First Place Featuring Writing - North and East Texas Press Association, Spring 2019, Weatherford Democrat - By Autumn Owens
When you think about singers and songwriters, a young face typically doesn’t come to mind, but 11-year-old Weatherford resident Jack Barksdale is already making a name for himself in the music industry, releasing an EP and traveling all around Texas and other states playing shows and festivals.
“We were the first station to put him on the air,” Texas Home Grown Radio DJ Jody Lee Caudle, of Stephenville, who’s known Barksdale for a couple of years, said. “He just won everybody over instantly, of course.”
Barksdale picked up his first guitar when he was just 4 years old.
“My parents got me a toy guitar. I strummed it and it sounded terrible and I just wanted to know how to make it sound good,” Barksdale said. “So when I was 7, my hands were big enough and my parents got me guitar lessons.”
Barksdale’s parents, Clara and Brent, bought him a Hohner guitar from Craig’s Music to start with.
“We thought if he can keep it in tune and play it, and he sticks with it, then we can buy him a fancier guitar later,” Clara said. “I put him into fiddle lessons first for a couple of years and he played it, learned music theory and liked it alright, but he wanted to play guitar.”
Barksdale said he was hooked from that moment on and when he was 9, was invited to play in a “pickers circle” at a music festival in Luckenbach, Texas.
“I went and played a Johnny Cash song and was about to leave and they wanted me to play one more song, so I played an original that not even my parents had heard,” Barksdale said. “I never got nervous. The one time I got nervous it’s because I was playing with somebody awesome. I got to play with Verlon Thompson, who was the guitar player for Guy Clark for a lot of years, so I played a Guy Clark song and he jumped up and started playing with me. I was super nervous, but it was awesome.”
Now at age 11, Barksdale not only plays guitar, but the mandolin, ukulele, harmonica, resonator and piano, and said he primarily plays by ear.
“From the Nashville number system I can figure out what chord would sound good and then I always like to come up with different things, so I’ll play around with different melodies and different speeds,” Barksdale said. “I like my songs to be a little different than other people, so I don’t want to just strum a chord, I want to maybe pick it or I’ll try playing a lead riff in the middle of the song because that really changes it up a lot.”
Barksdale’s parents aren’t quite sure where he got his natural talent.
“My husband and I don’t play music, we love it, but we don’t play it so when it comes to music we don’t speak his language and he has to dumb it down so far to tell us things,” Clara said. “We have come to rely heavily on the music community and it is very much a family and they have taken Jack under their wing. For us it’s been invaluable that they’ve been so welcoming to him.”
Caudle said he thinks Barksdale is going to be huge one day.
“The thing about Jack is the stuff he sings and the way he writes, he’s an old soul,” Caudle said. “He does research and knows more about music than I do. He’s a special kid and I love that he’s more about the writing than the performing. He’s a writer first and a performer second.”
Caudle remembered a time when Barksdale was playing at a fundraiser show for kids with diabetes and said that Barksdale donated his entire tip jar back to the organization.
“I just really respect him and his attitude. I wish everybody looked at music the way he does and was the kind of person he is, he has a huge heart,” Caudle said. “That’s what really separates him from everybody else, he’s an
11-year-old kid and he’s a good person.”
Barksdale released an EP with four songs at the beginning of the month, recording it at AudioStyles studio in Dripping Springs, Texas, but Clara says they travel to different studios for other recordings for experience.
“We thought if this ends up being what he wants to do the rest of his life, we want him to have as much experience with all the aspects of it as we can,” Clara said. “We try different studios and different producers every time so that he could have that experience of knowing what he likes and what he doesn’t.”
Barksdale has played shows in Fort Worth — Magnolia Motor Lounge, Fred’s, Lola’s Saloon and Fort Worth Live; Stephenville — Twisted J Live; Bluff Dale — Greenwood Saloon; New Braunfels; and Austin.
Barksdale is currently in New Mexico playing at the Red River Folk Festival and said for now he will be focused on the new EP and playing shows.
“It’s always good to get what you have out and I will promote that for right now,” Barksdale said. “Then I’ll start recording more eventually, but we’re focused on the EP right now.”
When asked what he loves about music, Barksdale couldn’t put it all into words saying, “I just do,” with a laugh.
For more information about Barksdale and to check out his new EP, visit jackbarksdale.com.