Down-home US country music at Monroe’s live

The Groove Tube with Jimi McDonnell

Expect some genuine Nashville song craft when Max T Barnes and Craig Curtis play Monroe’s Live on Friday, February 28. 

Max has co-written nine number one country hits and dozens of album tracks for country stars like Randy Travis and Colin Raye. Craig Curtis, meanwhile, is a country songwriter who is fast making a name for himself, as well as being a friend and label mate of Max’s.

They will be playing songs and sharing the stories behind them during their Galway visit.

“We’ll come over there with acoustic guitars and we’ll bring the harmony,” Max says.

Max T Barnes grew up in the country music scene. His father, Max D Barnes, wrote hits for stars like George Jones and Merle Haggard. Max has been in the trade himself for over 30 years, so what’s life like in the competitive, but potentially lucrative, Nashville songwriting scene?

“It’s not glamorous like you might think,” he says. “It’s a job and you go in every day to an office and you get with other writers and you write, and you write and you write. You just stack up them songs like cordwood. When somebody needs a song you pull one off the pile.”

That might sound a little 9 to 5, but Max enjoys life as a Nashville writer.

“It’s not like a factory job or anything, I don’t mean to downplay it!” he laughs. “It’s really loose and it’s a great lifestyle. There’s no set schedule. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and when you want to go to the beach, you go to the beach.”

Did Max’s father share any songwriting tips with his son?

“I’d been playing guitar since I was 10 years old but my dad would never write a song with me, because he took it very seriously and it wasn’t for messing around with your kids,” he says. “But after I turned 18, I was on the road with country music stars, playing guitar. He kind of figured ‘well, the kid’s got something’. So, when I was 19, just about to move out, we got started into writing at the kitchen table. We wrote three in that batch and one of them was Way Down Deep which was hit for Vern Gosdin here in the States.”

Max D Barnes passed away 10 years ago, and his son recalls the country music community congregating to remember one of their own.

“He was a huge influence, not only to me, but big stars from around Nashville,” Max says.  “His funeral was a who’s who of country music. My dad wasn’t famous, but everybody he knew was. George Jones brought his bus and stayed all day, it was like taking the CMA (Country Music Awards) and parking them at the funeral home.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.