed confidence as I entered into life as a professional musician.
Samuel & Kimberly, love having you share your insights with us. Before we ask you more questions, maybe you can take a moment to introduce yourself to our readers who might have missed our earlier conversations?
Samuel: Since I was in high school, I’ve always worked on playing music and writing songs. I started out in punk rock bands, then really got into the Alt. Country movement when I was in college via records my brother and our roommate would pick up. I played in a lot of different bands here in the Houston area, which, fortunately, led to making lots of friends throughout the community.
Many years later, after a divorce and my main band dissolving, I worked on some solo projects, which led me to working with Kim. That eventually led to us getting married and starting Brightwire, as a solo project no longer made sense with her songwriting input starting up.
Kim: When I met Samuel in 2015, it had been many years since I had sung in a manner that could be referred to as professionally. I did one-off things like weddings or holiday parties, but it was not a regular thing. I grew up singing in my high school choir and knew I loved singing, especially harmonizing with others. When I heard Sam’s songs and heard how much they lend themselves to vocal harmonies, I started working on parts. I eventually let him hear the parts I had worked out and we’ve been making music together from that day. I really don’t know why I ever stopped singing, just life, I guess.
Samuel: Since we got together and started Brightwire, we’ve released two full-length albums and a brand new EP. Our first album, A Place to Call Home, is a very stripped down affair, as we were just a duo at that point. We basically recorded it live in our home studio and added a few overdubs. We eventually added Michael Helfenstein to the band, who was a member of The Grizzly Band. They were one of our favorite bands in the area and good friends, so while we were sad to see them break up, we were grateful to be able to welcome Helf to the Brightwire family.
Kim: During the shutdown for COVID, we decided to see how far we could take our songs and began constructing a full-band style record. We added drums, bass, fiddle and many other instruments that did not appear in our live shows. We tried to keep it a little subdued so it wouldn’t be radically different, but some songs really went over the top in a very wonderful way…at least from our point of view. It was also nice to pass the songs around amongst friends and get their input on it. Our friends in Grifters & Shills and our friend, Liz, from Urban Pioneers all contributed to the recording. It was a great way to socialize at a time when we couldn’t do it in person.
Samuel: We were so thrilled that we decided to press the album to vinyl, which was costly, but we were able to recoup costs from the presales, which we’re very proud of. That album, entitled Cracked, Flawed and Frayed, received a lot of positive reviews, a feature in the Houston Press and even got included in the Best of 2021 list of Houston artists by the Houston Chronicle.
About a month ago, we released our follow-up EP called Ghosts Best Left Alone. So far, it has been doing well on the streaming sites. We have not released it physically yet, as we plan to work on more EPs that will eventually be combined for a full-length album.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
Samuel: In 2008, I had a band I’d spent a couple of years with break up, the indie record label I had been running with a friend was kinda fizzling out and then, the first week of September, my house burned down…exactly one week before Hurricane Ike hit. I lost a great deal of my musical equipment, my home studio equipment was all burned or water-logged and all the equipment I could save was sent to my family’s storage shed on Bolivar Peninsula. The following weekend, anything I had saved was under 10 feet of water and lost to the ocean.
I was down to a single acoustic guitar, a smoke damaged bass guitar and a difficult decision to face: whether to give up or rebuild. I was approaching 30 and figured my time as a rocker had passed, but luckily, a fellow musician hit me up a couple of months later and asked if I knew a bass player that would be interested in joining his band. I grabbed that smoke damaged bass and went for it. That was the first step on a direct path to where I am today with Brightwire. I really was a coin-flip away from just giving up on being a musician, but that one message from Huke Green changed the course of my creative life. It’s kinda wild to think about how easily none of this could have happened.
Kim: In 2013, I was divorced, and about ten years into my career with the state of Texas. I had moved up and around to positions in the Houston and Beaumont area. In October, I went for a routine mammogram, and found out I had breast cancer. I was 39, and had a family history, but it was caught very early and I got excellent treatment. I had friends who supported me and loved me through the process. Once I recovered, I quickly realized I was working too much and needed to take more time for myself and for the things I enjoy. Funny how the threat of death will do that. I formally met Samuel not long after, at a party my roommate threw. We had hung out in a few of the same places, and I knew he had a band. I think I even went to a show not long after I had my partial mastectomy surgery. I thought, I used to do that stuff, sing in front of people – that was fun! He looks like he’s having fun! Don’t get me wrong, we put in the work, we write together and separately, and develop songs together in weekly practice sessions. And having Michael add his two cents with his dobro has really challenged us to bring our best to each song. I have so much fun now, creating music with Brightwire.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being creative in your experience?
Kim: When we are performing, I am always amazed at how giving artists are with each other. I have learned there are just a ton of talented and kind people in the music community. I have never felt more immediately accepted in a group of people. It’s been really refreshing.
Samuel: For me, the most rewarding aspect of songwriting and performing is getting to share experiences and connections with other people. You really build some strong relationships when you create art because it reaches across the awkwardness of social norms to create real experiences and intimacy with strangers. Those moments where someone hears a lyric they connect to and/or finds comfort in knowing that they’re not in this alone via one of your songs…those moments are the most rewarding. That’s what I found in music as a young person and what led me to want to create. Living in a small, isolated community, music was how I heard about the outside world and how I found out I wasn’t alone in my experiences as a human being. It really gave me a feeling of community and when I got to an age where I could be a part of the artistic community, I found exactly what I was looking for in this world and have felt so very fortunate each day that I have the found-family that I have today.
- Website: https://www.brightwiremusic.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brightwiremusic
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightwiremusic
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/brightwiremusic
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsXWbxSwEjhyAex1u1vJiqg
Photos by: John Stoll, Samuel Barker and Dan Milstead