Wowza! The holidaze are upon us!

Quite the long weekend in the Hidden Agenda family, all off on their own adventures!

 Barrett spent much of the long weekend (Wednesday - Sunday) playing on the road with Wifee and the Huzzband. Wednesday's show in Milwaukee at Shank Hall was a spectacular show, including some amazing horn arrangments on some Christmas classics done by bandleader Stephan Cooper.  Friday's show at Door County Brewery was filled to the brim!  The place was packed and rocking!  The great staff and quality brew kept the band crankin' from the first downbeat to the infamous dancing closer, "The Get Down."  Among the highlights was pAt mAcdonald sitting in on the raucous jam, "The Girl Can't Take It."  The cresendo of the band interacting with him took the roof off.  To close out the Thanksgiving Tour/Cooper's 40th Birthday weeklong party was a great show at Millcreek in Appleton, WI.  Fantastic stage, super supportive staff, and a fun crowd led to late night Sunday fun!

On another front - Sarah's other band, Sugar Still, was also out on the road in Michigan.  They did quite the stretch of playing at Pigeon Hill Brewery in Muskegon, Newaygo Brewing Company, Quinn and Tuites in Grand Rapids, Phoenix Cafe in Hazel Park, Unity Vibration Kombucha Bar and Tea in Ypsilanti and Tapistry Brewing in Bridgeman. Sometime in the middle of all that Charlie and Sarah had their own Thanksgiving feast in some lucky motel in Michigan.

Andrew has continued to work with his new puppy, training away.  Takes a lot of work to save a pit bull, and raise'em right!

Jon had his family all back in the house, and had some quality time in 'burbs.  He's been putting the finishing touches on a new tune, that hopefully will get the band treatment in time for the record.  Certainly upcoming live shows!

Keith and Cheryl, well, those love birds enjoyed time together, and away from the rest of us!  

I think we're all recharged to finish off the last batch of studio songs, which will bring the song count for the record up to 8.  We've already got the list of the next 8 tracks.  Now to rehearse, mix, book studio time, and play these shows!

Hope you had a meaningful Thanksgiving weekend with yours, and know how lucky we all are.


a weekend full...

...of chipping at the bit.  Fixed up the studio space a bunch, rewired some of the racks, chipped away at the mixing of "Woman Ain't Happy" and "Dopamine."  Most importantly, filled up on some quality family time, and the bonus of shoveling! Also, made the trek into Wisconsin and back, near Lake Winnabego for a Wifee and The Huzzband rehearsal.  Been playing keys with them basically since the summer, and we've got a bunch of shows lined up this holiday weekend, and into the holiday season, capping off with a New Years Eve show in Sturgeon Bay, WI at Stone Harbor.

More importantly for you BHA fans - we've booked another show!  This will be the first friday of the year.

Friday, January 8th, 2016 at 8pm

Barrett's Hidden Agenda

LIVE! at

Lonie Walker's Underground Wonder Bar

710 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Mark your calendar!

Laying it down!

Last night Keith, Andrew, Jon, Sarah and I worked quite efficiently on a couple of tracks for the record. I must say, i'm very proud of the team, how easily it seems to come to us, and how quickly we deliver on the new ideas that get thrown about.

Before the band showed up, i spent an hour or so cleaning up and balancing the mix on Jon Roger's "Woman Ain't Happy."  It's certianly done with tracking, and all the instruments are now seated in the right place in the mix.  Just some more time needs to be spent balancing within each group - Drums & Percussion, Guitar Uke Fiddle Piano, and Vocals.  Only then can the subtley of reverbs be dialed in to enhance the total mix.  Tedious, exacting work, but the pay off is YOU getting an ear-grin the first time YOU listen to it.

Then the band showed up, there may have been whiskey.

First up Sarah laid down some serious violin on Cheryl's version of "Dopamine."  After performing her usual parts that have been worked out for some time, we tried something new.  We had her layer the violin into a string quartet over the heart-pulling bridge, really deepening the emotional connection in the song.  After that, she laid down the first of the vocal back ups.

Jon went up next, nailing his harmonies in a couple of passes, and then adding to the background harmony layers that Sarah had started.  Andrew got in there to cover the bass and baritone harmonies, then I came in with the remaining notes, filing the musical hole left by Andrew's low parts, and Sarah's higher notes.

After that Andrew and i took a moment to really dial in the rhodes, which will be paired with the vioolin part and has to be balanced at times so the are seemingly a single sound.  Even the electric guitar gets into that part at times too.

This all prepares for the final component for the track - Organ.  Next week, we track organ.

Mixing Dopamine

Last night, Keith & I worked hard on mixing the new version of Jon Rogers' "Dopamine."  This is going to be the 3rd version of the song i'm aware of.  Jon's 'other band,' Jack Salamander will have their version of the track on their upcoming CD.  The initial BHA version, sung by Jon, is available to listen to on our music page, and all over the interweb.  You can see the performance of it at House of Blues (chicago) here: This live take is sung by Cheryl JenDaPro.  She's singing this newest version that we mixed last night.  It's a faster, grittier, thicker, take on this bluesy tune.  We had gotten everything in place, when Cheryl stopped by and said, "Why do i sound like a chipmunk?  And everything is sped up!"  I had a setting wrong, that played it back too quick.  Beer and whiskey skews the ears kids!  Anyways, we fixed it to the right playback speed, and VIOLA! our mix had come together nicely!  We pumped it through a 2 track ampex tape machine, and buried the needle!  That extra crunch really meshed the sound into place. We've still got fiddle, organ, and backing vocals to lay down, but it's well on the way.

Tomorrow night we'll lay those down, and some backing vocals to Jon Rogers' other contribution to the record, 'Woman Ain't Happy."  We've also got some cleaning up to do on that one having added percussion and fiddle last go round.

New Show!

ark your calendars folks!  Proud to announce our next show will suit your schedule - it's after thanksgiving, after the holidays,  after  New Years.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

More details to come, already shaping up to be a great line up of talented folks!  You'll have been holed up for two weeks of winter after being out to much over the holidays and ready to have some music and fun!

...blah, sick for a week...

That's right folks, all things Barrett ground to a halt.  Layed up and out of it for 6 full days, and still not 100%.  Gotta take it easy as i get back into the swing of things.  Being very busy with family, work, life, and obviously MUSIC, I don't always realize i'm getting run down - to the point of exhaustion.  This was the case, and fell ill overnight, and am now calling it around 75% back to normal.

Things are happening in the BHA world daily - we just got a new show booked that we get to announce shortly!

Ahh! The Weekend!

Full of relaxation, and productivity!  I spent most of the time either sleeping or catching up on my stories - when i wasn't mixing and laying down tracks for the record.  Many an hour spent on Jon Roger's track, "Woman Ain't Happy."  The mix is really coming along, layering the percussion and the vocals in is a beautiful yet tedious process.  

I capped the weedkend off at Lonie Walker's Underground Wonder Bar.  I was roped into performing by the amazingly gifted Katie Kaden, a fellow teacher at School of Rock Chicago.  I was initally told it's more of a jam and open mic, but it turned out to be Lonie's passionate side project - Local Talent Search.  I performed Jimmy Reed's classic, "Baby, What You Want Me to Do?" which had been BHA's standard opener/soundcheck for quite sometime.  I swiched to piano for a rendtion of "Down South in New Orleans," back to guitar for a solo take on "Sawblade," the Tense UP! (EP) closer.

I was suprirsed and impressed with both the talent pool, the attentive and sizable audience, and the care that Katie and Lonie take in this program.  Though it's a competition, it felt more communal and supportive.  Other performs were interested in my story, my song, and my work as an engineer.  I guess we're all looking for clues in this adventure called life.

In the end I was one of two winners selected to perform in the final Nov. 29th.  Not sure my gigging schedule will allow, as I've been added as the fulltime keyboard player to Wifee and The Huzzband!


The Album Saga Continues...

For those following along at home...

...We went into IV Lab Studios in late October and laid down the roots to a few Agenda cuts.  Last night we had Sarah lay down fiddle and vocals on Jon Roger's track, "Woman Ain't Happy."  Jon nailed the lead vocals in a few takes, and then Cheryl and Keith added some percussion elements.  You can see the House of Blues performance of the song within the full set here:  Dig it, and share it with some friends.  More mixing over the weekend...

Barrett appeared on '15 Minutes with Rick Wood'

Today's episode of "15 Minutes with Rick Wood" features Barrett!  Recorded last night after too many beers, Rick, a comedian from LA, recorded his podcast from Barrett's kitchen. Obnoxious, funny, and out there covers the topics at hand.  NOT KID FRIENDLY.  Rick brings the conversation from Nils Cline (of Wilco and more) to alka-seltzer enimas.  Rick's humor ain't for everyone, but that's part of being a good comedian.  He runs the podcast for 15 minutes a day Mon - Fri and can be found in the iTunes store. Podcasts > Comedy > Rick Wood.  Check his website to catch his stand-up schedule.  


Back from Dark Song 2015

Monsters, ghouls, ghosts oh my!  Just fresh back from my 6th songwriting week at The Holiday Music Motel.  As Vince Gates put it, "You've now spent a month and a half of your life doing this."  52 songs crafted by 40+ musicians in a single week.  All written and recorded, most of which were then performed at the Third Ave. Playhouse in downtown Sturgeon Bay, WI.

I had the luck of drawing amazing talent for a bottle spin, Christa Ebert, aka "The Uno Lady," who comes in from Cleveland, OH, along with the gift and deverse Jamey Clark, a local to 'Sturge.'  He holds down the fort for "The Dirty Duece." They just released a live record produced by Teflon, the resident engineer (and SOOOO much more) in 'The Lab' underneath The Tambourine Lounge.  Between my tonal instruments, Christa's vocals, and Jamey's rhythym, it was simply put - a perfect spin.  

All we needed was a song.  

LA comedian by way of Virginia, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Rick Wood and I had spent time together leading up to Dark Songs.  One thought he brought up was how as humans we are basically a glorified bag of water.  I was thinking about this while listening to the collection of songs that is Dark Songs Volume 6, and came up with the response to 'bag of water' with, "You can't deny the dirt."  This became the theme and eventual title to our song.

Christa tirelessly grabbed lines and thoughts that the 3 of us spewed on the subject of coming from and returning to the dirt.  We wanted to cover some philosphy, while still personalizing the experience via anecdote.  Once we had too much chose from, it became pretty clear on how to crush it down into form, and it was actually straightforward.  At that point in the process I always bring up the idea of 'getting out of the song's way.'  The ideas are there, the goal is obvious, just follow through and quite getting your brain involved.

While drumming up the ideas for the lyrics, I had laid out some chordal thoughts to push Christa's melodic brain, and Jamey instantly grabbed onto the main idea and created a fascinating pattern with just his hands on the table.  Pushing all of this together in a 24 hour time frame, it became clear where the song wanted to go.  Heading towards a 'dia de muerte' vibe, or dark cubanismo, I had Jamey play the drumkit with a moving blanket covering it, he brought up the point of using mallets instead of sticks.  That muffled attack of the drums, with a reverb to carry it brought out the 'thick/morbid' vibe in the lyrics.  I played strict piano chords, bringing out the story and melody Christa performed beautifully.  Then I laid down an overdub of the piano part with embellishments to accent Jamey's toms, and Christa's vocal performance.

We knew the song would need a little bit more to thicken it up, and the uprigh bass seemed obvious.  Newbie to the construction zone, Wade Coisman of "Devil to Drag" was brough in to play.  The always patient enabler Teve Mith ran the board in Rear Recieving Studios, capturing the heaviness and delicacy of the tune.  (Heavy in concept, not sound) Once everybody thought we were done tracking and left, I overdubbed my vocals, and layered a few percussion tracks to enhance the rhythmic craftmanship that Jamey performed on the drum kit.  The clavas, tambo, and shakers brought out the voodoo/caribian vibe even more, yet still subtle enough to not detract from the tom wor of Jamey, nor the effortless vocals of Christa.

I am so proud of this track, and more so about how easily it came together in collaborative form amongst us regulars to these events.  I look forward to its reincarnation as a Hidden Agenda track.  I'm sure it will take on a new life of it's own.  Once "Don't Deny the Dirt" is remixed to creative director pAt mAcdonald's standards, I will be able to share the original version with you.  He might want to wait the year and release it as part of next years Dark Songs collection.

I can't wait to work with these two again.

All contents property of Barrett's Hidden Agenda (BHA LLC), All photos by Phil Stosur