Over the past few years, and through hundreds of live performances, Sterling Barrett has been rising steadily in the north Georgia music scene.
Whether performing as front man of his party band, Chess, or delivering heartfelt original songs with country band Georgia Standard, Sterling has become known and loved for his soulful vocals and rock/blues guitar prowess.
Sterling also is the band leader of the Checkers, the house band that performs at MadLife Stage and Studio’s Live Band Karaoke nights (third Tuesdays).
I recently caught up with Sterling to discuss his journey, and to discover what inspires him to pursue a life and career in music.
What started your musical journey?
My father began teaching me to play the guitar when I was 10. I took some lessons, as well, but not for long. The rest, I picked up by ear or from other musicians. I never actually wanted to sing. But, when I was in high school, I couldn’t find anyone to sing the songs I wanted to play. I started singing them myself and realized quickly that I had my own unique voice.
How has performing in Woodstock influenced your evolution as a musician?
MadLife has been incredibly important to my career! Most of the friends and connections I have made in the business were connected to (the venue) somehow. It feels more like a community than simply a venue.
Which artists are your musical influences?
I am a massive Bruce Springsteen fan. I pull a lot of influence from him when writing songs. Lately, my biggest influences include Turnpike Troubadours, Blaze Foley, Tyler Childers and a ton of classic country singers. All of these groups have a way of relating to normal people that I don’t really see in many other genres.
What songs represent your most influential music?
“Roll on Sun” is a song I wrote when I was working 16-plus-hour days at a company that was less than fair to its employees. I feel like it clearly expresses the feelings that someone in that situation experiences, especially when they feel like they will never escape the cycle.
“Just the Type of Person That I Am” is a song I wrote about my daily life, after I began playing for a living. It touches on the simplicity of the lifestyle, while still acknowledging some of the uncertainties in the industry.
Both songs are on my acoustic EP (extended play), “Songs for Outlaws and Day Drinkers.” Though I have not seen much impact from the releases, I am optimistic about the future and continue to write and record.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
Stay humble! Most musicians have something to teach you, even if they don’t play the same genre as you do. You will find the most success if you look at (the industry) as a community, as opposed to a competition. Though there undoubtedly is a need for a competitive mindset, it is far more valuable to be teachable and collaborative.
What advice would you give younger artists?
Start now! I began taking music seriously at age 27, which makes me older than a lot of my contemporaries. While it is never too late to start, you will find that you have to catch up with other artists the later you start. If I could do it over, I would have started right out of school. It takes a lot of time and hard work to succeed, and you will be thankful for the extra years!
What is next on your musical journey?
I (recently began) playing with a country band, Georgia Standard, which I co-front with local favorite Shane Byous. This is a new direction given my work with Chess, which is more rock- and blues-focused. Be on the lookout for upcoming music from Georgia Standard!
– Greg Shaddix is responsible for local artist development and relations at MadLife Stage & Studios, a premier concert venue and restaurant in downtown Woodstock.