Yeah, I'm all good. I’ve just been working on new tunes recently. Since we came back off tour, we did quite a bit of writing. On Tour, obviously, we had quite a long stretch - about five weeks - so it's been nice to get home for a little bit. So yeah, I've just been just working on tunes really, just trying to prep towards eventually a new album.
‘Death Valley Paradise’ was released last year, and with the whole pandemic, I'm guessing you were sitting on it for a while.
I mean, some of the songs perhaps, but we recorded the album, and it kind of went as quickly as things can go with an album release. Always when it's done properly, it takes a long time; you know, the whole release schedule. It's not just like recording something; in the early days things have to be thought out, and things have to be planned accordingly. So, yeah, I mean, the song writing process for that album, there was a lot happening that whole period. It's a bit of a mushy thing in my head now!
You're known as this blues guitar player, but there's a real contemporary production to ‘Death Valley Paradise’; was that important to you?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I've been labelled a blues guitar player, because that's just what I happened to do on my first few albums as the Kris Barris Band, but I don't see myself as a blues musician. I think I'm someone that likes the blues and likes to play the blues, but there's much more to me than just, you know, banging out some twelve-bar. So each of the albums progressively got a bit heavier. In my teens, I was pretty much exclusively in metal bands and a few other things; original music that was more towards the heavy rock slash metal genre so it was nice to tap into some of that. There's aspects of that in me as an artist really, and the stuff I was doing before was never like, traditional blues anyway. It was always more song-based, and it was always more like singalong choruses and stuff like that. That's what I've always been about.
You can hear that certainly in the last album.
‘Death Valley Paradise’ is still in the same vein; it's just heavier, a bit more ballsy. Maybe we lost a few people on the way, but we've definitely gained a tonne more fans, as we saw, actually, on this recent tour; there's a real mix of a lot of like, the younger people that that maybe seen us at Download and that kind of crowd, and then we got some of the people that have been following me since 2015. I even see their faces in the crowd; I recognise them, and some of them I know on first-name basis because they’ve been there so long. It's amazing to see that they follow us and they still love it, and you see them sing along to the new songs. It's a transition actually has been probably smoother than I expected it to be.
Yeah it’s a crossover sound; heavy, but with melody, almost reminiscent of Halestorm in places.
That's cool. I mean, I love Halestorm - they’re and amazing band. I mean, I didn't really think too much about it. The only time I started thinking about it was after I'd probably written a bunch of songs, and we started demoing them, and then we listened back, and we're like; “this is pretty heavy!” And we were like, all jammed together, and we were loving it. And I was like; “you know, this is what's natural”. I don't want to sit and force myself to write something more bluesy; I don't want to hold myself back. The thing is once you get into the rock, and heavy rock / metal, whatever, like it's such a broad genre. You almost feel like there's no limitations.
It sounds liberating for you, as an artist.
Yeah, to be considered bluesy, you’re limited by things that are the bluesy genre. You know, there's certain things that you couldn't do on a guitar; if you're doing a blues solo, I couldn't suddenly chuck in like a fast finger tapping lick, or sweep picking, you know, stuff that I like to do on a guitar. I can't do that in a blues solo, because all of a sudden, it's like; “well, hold on; that's not blues”. And something like; some of the scale choices, vocally, some of the chord progressions, and things like that; you're very restricted to keep things blues-based. So, you know, it was I just didn't want to have any restrictions. I just wanted to write songs. And when I spoke to the record label and said; “Look, this is the situation. Everything's coming up a bit heavier, this is kind of what I'm wanting to do”, and they loved it. I’d have gotten bored, and here we are.
The songs on there that are real earworms; ‘Dead Horses’, for example, really grooves along.
Yeah, for sure. You know, one of the things that I like to concentrate on when I'm writing songs is to have catchy riffs, catchy choruses, and stuff that can stick in people's heads as in, a singalong. That's always like a main aim of mine when I'm song writing. As the recent tour has shown, everyone was singing along. They've had a year to get used to the album now. A tour that we did for the album when it first came out, it started like, on the day of release or the day after, and it was like, really soon, so not everyone had got used to the album yet. Now, it's like bedded in for a year here and everyone's singing along to every song. You have some tracks that weren't necessarily singles, but songs that I like to play, and you seem like people in the crowd that know every word. It's crazy. It's really cool.
Another example is ‘Long Gone’, which has a real heavy stomp.
Yeah, and you know, that's kind of like the reference stuff. It’s probably the closest it gets to bluesy on that album, really. It’s almost got a bit of a swampy feel. I actually wrote that song with a guy called Bob Marleette, who's written a lot of songs with Lynyrd Skynyrd. In that sense, it's got a bit of that kind of tone to it.
Yeah, it was really good. Yeah, there was a couple of guys that I worked with a lot and we just gelled and it just worked really, really well. Like, the people at that kind of level, they just get the best out of you. It's not like they just come and take over and go; “alright, you should do this, this and this”, you know? It’s more like; “oh, have you thought about this?”, and it’s like; “ah, you know, I haven't actually”, and then it would send me off on a tangent and I would have loads of crazy ideas. So yeah, it's really, really good to bounce ideas off people of that calibre. I mean, you mentioned Halestorm earlier, and one of the guys Blair Daly who I wrote with on the album, he writes a Halestorm all the time. So it was a really good experience. I’m teaming up with Blair again, hopefully next week, actually, on some stuff, the new stuff I've been writing, actually.
Josiah [J. Manning, guitars] who's in the band has never really got involved in the song writing side of things before, but this time round, like massively, every song is a collaboration between Josiah and I. And that's been really, really good. We're getting into exploring some different things that we haven't done before and pushing the boundaries a little bit.
Is that as a result of the natural chemistry you’ve developed from playing together?
Yeah. I mean, as a producer, he's very, very busy and he’s got a very successful studio, so a lot of his time has just been around that, really. Over the past couple of years though, he's started getting involved with writing a bit more with other artists, and on each album, he' collaborated with me on like, one or two tracks. But I think just for him, he's got into songwriting a lot more, and, yeah, we've been best friends for years; I was the best man at his wedding, he's been in the band, like, a long time, and that chemistry has been there for years anyway.
You know, I think he's just kind of stepped up, because songwriting as a thing, you know? Just because you're a good musician it doesn’t mean you’re a good songwriter. So he's been focusing on songwriting a lot more with other artists he's worked with. And, you know, he's just got so many great ideas. It's been really, really good. He knows we’ve got to have the same vision with the band in the way we're going, so yeah, brilliant. We’re coming up with some great stuff.
So how far along are you for the process for the next album?
Well, at the moment, like a bunch of tunes. I’ve probably got, like, sixteen ideas for different kinds of stages of development; some of them are finished, some need lyrics, some need a bit of tidying up. My aim is just to write as many as possible. I always think that's the best way to do it. I don't get people who like, you know, write ten songs for an album and that's all they do. I think, get as many done as possible, and do your best on each one; obviously, not necessarily just churn them out for the sake of it! But then whittle it down to the ones that work best as an album, and the best tracks. We’ve got more chance of of getting it right, if you got more songs to pick from. So yeah, I'm not sure. I mean, I would personally like to record towards the end of the summer. Obviously, there's lots of things at play, and that decision isn't necessarily going to me.
What about a release date? Would you be looking for a ‘23 or possibly pushing it to ‘24?
Yeah, an album wouldn't be out this year, it would definitely be next year. It would be nice if we could get a single out maybe towards the end of this year, but again, those kinds of decisions, there's a lot of factors involved. It's not just a case going; “I've got an album, let's just get it out”; there's so many things involved in that decision. Ultimately, it's not really up to me, so yeah, we'll see what happens.
In the meantime, you've got a couple of dates coming up in Ireland; you’ve been here before, haven’t you?
Yeah, we've done a couple of times. We did dates with Black Stone Cherry in Dublin and Belfast, and then we did it on a headlining tour after that. It’s a beautiful country and we love to go over there. There's nowhere in the world that I don't like to play. So yeah, I'm excited. We've had good times there. Belfast for us is so great. I don't know why, but we seem to struggle in Dublin. Like, I mean, when we played there with Black Stone Cherry, it was in quite small venues, probably only seven hundred, and then we went to Belfast and played a sold out Ulster Hall. That kind of ratio has carried on, so you know, Dublin we haven't necessarily had great experiences with but Belfast has always been very, very good.
So what's next for you?
We've got quite a few festivals throughout the summer. We’re going to be headlining a few mid-sized ones this time around. It's nice for us to get that recognition and be given those kinds of slots. So we're headlining Friday night at Steelhouse festival; we're headlining Call of the Wild festival in Lincolnshire; and that's a really, really good one, Firestorm in Manchester in August, we're headlining Sunday night there. We’ll also be at Bonfest up in Scotland that's tagged on to the Irish dates. So we go straight from Ireland up to the top of Scotland to do that one.
Kris Barras Band play Dublin's Sound House on 27th April, and Belfast's Empire Music Hall the following night. For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.ie.