On the cusp of country stardom
Up-and-coming Toronto singer Owen Barney releases debut single
Some students leave high school with no clue of what career they want to pursue. Owen Barney, however, knew exactly what he wanted to do long before graduating.
The Royal St. George's College graduate always knew he wanted to pursue a career in music, and he has just released his debut single, “Letting Go,” on Wax Records.
Barney took his first guitar lesson at age seven and hasn’t stopped making music since. He cites the support of his parents, in particular his mother, for his current success.
“My mom did everything she could to help me get as many shows as she could. I was 14 when I started playing live, so I had no idea how to go about doing that,” he explains. “My mom was the reason I got discovered.”
He also cites his guitar teacher, Nik Palekar, as one of his best friends and one of the most influential and supportive people around him.
In addition, Barney had immense support in high school from his teachers, noting that his music teacher, Doug Jamieson, continually encouraged him.
“I played him songs, he came to my shows, and he really encouraged me,” he says. “My school was extremely supportive of my music,” says Barney.
It was also in high school when Barney was signed to Wax Records, something he describes as a major milestone.
“That was a huge point in my music life and a huge step for me so far,” he says.
When asked what drew him to country music specifically, Barney explains that it has always been a part of his life.
“My mom’s family is from Alberta and are all country music fans,” he says. But he also says that the genre is one where he really feels like he can express himself naturally.
“When I write the songs, I can tell my own story. It’s my way of telling people what’s going in my life. My songwriting is my life, everything I do,” he explains.
The artist Barney looks up to the most is Juno Award–winning Canadian country musician Dean Brody.
“He is the best Canadian country music artist in my eyes and someone I’ve always looked up to,” says Barney.
Since Barney began performing at 14, he has learned a lot, not least of all that, “you never stop getting nervous.”
In addition, Barney has also learned the importance of communicating with the audience.
“When I started playing live at 14, I was really shy, but as I started writing my own tunes and telling stories about the songs, I started to get more comfortable,” he explains, adding that being at ease with an audience is something he is continually working at.
So far, his favourite Toronto venue to play was Boots and Bourbon (now closed).
“I played there at 14, and it was one of the first places I played and the coolest feeling being in Grade 8 and being in a bar playing onstage,” he says.
Barney is justifiably excited about the release of his debut single.
“It was an unbelievable feeling for me after dreaming of getting something out into the world,” he says.
Now that Barney has released his debut single, the next step is to start getting as many shows as he can. He has written a whole EP at this point, so there’s more to come from the rising star.
“Playing on a stage where I’m above everyone and they’re all signing along to my songs is a huge goal,” he says.
Barney started performing live when he was 14 years old