Matt Bjorke: You’ve Been blessed to have a diverse career that has allowed you to play an on-stage version of Patsy Cline and to have a career all of these years after releasing a pair of well-received albums in the 1990s. How does it feel to be still making music all these years later?
Mandy Barnett: It’s been great. It’s been just something that I do. I don’t look back or forward too much, I just keep moving and take the opportunities to make music as they come my way.
Matt: So you have a love of the “Nashville Sound” era of the 1960s. What draws you to that style?
Mandy: I really enjoy the combination of the country rhythm section and the voices. To me it makes a really good pairing. I love old pop and old country and I love how they mesh together in that Countrypolitan sound and I think the songs just really work well in that style.
Matt: What can you tell me about the new album Winter Wonderland?
Mandy: Aside from being an exclusive release at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores and it’s always been a record I’ve wanted to make. I’m really, really fortunate to be able to work with some of the fantastic musicians that I got to work with on this record, folks like Harold Bradley, Lloyd Green and Louis Nunley.
Matt: Working with those classic musicians had to be a sort of ‘pinch-me’ moment, didn’t it?
Mandy: Yeah, it really has been. I’ve worked with them over the years too so it’s really comforting to be able to work with them. Those guys used to do four sessions a day so they’re used to being very prepared and professional and cutting songs quickly.
Matt: How much fun was it for you to create the album? How did you go about picking the songs for the album?
Mandy: Well, I kind of had an idea in mind of how it was gonna sound so I started picking songs according to that formula and what would work within that formula, who I was gonna work with musician wise. I had over-picked a few songs, and it was a little process to finalize the track listing.
Matt: How did you get into the Christmas spirit (or mood) while recording the album?
Mandy: I brought in a really old Christmas tree that I had bought at Walgreens and brought it in and plugged that thing in and it shorted out a few times so we kept it unplugged for the most part. The studio doesn’t have any windows so when you’re in there all day, it might as well be December! The air conditioning was really cool and it was just very easy to forget that it was 100 degrees outside…
Matt: well somewhere in the world it’s 100 degrees at Christmas time…
Matt: How did you come to partner with Cracker Barrel on the project?
Mandy: My manager knew some of the folks over there and we started to have some meetings to explore some projects we may be able to do together. They discovered that they didn’t have anything for Christmas and I’ve always wanted to record a Christmas record so it just made perfect sense to do it.
Matt: did they bring Rounder Records to the table or did you go to Rounder yourself?
Mandy: They brought Rounder to the table…
Matt: Well, it has to be great to be affiliated with a label like Rounder, too.
Mandy: It really was, it’s been a great gig all the way around…
Matt: Are you hoping to do some projects with them in the future…
Mandy: I’d love to. it’s been a positive experience and I feel that, brand wise, that my music goes well with the Cracker Barrel’s image so who knows, it’d be great.
Matt: Yeah, and if Rounder was on board too it seems like they’re a perfect fit for your brand of music as well…
Matt: Have you started working on some new non-Christmas music material?
Mandy: I haven’t yet but I’d love to sometime in the New Year. I’m also scheduled to be playing Always…Patsy Cline again in the summer – June 17-July 24 at the Ryman.
Matt: Ahh! What’s it like to be able to act as patsy cline and to be able to do it at the Ryman?
Mandy: Well I’ve never really done it anywhere else so I think that’s what it makes it special to me, to do it at The Ryman, where I started doing it; where she played. You know, there are all these tie-ins that make it a great experience, doing the show in the Ryman with a great band and co-stars and getting to sing all those great songs. You know, it wouldn’t be the same if it was done in some community theater in Illinois or something because The Ryman is where she wanted to be so it brings a lot of coolness to the whole experience.
Matt: It’s amazing how long that play has been able to thrive, so it’s obviously registering with audiences and Nashville…
Mandy: It’s a well-written show, the dialogue and the music itself. It works well, it flows well without any dead moments.
Matt: Yeah, that’s important because you can easily lose an audience with dead space and spots in a show. How fun is it for you to be able to do the live acting?
Mandy: Maybe if it was another show I’d be a bit scared or something but it’s a really good fit for me. It’s not really scary at this point. The first couple of shows when we first opened up may have been a bit jittery or something but once we got past those, it was like clockwork.
Matt: Fantastic! What do you think about the internet as a tool for artists to reach their fans?
Mandy: It’s been great for me. I posted to my Facebook that the album was available online and the response was great.
Matt: Yeah, I noticed that the album was sold-out online, which is the first time I’d ever seen that when posting links to buy it with the review for the album.
Matt: What would you like to say to fans that may be learning about you for the first time?
Mandy: I just hope that they enjoy the Christmas record and if it’s their first experience with my music that I hope they stick around to enjoy my upcoming music projects and I thank them for taking the time to check out my music.