Interview: Jimmy Barnes- Working Class Soul Man

_PBF4900hiIt’s been a mammoth year of celebrations for Jimmy Barnes commencing with the induction of Cold Chisel last year into the SA Music Hall Of Fame, a recent 35 year wedding Anniversary to his devoted wife Jane, his 60th Birthday, and the newest album release in the Barnes repertoire ‘Soul Searchin’, which debuted at #1. On top of that, his memoir ‘Working Class Boy’ will be released in September!

Glam Adelaide had the privilege of chatting to Barnesy about his life and career, and despite huge success with some trials and tribulations thrown in, he remains affable and humble about his journey so far.

‘Soul Searchin’ is the fourth in his Soul series, and Barnes has chosen songs for their personal value to himself in searching out the people, places and forgotten songs that helped shape him as an artist. The ultimate result is a thumping set of great classic soul songs from the ’50s and ’60s that most of us have never heard before.

Migrating from Scotland to Elizabeth SA as a 5 year old, he’s very Adelaide proud despite living in NSW since the late 70s, and says of Cold Chisel’s induction into the SA Music Hall Of Fame that “it was very nice, you gotta love the amount of talent that comes out of Adelaide and SA. It’s been incredible considering the population and we have a lot to be proud of. As a young guy growing up in Elizabeth there were a lot of role models such as Glenn Shorrock that we wanted to be like.” Not that Barnes needs any accolades to elevate his status among one of the greatest Australian artists of all time, but it’s nice to have that hometown recognition.

‘Soul Searchin’ was produced in Nashville, which was a real experience for Barnes. “You have to remember that the whole town’s been built on music, publishers, songwriters and studios etc, we had really great access to a depth of knowledge to create the album, which was a good thing. It’s a real city of dreams for musicians, and that town has helped a lot of people realise those dreams,” Barnes says.

He adds that ‘ The common factor in coming from a tough childhood and wanting to escape your situation, you’d hear music and it would transport you from one place to another. A lot of young musicians that come from tough towns use music to escape their circumstances and living in Elizabeth as a child, I did exactly that. I’d hear music lying on my bed and it would take me somewhere else.”

The album is a Barnes classic, with his gravelly voice doing justice to the chosen songs and a musical lineup featuring some real Soul hard hitters including Steve Cropper (Blues Brothers, Booker T & the MGs), and the original Memphis Boys who feature on a huge ballad called “If Loving You Is a Crime (I’ll Always Be Guilty).” Says Barnes of these guys- “They just blew me away with their musicianship and their stories; they’ve played for Neil Diamond and Dusty Springfield, and played on ‘The Letter’ for The Box Tops.

It’s a long way from Cold Chisel, but Barnes is philosophical about that era and the legacy that the band has had on Australian music. “I know that we’ve done some great work, but I try not to look back at it too much. I try to look forward and what I can bring to the table next, that’s the same with Cold Chisel. Don (Walker) as a writer is also looking forward all the time, how to write better songs explaining the human condition. I do though, love the history that we have and that’s why I’ll still go out and play Chisel songs- I’m proud of what we’ve done but still want to keep moving forward.

Incidentally, for fans hungry to know more of the Barnes story, there is a soon to be released memoir titled ‘Working Class Boy’, which details his earlier days from being born in Glasgow, to being 17 years old in the back of a truck driving through the Adelaide Hills embarking on the ‘Cold Chisel’ journey. “There’s a lot of stuff about living in Scotland, and although I was only 5 I still have vivid memories of there. We then arrived in Australia, poor, starving and struggling. It then covers that early experience as immigrants in hostels (hellholes!), and going from there to Elizabeth. There were struggles with domestic violence, alcoholism, poverty, unemployment, all those things. The book’s quite dark. When I started writing a lot of it was going back to parts of my childhood that I tried to forget but were causing pain and problems for me, so the process of writing and looking within was a healthy process. The album ran parallel, as these are songs I searched inside of myself to connect with. Sometimes the painful stuff helped me relate to certain songs & how to sing them,” Barnes says.

“From Soul Deep, Soul Deeper, The Rhythm and The Blues, to Soul Searchin’, have certainly been a time of learning, it’s like going back to school and touching base with the singers I was listening to.”

 It’s a fantastic sounding album that shows why he’s our favourite working class soul man! Be sure to catch Jimmy Barnes on his Soul Searching’ tour which kicks off next month! Concert Tickets here!!

Soul Searchin’ was released in June 2016 and Jimmy Barnes memoir ‘Working Class Boy’ will be released in September 2016 through Harper Collins Australia.More info here:

Interviewed by Dazz Hassan


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