Simple and effective songwriting coupled with resonant, powerful vocals, and subtle yet masterful guitar flourishes.
New York City tends to cast long shadows, and the challenge of living can be hard enough without the ever daunting aspect of making music that creates an impact. Often, in the face of self doubt, an artist digs deep to find a way to convey that which resides inside of him. For Scott Barkan, making music allowed him to answer the call that life in the NYC area challenged, while providing a little self therapy in the form of fine tunes.
Since I was 13 Ive been seeing bands of all kinds in New York and I got exposed to a high caliber of music, especially jazz, that inspired me to get serious about playing guitar Barkan grew up in a Long Island suburb, the owner of an old soul with a penchant for jazz, folk, americana and rock. His earlier forays into music included an instrumental outfit called Barky, an avant/jazz/rock trio for those with ears for complex harmonies and rhythms, and later a great deal of sideman work for songwriters in NYC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Over time, he felt his creative focus begin to shift from technical, guitar-centric instrumentals to something more akin to the songwriters he had been accompanying.
I spent about two years reworking my approach to the acoustic guitar so I could do more than just strum and sing songs. Barkan is an accomplished guitarist that prefers to separate his influences into two categories: guitar players and singer-songwriters. Its not too often that great guitar players are great songwriters, and vice versa. Im striving to find that middle ground. He gives the guitar player nod toBill Frisell and Mississippi John Hurt and acknowledges Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley as a few singer-songwriters he draws inspiration from. The result is an unusual amalgamation that is both progressive and literate, a rare balancing act that manages to dig its hooks in deep.
Barkan doesnt have a set backing band but instead prefers to draw from a pool of some of the finest jazz/session players in NYC. The full band shows can have a large amount of improvisation, and I need players who can hang with that, as well as laying down tight parts when the time comes. If the players that he wants are not available, Barkan prefers to play solo, employing his jazz/improv background to create dynamic and spontaneous live performances.
Flightless Bird is the album Barkan feels he was made to make. With many of the songs sharing common themes of self doubt and the search for purpose in life, the album takes on an almost conceptual design. When describing the albums title track, Barkan offers this: Flightless birds are fascinating to me because they have all the looks and tools of a regular bird, yet they cannot do what birds are meant to do. Fly. I used that as a lense to look back at myself, look at the tools Ive been given that seem like they should be worth something, and yet, often I feel stuck and unable to move forward. This statement serves as both manifesto and explanation for the album and its existence.
Scott Barkan is humble and hopeful, a man who has an understanding of who he is and knows how to address that within the frame of his music. His experiences become ours due to Flightless Bird and self doubt never sounded so confident.