Mike Barnet
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Mike Barnet

Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


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The best kept secret in music


"Urban Folk Music"

"...it will hook you in the first time, get better every time, entice your friends who hear it, and stick around in your mind long after the CDs stopped spinning."
- L.A. Art Source

"review of Mike Barnet's music"

"...an effortlessly engaging artist for grownup tastes."
- Music Connection Magazine

"Poet as Prophet"

Back in the day, prophets wailed in the wilderness. History tells us that most people ignored the prophets— until it was too late. Such mystics still walk among us. Take Fullerton singer/ songwriter Mike Barnet. The 28-year-old ranks among the most passionate, engaged and politically astute artists in the county. He’s also one of the most talented and most unusual: a dreadlocked African American adopted by a white family, he graduated from a religious college but is now embarking on his own spiritual path. All of that makes it easy to see why this decidedly left-of-center troubadour feels like he’s always on the outside looking in on the culture (its opulence, its obsession with status and its bifurcated personal morality) that gave rise to Fox’s The O.C. But, the Seattle native says, disenfranchisement ain’t so bad: it fuels his fire.

"It’s fun to be in a place where you feel like you belong, but where you also always feel like you’re constantly observing," says Barnet, sitting in one of the stylish seats in Plush, the Fullerton cybercafé where he performs periodically. "I definitely stand out here. My dreads, my skin color, all of that. It’s almost like being a foreigner, but at the same time being assimilated. That helps me to comment on things from a perspective that a lot of people from here might not share."

And what does he comment on? Everything from falling in love and getting your heart broken to the devil getting drunk on Christmas Eve to the seductiveness of the illusion-of-the-day—the various materialisms, patriotisms—or just your own screwed-up life.

"I don’t ever want to come off as sounding preachy, but a lot of my songs are definite comments on society," Barnet says. "I try to be aware and write about things that I think are important: the gap between the haves and have-nots, the lack of compassion for the poor or people who are different, or just the fear that so many people have, and how easy it is to buy into whatever bullshit the government, the media, advertisers or whoever try to feed the public."

Irony being irony, Barnet owes a small part of his success to that model of master planning, Irvine. After losing his brain-dead warehouse job, he found himself gigging at a coffee house in the Irvine Spectrum. The head chef at a Marriott hotel saw him and asked if he’d like to play in his restaurant a couple of times a week. And so Barnet began playing for business travelers, the occasional tourist couples, harried suburban parents looking for a quick night out. He teamed up with some fellow North County singer/songwriters and launched True American Records, a label that allows the various performers to pool their fan bases and resources. He’s got regular gigs in LA and OC, and while he’s not exactly lighting Havanas with hundred-dollar bills, he’s supporting himself exclusively by playing music.

Barnet has a couple of CDs out, but they haven’t quite captured the energy and passion—or the fun—of his live shows, which suggest some of his obvious influences, like Bob Marley and Richie Havens. His songs are infused with everything from rap and gospel to country, and the kind of spooky folk music Bob Dylan launched his career with. But remember this: no matter how political or intelligent or clever Barnet is, he’s also a brother. And that means he’s got rhythm, blues and soul, all of which shine evocatively on stage.

More than anything though, Barnet’s music is deeply spiritual. You can tell he’s seen a lot, but he’s also actively engaged in figuring what it’s all about. And that seems to be the wellspring for many of his songs.

Take his signature tune, "Art of Drowning," maybe the best four-minute-and-34-second piece of music ever written by an Orange County songwriter. It tells a few different stories, from the wealthy turning a deaf ear to the homeless ("Some go sleeping in the alley, drowning in the rain/Some go sleeping in their mansion, drowning on champagne") to a crowd of people who complacently accept empty political promises and their place in the world, to a woman who refuses to leave her abusive husband.

"A lot of people think that’s a true story, but it isn’t," says Barnet. "I was trying to explore how easy it is for people to die of boredom and apathy and hurt, but also examine the way they’re living and maybe do something about it."

Doing something about it. Doing something about anything. That’s a rare thing for an artist these days to cop to. And it’s just one of many different reasons why Mike Barnet’s wail in the OC wilderness is worth hearing. - OC WEEKLY ARTICLE

"Defying expectations"

Mike Barnet, rises above stereotypes and continues to break molds. He's living his life how he wants, and enjoying every bit of it.

He melds a range of genres, avoiding musical classification. And he's a standout sporting thick dreadlocks in the casual art-centric downtown Fullerton district.

Barnet, a Fullerton resident, has taken pieces of nearly every genre, from punk to blues, reggae and soul, with influences ranging from Bob Dylan to N.W.A.

But instead of meshing it all together, he uses all of the influences to create a musical synergy that he doesn't like to label.

"I call (my music) urban folk music. It just satisfies the needs of classification," Barnet said. "And folk music isn't just acoustic guitar. Even hip-hop is a form of folk music."

His commanding performances mix unadulterated soul, hip-hop flows, gospel hooks and catchy rhythms.

Barnet transports his audience to a solemn plantation during gospel chants or the hills of Berkeley during "Kingdom Song," a blues and hip-hop-driven anti-war ballad.

A high-school friend's suicide triggered Barnet's transformation from typical music listener to creator. "I was really confused. I wrote a song with a friend in college and it was so rewarding and it was great therapy for me. I became hooked after that," Barnet said.

"I come to realize, we are all going to die. So in that short amount of time you have to consciously live your life
in between dreaming, you should live it to the fullest." True. - Squeeze OC


Bourgeois Backlash EP
Religion for Robots (live at Fierro's)
the art of drowning

Hear Mike's newest single "Rescue Dogs" on Indie 103.1 fm, L.A.'s independent radio station.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Thought provoking and socially aware, Mike Barnet's lyrics contain a spirit that is missing in most songs written today. Blending elements of folk, groove and protest, Mike creates music to think and vibe to. Armed with his acoustic guitar, Mike Barnet has the rare ability to create songs memorable enough to shake world views to the oundation. And if given the chance, he will capture the minds of anyone with in earshot.

Migrating from the Seattle Washington to Fullerton California, Mike's musical journey has been a few years in the making. Playing all over the west coast, he continually gains the respect of audiences and critics alike.

In the vignette vein of artists as varied as Nick Drake, Nina Simone, Richie Havens, Johnny Cash, Ani DiFranco, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, Barnet's music has a unique flavor, filled with soul-bearing honesty and hard hitting reality. The common thread woven through each of his masterful stories is a message of self-examination and hope.