The Kris Barras Band are rising stars on the rock and blues music scene, having made several major appearances on the UK and European festival circuit in the past couple of years, including Ramblin’ Man Fair (UK) and Rawa Blues Festival (Poland). On the first leg of their 2019 European tour, the band brought their signature brand of blues-infused heavy rock and roll to Rescue Rooms on Tuesday 12th of February, supported by the Irish singer/songwriter Grainne Duffy. Former professional MMA fighter turned guitar hero, Kris Barras founded the band in 2014 once taking the decision to give the fighting a back seat. Before the gig got underway, I was given the opportunity to meet up and have a chat backstage with the main man himself.
So, you retired from MMA in 2014 and you’ve since become one of the UK’s leading blues frontmen. What made you take the decision to give the fighting a backseat in favour of music?
So, it wasn’t really a case of one for the other, that’s just how it kind of happened. I decided to stop fighting as I felt I’d achieved everything I wanted to achieve. I’d been competing for 10 years and you know its quite a strain on your life, constantly dieting and training 2 or 3 times a day. I had a few injuries that were lingering and stuff so I just decided I’d had enough and though I would concentrate on coaching other fighters instead. Then I guess I just started writing some songs after that. I’ve been playing guitar since the age of five so music’s always been a part of my life. It wasn’t necessarily a case of me being an artist trying to get my music out there or anything.
So how did you get into music at such a young age?
Well my dad was a guitar player and a singer, I think he was a much better singer than me (laughs). He used to have a band and I would watch him rehearse and stuff like that. I suppose It just kind of filtered down to me, he was my first guitar teacher. I started off playing guitar with some cheap ¾ size classical thing with nylon strings. I guess I had to prove that was actually going to stick with it, and then my parents bought me a Fender Strat copy a year or two later.
You were named amongst the top 15 guitarists in the world in 2017, by Music Radar. Who would you say your major influences are?
Well lots of different guys really. My first real hero was Gary Moore, but I suppose I listened to a lot of classic rock stuff; Deep Purple and the Rolling Stones, that sort of thing. In my teens, I got quite into more of the virtuoso shreddy stuff like Satriani and Malmsteen, but then also some jazzy stuff. I even went through a metal phase, so I suppose I took inspiration from a lot of different styles.
I’d say your style is quite aggressive and punchy whilst being able to deliver very sophisticated and clean bluesy playing. My favourite song is ‘Watching Over Me,’ I felt the intro in particular definitely has a very Gary Moore type feel, and you execute that style of playing expertly.
Well yea that’s actually done intentionally, I saw that song almost like a tribute to Gary Moore as I wrote that song as a tribute to my dad. His favourite guitar player was always Gary Moore so it’s probably not a coincidence. I wanted to have a song that payed tribute to my dad but also his favourite guitar player as that’s who he really loved to listen to. I suppose it’s quite a personal song. It was actually the first I wrote when I set up this band.
Do you think you’ve managed to carve out your own style on the guitar?
Yea, I mean I don’t know, I’d like to think so. I don’t like to put labels on it, I don’t necessarily think of myself as a ‘blues guitarist.’ There are a lot of blues traditionalists out there that definitely wouldn’t consider me to be a blues guitarist (laughs), but I’d like to think there is some more to my style, although I love the blues and I love playing it. Y’know I’ve spent a lot of time studying lots of different styles, like jazz and hard rock, so I’d like to think I’m a bit more than one dimensional.
Do you write all the songs for the band, and if so what’s your writing process like?
Yea I write my own songs. When I started out, I would always write the riff and chords first and then put the vocal melody and lyrics in over the top afterwards. But as I progressed, I wanted to explore different creative avenues, so I’ve started writing just lyrics and then putting chords and melodies to that. I’ve started plenty of songs in the past where I’ve just written a chorus but haven’t been able to come up with a verse or main riff that I like yet, so they just tend to sit on the shelf for a few months and stuff until I get time to go back to them. So, I like to take lots of different approaches now.
Nice, so how did you meet the other members of the band?
So, the main line up has changed several times, as often happens. So, the guys in the band currently include Will (Will Beavis), the drummer, who I’ve played with in several bands since I was about 18 years old, cover bands and things like that. Elliot (Elliot Blacker), the bass player, is a well know local session player, I’ve been in and out of bands with him locally in Devon over the years. And we’ve just hired the keyboard player (Josiah J Manning), he’s become the music director of the band. I met him after I booked in to record our second album, ‘Divine and Dirty,’ with him, and since then he’s joined the band full time.
So, keeping on the topic of bands. I noticed you have an association with the American band Supersonic Blues Machine, alongside the likes of Billy Gibbon. So how did that come about?
Well yea I’m the new frontman of the band. Lance Lopez the previous guy left the band to continue his solo career, so now I’m a full-time member and we’ve got lots of stuff coming up this year. It came about because they had a European tour last year, which I consequently became a part of. We, the Kris Barras Band, were put forward as a support band for them, although we didn’t realise at the time that Lance had left the band and that they were looking for a new singer. They were sent videos of us from people telling them to check us out for their support position. However, the producer and bass player of the band, Fabrizio Grossi, said “I don’t want this guy to support I want him in the band.” So, we had a few phone conversations and then the deal was done. That was a really great compliment to get.
If you could guarantee a gig alongside or supporting any current artist of your choice, who would it be and why?
Yea I’m not sure really, I’ve never sat down and properly thought about this. I mean one band I’m a big fan of is Black Stone Cherry, they’re on the same record label as me. That would be a pretty cool gig to get I think, I got to see them at Wembley last year. If I ever got a chance to support them that would be pretty great.
Well you know maybe they’ll see this article and maybe they’ll get in touch. So, is there a new album on the horizon?
Yea well we just recorded a new album but it won’t be out until later this year. The date hasn’t even been set yet. My last album ‘The Divine and Dirty’ came out just less than a year ago so I think they’re looking at a possible autumn release. We just recorded it over Christmas and we’re all pretty pleased with it so I’m looking forward to that.
Nice, so I have one final question. You’ve been doing quite well with the band and gaining a lot of traction recently, where do you see yourself and the band going in the next 2 or 3 years?
Yea that’s such a hard question to answer, you never know. If you had asked me this 12 months ago I would never have predicted the 12 months I’ve just had. Y’know I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. I’d just like to grow the band really; continue playing to bigger audiences, getting bigger support slots, bigger headline shows. The biggest crowd we’ve played to so far with the Kris Barras Band was at Rawa Blues in Poland. With Supersonic Blues Machine we’ve done some big ones in Europe and another one in Poland, they’re mad in Poland they totally love it, one of the gigs was about 10,000 people so that was pretty mad. But yea, its hard to know what’s waiting around the corner.