Singer-songwriters: Music was sustenance, answers to prayers | News |

2022-08-20 02:44:15 By : Ms. Sarah Zhang

Some clouds. Low 76F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph..

Some clouds. Low 76F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph.

Singer-songwriters Aaron Barker Sr., left, and Allen Shamblin.

Allen Shamblin, third from left, is honored at the Texas Heritage Songwriters Awards along with, from left to right, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Michael Martin Murphy.

Singer-songwriters Aaron Barker Sr., left, and Allen Shamblin.

Allen Shamblin, third from left, is honored at the Texas Heritage Songwriters Awards along with, from left to right, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Michael Martin Murphy.

For Allen Shamblin, life would be impossible without music.

“There has been food, water, air and music,” said Shamblin on Monday. “For me, music was essential to my survival ... From my earliest memories I was moved deeply by music. I think that was just the way I was made.”

Now 63, Shamblin has found a long and rewarding career. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association Hall of Fame and has been nominated for the Grammy Award. Over the years, he has written for giants like Bonnie Raitt and Randy Travis.

Decades after he got his start, Shamblin still writes and performs although he also finds time for simpler activities, he said on Monday while taking a break from cleaning horse stalls inside a barn at his Franklin, Tennessee farm.

On Sunday, he will take the stage with friend and fellow country singer-songwriter Aaron Barker Sr. for a Charity Concert Series performance at Victoria College’s Leo J. Welder Center. The event will benefit the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, Victoria Lions Club and Welder Center.

During his life, Shamblin has worked many jobs from parking cars to loading airplanes, although writing songs and playing music have always been his true love. But it was not until the mid-80s that he got truly serious about his craft.

It was about that time that he saw performances by country singer-songwriters Billy Joe Shaver and Townes Van Zandt — which Shamblin said were life-changing.

He also found massive inspiration in the music of Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell among others.

“They spoke a language that my heart understood,” Shamblin said. “They mixed poetry with music and storytelling, as well.”

While living in Austin during the ‘80s, writing music was just something he did after finishing days working as a real estate appraiser. Shamblin, who had graduated with a marketing degree, said he would come home, eat, take a nap and then stay up writing into the early morning hours.

He was hardly famous back then, but that would soon begin to change. One day while having lunch with a work friend at an Austin cafeteria, Shamblin pulled from his back pocket a piece of notebook paper he had penned lyrics to. Linda Orsak, a woman with connections to the country music world, was standing behind him and overheard the conversation. She got interested and eventually connected him with Warner Bros. Records.

That chance encounter with Orsak led him to an invitation to Johnny Gimble’s house, where Shamblin played and recorded 10 songs. It was an incredible opportunity, but also a terrifying one, said Shamblin, who had never sang into a microphone before.

When Orsak asked him whether he performed. He lied and said yes.

“I completely had a anxiety attack,” Shamblin said.

On Orsak’s advice, Shamblin later moved to Nashville to write songs professionally. For a while, he parked cars and did other odd jobs before finally signing a deal to write music for a publishing company.

Now with hundreds of songs to his name, Shamblin said he advises aspiring writers and musicians to find their voice and become comfortable with it.

Shamblin tries to write his lyrics like he is having a conversation with a best friend, he said. The result is music that is honest, heartfelt and unique.

“There’s only one you in the world,” he said.

For Aaron Barker Sr., his songs are often answers to prayers.

In his creative process, Barker presents his life’s challenges in the form of a question, he said. Often, the answer is a song.

“The music part of that is cheap therapy,” said Barker “I just work it out. I call it ‘get on my knees and play.’”

Barker has written songs for George Strait, the country music group Lonestar and even Blue Bell Ice Cream, for which he does commercials.

Like Shamblin, he also is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association Hall of Fame. The two friends live just a few miles from one another, Barker said on Tuesday from his 17-acre farm where he lives with his wife, growing grapes and raising honey bees.

Now 69, Barker said he finds the work on the farm a refreshing change of pace from the music world.

“In the music business, you can work so hard for so long with no results,” Barker said. “When you are working in fields, you can look behind you and see results.”

Barker began pursuing music at a young age. He grew up listening to records play on his family’s Philco phonograph, lying underneath and watching the tubes glow and records drop.

His mother loved Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, The Drifters and The Coasters.

“I just loved music,” Barker said. “I loved the way it made me feel.”

At the age of 6, he received his first guitar and soon was playing songs based on poems he had written. In fact, he turned to poetry for a school art project because he was born with a mild color-blindness.

“It was pretty bad actually — pretty juvenile,” he said of the poems. “I was a kid, but rhythm and rhymes just felt beautiful.”

For his entire life, rhythms and rhymes have held a powerful influence on Barker’s mind, he said.

That influence, Barker said, is almost beyond the description of words and has sometimes left him wondering whether he is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

For example, while driving to church, he would sometimes find the perfect tempo to move through the Sunday traffic.

“So much of my life has a rhythm to it,” Barker said. “It has led me to where I am.”

After playing bass in a rock band in his 20s, Barker found commercial success when his song “Baby Blue” was recorded by Strait and reached the No. 1 spot.

Barker, who has trouble seeing some colors, said he wrote the song with his imagination.

Although Barker grew up without a father, he said he used his real life experience as a father to his own son to write “Love Without End, Amen.”

Barker said he wrote the song in his living room after asking himself how he could be so angry at his own son after disciplining him once.

“You come to the realize that it is your turn to be a dad, and you can’t be his friend,” said Barker, who had his son at age 17. “He needs guidance and discipline, and it’s your job.”

Although his best songs are written from his own personal experiences, Barker said he finds it incredible and incredibly satisfying when listeners find their own personal meanings in his music. And just as he finds solace in those songs, he hopes others do, too. He even has received photographs of grave markers etched with “Love Without End, Amen,” which he sees as an honor.

“Our jobs as writers is to express things for other people,” he said. “What we are putting out there can have a very profound effect on a large amount of people.”

To young and aspiring writers, musicians and creators of all sorts, Barker said he encourages them to write down, record or document their ideas, lest they be forgotten. Before the invention of smartphones, Barker would sometimes stop the car to find a pay phone to record his thoughts on his home’s answering machine.

“Everyone has those thoughts, but people don’t generally write them down. They are elusive as awaking dream,” he said.

Jon Wilcox is the local editor for the Victoria Advocate. Jon is a former Advocate crime and courts reporter. He may be reached or 361-580-6515.

WHAT: Charity Concert Series: Bonus Concert Songwriters Round with Aaron Barker Sr. & Allen Shamblin

WHERE: Victoria College's Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, 214 N. Main St.

TICKETS: $55 for reserved seating. The box office can be reached at 361-570-8587. Tickets are available for purchase at Tickets purchased in 2020 and 2021 are valid for this concert.

Jon works in the Victoria Advocate newsroom, editing and working with a team of journalists. He also occasionally writes.

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