Chris Barron reinvents himself
By Sarah Hall
Few young men have experienced the meteoric rise to the top that Chris Barron enjoyed in the early ’90s. As lead singer for The Spin Doctors, his distinctive voice was heard often on radio and in music videos, with the chart-topping hits “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”
But then the voice of The Spin Doctors was suddenly silent.
In 1999, one morning after a show, Barron awoke unable to speak. He was accustomed to waking up hoarse, but his voice usually returned after a few hours. Several days passed, and he could still only whisper.
He sought medical help and learned that one of his vocal chords had become paralyzed. He was told he had a 50-50 chance of ever speaking again, let alone singing.
Barron tried steroids, acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, yoga, psychotherapy ó an entire year of vocal retraining and therapies, until his voice returned. In fact, he came back sounding better than ever. But he says losing his voice brought him “a tremendous amount of humility.”
He wasn’t the easiest person to get along with in the Spin Doctors’ heyday, when differences among the band members led to guitarist Eric Schenkman walking out in 1994, and bassist Mark White leaving a few years later. Barron and drummer Aaron Comess were the only original members still in the band in 1999 when they were preparing to tour in support of their new CD “Here Comes the Bride.” But Barron’s voice loss seemed the final blow for the band which had already been steadily losing momentum.
Barron has called this a “rags to riches to rags” tale, but that’s not the end of the story.
He returned to performing in 2000, and in 2001, the original four members of Spin Doctors reunited for a show, then decided to stay together.
Calling the Spin Doctors a “’90s band” isn’t entirely accurate ó they are a current band, not as active or ubiquitous as they once were, but still together. They released the album “Nice Talking to Me” in 2005.
Their association doesn’t keep band members from pursuing separate projects, and Barron has been especially active. His latest CD, “Pancho and the Kid,” was co-written with songwriter Jeff Cohen of Pancho’s Lament. This is Barron’s second full-length solo album and includes guest musicians Boots Ottestad, Espen Noreger Teitur, Andrew Carillo and Jack Petruzzelli.
Barron sings throughout this lyric-driven recording. It doesn’t have the jam band, guitar riff nature of Spin Doctors, but does have the optimistic tone the band had in its early days.
Barron demonstrates incredible range and vocal dexterity in this recording, which includes the Spin Doctors single “Can’t Kick the Habit.”
In some of the songs, Barron seems to be contemplating the fragility of fame and fortune. In “Blueness” he sings of “Falling out of an endless sky when I thought I could fly.” And in the upbeat song “Stars” he sings “When the stars come tumbling down, when blue is the color that they’re painting your town…when your palace is lying in a heap on the ground, it’s all over.”
With the joyful lyrics of “I Must Be the King” Barron sounds like he’s back on top, not because of anything he did, but because he is loved by a special someone whom he tells “You raised the crown from the underground, and found me among your hand-me-downs.”
In the final track of the CD, the gently plaintive love song “Part of Me,” with its simple guitar accompaniment, Barron demonstrates the sheer beauty of his voice.
So far, “Pancho and the Kid” has only been available at Barron’s live shows. The official release is scheduled for April 8. It will be available on cdbaby.com, iTunes, and other outlets.
Barron has been traveling and playing with the band The Time Bandits (Jon Loyd, piano, Brett Bass, bass, Phil Cimino, drums), performing songs from the new CD as well as Spin Doctor favorites.
These New Yorkers recently completed a tour of the South, and they must have liked it down here because they’re coming right back. Chris Barron and The Time Bandits’ Carolina performances include Jan. 26: Gottrocks in Greenville, S.C.; Jan 29: Pour House in Charleston, S. C.; Jan. 30 in Boone at the Boone Saloon; Jan. 31: The Pour House Music Hall in Raleigh; and Feb. 1: Greene Street Club in Greensboro.
On April 18, they will make a return appearance at The Garage in Winston-Salem.
Barron feels he is essentially starting over, going out on the road to promote his solo CD in clubs, singing sometimes to dozens instead of a stadium full of fans.
But he’s just happy to be singing, and seems completely at peace with himself, and regards each day as a gift.
About his past success, he says “I am deeply and profoundly grateful for everything that I’ve been given. I got lucky.” n n nContact Sarah Hall at email@example.com or 704-797-4271.