BETWEEN THE LINER NOTES
Mistaken for Warren Barfield?
By Jennifer E. Jones
Warren Barfield is hard to recognize these days.
When he came to First Baptist Church of Norfolk for a show with Shane and Shane, I walked right past him at the merchandise table. Never mind that his picture was larger than life hanging right behind him. I was looking for the clean-cut walking ad for Banana Republic who strummed Christian adult contemporary tunes like “My Heart Goes Out to You” and “Mistaken.”
Today he’s looking a little less corporate and a little more rock’n’roll. With longer hair covered by an old trucker hat, he’s wearing a red graphic T-shirt and tattered jeans. Even his new album, Reach, has a more southern hospitality sound to it. In fact, the only thing that has stayed the same is Warren’s towering height over most everyone else in the lobby.
We comb through the entire church to find a place to sit and settle for an an empty Sunday school classroom. Sitting on top of wooden tables meant for toddlers, we’re finally ready to see the real Warren Barfield.
… or at least the MySpace version.
“I’m not really smart when it comes to Web sites. Before when I wanted to post pictures or post a journal entry, I’d always have to find someone else to figure it out. But Myspace is pretty elementary,” Barfield tells CBNmusic. “Anyone can figure out how to set up a site. To me it’s been a way for me to get in touch with people. I could video the show tonight and have it online before I go to bed.”
That’s all good but is it really him on there?
“Most people always ask, ‘Is this really Warren,’” he says with a smile. “I’m like, ‘Yes. I don’t know how to prove it but yes.’”
Barfield admits that now that he’s got the hang of it, he loves to stay in touch with the people who listen to his music via the Web. However, he’s well aware of the dangers of cyberspace. Earlier this year, his MySpace was hacked into, and an offensive bulletin was posted in his name. He was able to fix it but not in time for others not to see it.
“I got the phone call from my record label saying, ‘Someone hacked into your site.’ I got on and people had already started sending me mail [saying], ‘I can’t believe you’d do this!’”
Barfield immediately sent out a message explaining the problem. “Most of the people who had sent me bad comments apologized,” he notes. However, it was an interesting display of how quickly people either believed he did it or that he didn’t.
“There were both sides of that. There were people who wrote me and said, ‘Hey man, your site got hacked into.’ And then the next one would be, ‘I’m no longer going to listen to your music. You’re no longer my friend. You’re a bad example…’ They didn’t even give it a day.”
He reflects on the situation as a lesson learned.
“A lot of people think [that] I’m a musician and how great it is to have people love and adore you. It’s so shallow. Not all of them do love you. It’s just because I’m on stage,” he says. “I thought what if I had done it? What if I fell or if some big dark secret of mine came out into the open and showed everyone I’m not perfect? Would everyone who’s loving me today hate me tomorrow because of my weakness? I just thought wow. How quickly we turn our backs.”
A case of mistaken identity was the least of Barfield’s setbacks this year. The inspiration behind Reach is rooted in tragedy.
First, the album almost didn’t happen. His first label, CTW, helped make him a star but later folded. He tried to keep his career alive but he couldn’t get his foot in a label’s door long enough before something went wrong. For a while, it looked like Warren Barfield was going to be a one-hit wonder by no fault of his own.
Then, as if the world wasn’t crashing down hard enough, he received the phone call every person dreads. There was a car accident. A friend of his was dead and his sister was in the hospital. Barfield had had enough.
He describes it as “the season where everything was falling apart.” Earlier this year he told Christianity Today that his “faith was dead.” He explained in the interview, “Everything was stripped away to the point of my asking who I was and why I was here. I questioned everything about myself.”
Ironically, his spiritual confusion ended up being the fuel behind many of the songs that would be on his next album. For example, “Closer” was group of scattered verses before Barfield made it an expression of his troubled faith.
They all expect me to have some great words to say
I’m searching for answers but I’m finding none today
There is no reason, you know, there is no rhyme
All I have is You
He explains to CBNmusic, “I don’t know what I believe. I don’t know who I am, so God you gotta get closer.”
The long road to Reach was wrought with many times when Barfield wanted to call it quits. I ask him if he has any advice for others in ministry who are facing burn out or obstacles too high to climb.
He lets the question sink in for a moment, then says in one breathe, “I don’t know.” He pauses again, then begins with, “It’s hard. You have to constantly be growing and asking questions. If you’re not being challenged, one of two things will happen. One, you’ll get burned out. Two, it will become a routine. If you’re constantly wanting to know more, it’s impossible to get stagnant.”
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