Barrett Baber took his three-year-old son to his first Arkansas Razorback football game on Halloween afternoon. He walked down the concourse toward the field to get a good view. That’s when the crowd started lining up.
But the crowd wasn’t there for the victorious Razorbacks. Baber, an Arkansas native now more than a month into a successful run on the nationally televised singing competition “The Voice,” is starting to get recognized.
“There were all these people stopping by to take pictures,” Baber said from Los Angeles, where he’s (mostly) sequestered in a hotel room as he awaits the next round of the competition. He performs in a live elimination round on Tuesday (Nov. 10). The episode begins at 8 p.m. CDT on NBC, and fans will have their first opportunity to vote for him.
At the football game, Baber paused for every photo.
“These people are willing to help me on my dream,” he said.
That dream is music stardom, and it’s becoming more likely with each advancement on the popular show, which drew an estimated 12 million viewers its most recent episode. Baber passed his initial blind audition with flying colors, having the opportunity to work with any of the four celebrity judges. He opted for the team coached by Blake Shelton, a fellow country singer. Baber later passed through the Battle Round and the Knockout Round to advance to the live final round. That element of the contest begins Monday, and Baber’s live performance will take place on Tuesday. During those two days of live performances, the 24 contestants will be pared down by half. Two vocalists from each of the four teams will advance via popular vote, and another four will be selected by the coaches. Results will be aired on Wednesday.
There’s also what Baber feels is a shift in momentum in the country genre. His original music falls into the subgenre of “country soul,” and that very style of music stole the show at the CMAs on Nov. 4 courtesy of a duet between country songwriter Chris Stapleton and pop star Justin Timberlake. That might signify the end for the bro-country era, Baber said.
“Times are changing. Last night (Nov. 4) was the coming out party for country soul,” he said. “I have high hopes. I think there’s a special thing happening right now. That’s exactly the kind of music I’m trying to make.”
Baber said he’s confident moving forward. His work with the coaching staff on “The Voice” and his celebrity mentor have him feeling ready.
“I’m doing more vocally than I ever have. I’m focusing on parts of my voice that need it. It’s amazing to feel and hear the strength of my voice growing,” he said.
Voting for Barrett Baber
He also carries with him the collective pride of Arkansas, something that’s supported many musicians in the past. Through popular voting, he earned a Grammy gig in 2014. He taught at Fayetteville High School until a recent break to pursue music full time, and he tapped into that well again when he performed at a recent pep rally there. His Arkansas gigs the last six weeks have all doubled as way to build enthusiasm at home to carry him through the voting rounds. The state of Arkansas carried him to the Grammy gig early last year and also buoyed central Arkansas native Kris Allen to a victory on “American Idol” in 2009.
So now, he waits. He’s prepped a song, one he has to keep a secret. He promises it’s a “super monster tune” that was a multiweek country hit.
“It’s right in my sweet spot,” he said.
And, he argues, he’s from the sweet spot of the country.
“I think where you’re from matters. I’m from Arkansas. I know what that means.”
It means he has a real chance on “The Voice.”