Buskin & Batteau
First of all, this is me writing this, so you can be pretty sure the good stuff is left out – hey, I might need it for my memoirs or to blackmail someone. I was born and grew up in the Bronx. I went to PS 28 (like Artie Traum ), Horace Mann ( like Eliot Spitzer ), Brown University (like E. Howard Hunt ) and the U.S. Army (like Ulysses S. Grant). I’ve been doing music of one form or another as long as I can remember. So that’s for a least half an hour.
Last few years I’m getting my kicks writing plays and sketches and the like. The first one, my putative director James Naughton says lacks a second act. I suggest we do it as a one-act, thus saving everyone a lot of time and trouble. He does not respond. But I’m happily at work on a musical with one of my jingle mentors, the prodigious and very Protestant Jake Holmes. We have high hopes. One act. No intermission. Home in time for Law and Order. What more could anyone need?
Robin Batteau is a Grammy-winning, Emmy-winning, Clio-winning, and Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter-soloist and music producer. Six months out of Harvard, after earning a degree in biochemistry, he was signed to his first record deal with Columbia Records. A dozen CDs later, he’s played his personal style of improvisational violin with everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to Benny Goodman to Bruce Springsteen and has had his songs sung by Whitney Houston, Judy Collins, and Paul Newman, to name a few.
He has created songs for charities and causes from World Hunger Year to Save the Whales to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign to Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for kids with such things as cancer, sickle-cell, AIDS and thalassemia. He’s heard nice words from the Boston Globe (”Acoustic heaven…”), Time Magazine, People Magazine, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Entertainment Tonight, Mary Hart, Oprah Winfrey, Bonnie Raitt (”Here comes the Love God”), and helped advertising campaigns win nearly 1,000 awards with jingles like “I’m Lovin’ It” for McDonalds, “This is Beer” for Budweiser and “The Heartbeat of America” for Chevrolet.
Virginia native Janie Barnett cut her teeth on bluegrass festivals, church coffeehouses, and the American Folklife Festival. When she met iconic Americana barnstormer and Newgrass pioneer John Hartford at Folklife, so began her love affair with the alternate roots movement. “I couldn’t commit to being a 100mph flat-picker. But I fell in love with those sounds. And behind every great song was a renegade twist to be had. That renegade twist is really part of my DNA.” The seeds were planted for a lifelong quest for a hybrid style that favored roots-music instruments, the whimsical storytelling of her favorite author John Steinbeck, and the social passions of one who grew up in the backyard of Washington D.C.
One can see the roots of this renegade impulse throughout Barnett’s growing up. Socialist grandparents on one side, a newsman father, and a labor advocate mother. Barnett defected from the local high school for boarding school, where, ironically, she found her tribe of outside-the-box musicians. She then defected from the Ivy League to play in a roots and reggae band in New Hampshire and Cambridge, then ultimately defecting from the New England music scene to New York City.
Barnett rose to become one of the top 20 session singer calls, while continuing her search for her own essential expression. The essential songs, the essential timbre, the core family of musicians. “I was also going through the long process of my marriage ending. My partner and I needed to set each other free in order to be ourselves. I recognized I had to own that process in the music.” Several collections of music were released through those years, but none Barnett felt had fully captured her authentic voice as a writer or musician.