Micah Barnes has been there and done that in his latest single and video Welcome To The Club — showcasing today on Tinnitist.
Soft, low candle glow. The tinkle of ice tossed in a highball glass. An empty, beckoning stage. Hushed, excited anticipation of who will stand next to the baby grand to serenade all the lovers and lonely hearts in the room. As 2022 begins under another lockdown, allow acclaimed, Juno-nominated jazz vocalist Barnes to set the scene for a swingin’ Saturday night with another tune from his hit album Vegas Breeze.
“Since its release, the Vegas Breeze album has become a listener favourite on jazz stations around the world,” says the Barnes. “We thought we would be touring Europe with this album at this time. Since the whole world is grounded (again) for the moment, I felt releasing a new track and video would be the best way to bring more music to our fans around the world!”
The intriguingly shape shifting lead track on Vegas Breeze, Welcome To The Club is more than an enticing invitation; it’s an inspired mashup of two different, little-known songs with the same title. Nat King Cole recorded and released his Welcome To The Club in 1959 and Mel Tormé wrote, recorded, and released his in 1961. Discovering and combining the two songs exemplifies the approach Barnes took to create his third full-length project.
“Our focus on Vegas Breeze was to find unusual songs from the showroom era and choose material from beyond the regular Rat Pack repertoire,” he explains. “That led to a really fun period of research, discovery and exploration for me and the band. You know when you are kids, and you spend time together in each other’s houses a whole bunch? In fact, it was while playing records in the basement of a friend’s house I came across a Nat King Cole song that seared itself into my memory. The melody was bluesy and swaggering. The lyrics are smart and sexy. The arrangement played by Count Basie’s band — so fun and swinging!”
Through more searching, the Tormé song of the same name also revealed itself and Barnes and his band — pianist and arranger Michael Shand, bassist Russ Boswell and drummer Al Cross, experimented with arranging the two tunes together. “It felt like the most natural thing in the world,” notes Barnes. “The joining of a traditional barstool ballad with a swinging Vegas showstopper seemed to cover all the Vegas traditions at once. But what was incredible is that both lyrics give advice to a fellow ‘swinger’ after being screwed over by a cheating lover. Perfect for our Vegas Breeze album.”
Welcome to the Club conjures up images of a swanky Vegas showroom in the ’50s or ’60s with a velvet-voiced vocalist holding court on the stage. Back then, if you couldn’t get to Vegas for the full, live experience, you could often see the singing stars of the era on your TV. “When I was a kid, the legendary Vegas performers such as Louis Armstrong, Pearl Bailey, Dean Martin, Peggy Lee and Steve & Eydie were still performing on the TV variety shows,” says Barnes. “Although I was actually never in the audience during the ’50s/’60s heyday of the showrooms I certainly fell in love with the style and the power of those musical personalities.”
For the Welcome To The Club video, Barnes wanted to recreate the 1960s TV variety show experience but, how to pull that off? After Barnes was forced to shelve a national tour in 2020, he and his band pivoted to perform a 14-date virtual tour “from the living room.” One of the virtual venues, London, Ont.’s historic Aeolian Hall, became a favourite and Barnes and his band were invited back to play a livestream there in the summer of 2021. “Thanks to the excellent team at The Aeolian, we felt the footage was strong enough to offer to the public as a video,” says Barnes. “Working with my director Carlos Coronado we went about recreating an old-fashioned ’60s TV look for the final product!”
Born in Vienna and raised in Canada, Barnes cut his teeth in the cabarets and jazz clubs of the city while still a teenager, before touring the world as a member of the a cappella vocal group The Nylons. The years since have seen Barnes developing as an international solo artist with top-charting hits including Welcome To My Head, and the album New York Stories.