I travel for work. Back in March, after a long day of driving, I was in Erie, Pennsylvania. I got to my hotel room, dropped my stuff and headed to the hotel restaurant for a beer and dinner. I sat at the bar so that I wouldn’t be taking up a table all by myself.
As I was finishing up my dinner, two guys came in and sat down at the corner of the bar. They talked loudly, laughed and bantered with the bartender. I had spent my work day having had about six 5-minute conversations. That was it for my socialization for the entire day. So, I picked up my beer, moved down the bar and inserted myself into their conversation.
If I was a musician, my album would be An Evening at The Hampton Inn. Doesn’t have the same ring as “Macri Park” does it? That’s how I met Sean Barna and his music producer Dave. A little over two months later Sean released a new album, so I thought I’d ask him a few questions about it.
Sean, your album “An Evening at Macri Park
,” is named after a bar in Brooklyn. How did that particular bar earn the honor?
Sean: There are, as you can imagine plenty of queer bars in NYC. Brooklyn nightlight and queer culture has historically been a bit more underground and a bit more envelope-pushing than what you will find in Hell’s Kitchen or Greenwich Village (I mean, of course, in the modern era of queer culture and art — not 1969).
Macri Park, at the time I was a regular, embodied this spirit more completely than some of the other spaces, in my opinion. I was a regular at a Monday night drag show, “Mondays on Mondays (on Tuesday Morning),” where I met such an eclectic and fabulous group of creatures and characters. The third set, which usually happened around 3am, featured an “open stage”… any drag queen could perform. This was beautiful in a way: a more well-known queen might stop by after their gig and give a show, and then some queen trying it for the first time might go on. Really a cool, welcoming place.
TPF: You have a unique voice and your music has a unique sound. Who were some of your influences? Is there an artist that you grew up trying to emulate?
The only time I tried to emulate anyone was as a drummer, especially in high school and early in college. I was and remain, first and foremost, a drummer. I did not write any complete songs until I was 25 years old. This is relevant because I think emulation is more of a young person’s thing — I have no interest in sounding like anyone, at least on purpose. That being said, I started writing songs because I saw Counting Crows
on August 18th, 2007. By this, I mean I started writing words down and exploring the possibility of vulnerability. Adam Duritz
has since changed my life many more times — singing on my first album, CISSY
and now on An Evening at Macri Park
, as well as bringing me on tour as his direct support for two months.
TPF: Your identity as a member of the LGBTQ community is a big part of who you are and how you market yourself. How did that evolve for you?
Sean: I am a musician, first and foremost. I resented having to “announce” queerness. I resent that society has created this situation where this has to be a main subject. Of course I understand why you are asking, but is me being queer anymore who I am as being straight is for a straight person? Sexually, no. But culturally, queer people are forced to announce it. And so, yes, of course it is relevant.
THIS ALL BEING SAID, every statistic that illuminates an ill of society is worse for queer people, but it becomes worse still for queer people of color, and much, much worse for trans people of color. I am one of the least vulnerable queer people on the planet. White, straight-passing if I want, masculine, from the United States. All of this is to say, if I had a microphone and chose not not speak up, how dare I? That would make me a joke.
TPF: On your album you have two songs with Adam Duritz of Counting Crows. How did that partnership happen, and will there be more in the future?
Sean: Actually, he is on six songs. He sings lead vocals on two: Sparkle When You Speak has a chorus that just sounds better in his range, and let’s me do Madonna improvisations over the top. Be a Man, which I wrote on his piano while I was cat sitting, is my song, but I asked him to write his own verse. He sings background vocals on a few others.
Sean and Adam
ANYWAY, he hosts and is lead-organizer of a festival called Underwater Sunshine Festival
(previously Outlaw Roadshow). Basically, he gets bands he and his friends like together for a weekend of music and laughs and beer. I played one of them because one of the organizers let me play. He saw me play my song, “Cutter Street
“, and he and I have been in touch ever since. Now, however, he is one of my best friends and I would do anything for that man.
You’re signed with the Kill Rock Stars (https://killrockstars.com
) label. You had to be super stoked to be working with them. Were you aware of their legacy going back to the 90’s?
Sean: I was vaguely aware. In the 90’s I was listening to classic rock. In the 2000’s, I was listening to classic rock and jazz, and eventually classical. I do not focus on legacy and I am not sure they do either. I told Slim, the owner, that I wanted to make a “fucked up bluegrass record” and he was stoked. So, I found my family pretty quick. Nowhere I would rather be.
TPF: You’ve been a musician your whole life. What is the best “rock and roll” moment you’ve ever had?
Sean: Anytime you can headline a sold out show, regardless of the venue size, and get assholes kicked out for yelling over the band or being dicks in some other way… that’s a good day. Most rock and roll however would have to be when three guys wanted to take me home on the same night after a show and I went with the guy who would let my band come too so they had somewhere to stay. I refer to this briefly in my song, “Naked Heart.”
TPF: So apparently groupies is still a thing. And for my readers under 18, The Phil Factor is not encouraging wanton sexual behavior, but hey, if you’re over 18, have at it!
Thanks again to you Sean. I’m honored to have met you and more so that you took the time for this interview. For my audience, you can find Sean’s album anywhere you buy or stream music. You can follow Sean through his website
and he’s a great follow on IG as SeanBarna.