Barna Howard is a singer songwriter from Eureka, Missouri. His eponymous debut album came out in 2012, and was followed up in 2015 with Quite a Feelin’ which was met with rave reviews and earned him comparisons to the likes of Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and Kris Kristofferson. We met him in Groningen (after blaring his music on the car ride there) where he played TakeRoot festival last month, and thought he was sweeter than a toffee apple.
1. Do you actively do anything to keep your brain healthy, and if so what?
2. What or who mentally stimulates your growth the most?
Being out in nature, and the eyes of a particular woman.
3. If you could add or take away anything from your brain what would it be?
4. In what situations have you learned the most about yourself?
5. Do you have any daily or annual rituals? Are they personal to you or your family or are they related to your culture or religion?
I like taking a walk once a year in the town I grew up in.
6. If you could live inside of a book, which one would it be?
“Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.”
7. Are there particular books you find yourself buying for or lending to people close to you?
The ever so strange, and poetic, “The Hawkline Monster.”
8. Is it more important for you to speak or to be heard?
9. Do you think a time exists that is easiest to create? For instance, do you strike the muse or does the muse strike you?
The muse strikes me, and it mostly happens during the morning hours.
10. Do you have an emotional state that you find it easier to create in?
Both; bummer moods, and super happy moods, are always good spots to be in when it comes to writing for me.
11. Are there certain elements that you employ to set up the perfect mental space for creating? For example: Music/Food/Smells/Locations
Location I’d say. I like the kitchen table, or the bathroom to be honest. Perhaps a bar …
12. What smells do you most associate with your childhood?
Fireworks, and carpet that should have been ripped out a long time ago.
13. If you could only live on five ingredients for the rest of the life, what would they be?
Onions, Brussels Sprout, Beans, Cheese, Wine. We talkin’ food ?
14. Do you have spiritual needs and if so how do you nourish them?
15. Do you have a place you go to, either physically or mentally, where you feel the most at peace?
A river or stream, and into the eyes of a particular woman.
16. Do you think that people need some form of discomfort to make art?
I think, yes.
17. How much does your conscience/morals come into play when making decisions?
A lot, maybe too much.
18. Do you ever experience your emotions in physical ways? If so, how?
Yes, at times I feel a tremble, then a drop in my chest, as though my feelings were rice and they were being poured into a colander.
19. What is your least favorite physical sensation?
20. What is your favorite physical sensation?
Shedding off some skin with someone, especially if you’re in love with that person.
21. Do you think a person has to understand art in order to be able to appreciate it?
Not at all. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
22. Do you connect more to the lyrics or music in songs (assuming a song has both!)?
23. What is your earliest memory?
Watching my papa wash his 86 Ford Mustang from my car seat sitting on the driveway. The car was orange by the way …
24. If you got Alzheimer’s or dementia what memory or memories would you be saddest to lose – or – which ones would cause the biggest loss of your personal identity?
I never want to forget the happiest of days. Got a hand full of them.
25. Do you expect happiness in your life?
Guessing that would be up to me. I like to keep myself pointed in that direction. If you’re smiling, you’re doing just fine.
26. Do you feel like falling in love is a spiritual or chemical process?
Definitely chemical. When you know, you know. You feel it in your body.
27. Do you try and avoid feeling negative emotions or do you feel it is more constructive to experience your emotions fully?
I don’t mind the negative feelings. It helps to open those moments and memories back up now and then.
28. What flaws do you think you have when it comes to communicating with other people?
Anxiety, when it comes to wondering what they are thinking at that moment. Sounds like insecurity.
29. How do you deal with situations or individuals that fail to stimulate you creatively or emotionally? Do you avoid this situations/have a set of tools in which to navigate them?
I always give it a go, even though I know. Sometimes it pays off to stick around a bit, as long as it isn’t a detriment to yourself. There may be a flavor of information to be taken that you may not be used to, or attracted to. Not a bad thing.
30. What do you think your ex partners would say the hardest thing about loving you was?
Communication. Had to learn that slowly. Thank you all, you wonderful patient creatures.
31. Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares? If so, what do you think they mean?
Not necessarily. I do though, experience several places all at once. For example : It’s the school I went to, the class room is very similar, but my grandmas strange basement is in the back corner past the cubby shelf …
32. If you have ever taken psychedelic drugs, did you have any interesting hallucinations on them? Do you feel changed from having taken them?
I have. All I heard were the swear words that were spoken in a crowded living room. Everything else was gibberish. Then I went to go take a look in the mirror … I wouldn’t say it changed me, but perhaps gave me a few ideas. They seemed to be so profound at that moment, not sure if that was the case.
33. If you could live in a world where the aesthetic was controlled by a particular visual artist or film director, who would you choose?
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger films. Wayne Thiebaud as well.
34. What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever seen?
35. Have you ever seen something which you feel has directly resulted in certain elements of your personality today?
The love and kindness my father has always given to my mother.
36. Would you rather lose your sight or your hearing?
I’d have to ditch the eyeballs.
37. Do you feel like you surround yourself with the people who see you for who you really are?
Barna’s second album ‘Quite a Feelin’ is out now on Loose Music.