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Song Premiere: "You Are And You've Always Been" by Tom Barrett

2 September 2022

You Are and You’ve Always Been is the third full-length album from Jersey City-based singer-songwriter Tom Barrett. Following the unabashed lo-fi aesthetic of 2020’s 051480, this new self-recorded collection of songs again showcases the folkier side of Barrett’s musical personality, taking cues from other mellow-voiced influences such as Nick Drake and Lou Barlow. Similar themes of domesticity and escape that colored 051480 are further explored on the ten tracks that make up You Are and You’ve Always Been, this time with a much cleaner sound and more expansive arrangements. “That record (051480) was purely a result of the time and place, being locked down and without any proper recording gear apart from my phone, and also feeling this intense creative surge where it felt like I was writing a song a day. I just wanted to release something spontaneous and see what that felt like.”

The new album was recorded over the span of a year and a half, mostly in the Passaic, NJ rehearsal space that Barrett has occupied for the past several years, but it wasn’t the record he initially set out to make. “Originally, I’d wanted to do a rock record with a couple of acoustic songs sort of sprinkled throughout,” Barrett says, “but more acoustic songs seemed to come together quicker so I ended up doing the reverse.” Fortunately, this twist of fate plays well into Barrett’s plan of going forward in the performance realm. “I definitely see myself playing more solo shows than band shows in the future, not that those will disappear completely, but it makes sense to have something out there that’s a better representation of what I’ll be doing live most of the time.”

The title track features more of Barrett’s gentle guitar picking and softly sung baritone, accentuated by sparse melodic piano and an underlying synth part that lends the song some fullness and dimension. The lyrics paint a picture of a sleepless night and being in a vulnerable or desperate state, where your senses can be more heightened than usual, and your mind can invent scenarios where you feel alone, missing the person you love even as they’re sleeping right beside you. The song is evocative of Gordon Lightfoot or Sea Change-era Beck, while Barrett’s deep-voiced, almost conversational delivery could bring to mind for some either The National’s Matt Berninger or Mark Eitzel. “I don’t really know much about Mark Eitzel’s music but I’ve been told once or twice that I sound kinda like him. He always flew beneath my radar for some reason. I gotta check him out. There’s a lot that I’ve missed because I keep getting stuck on Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr, haha.”