This season, a very talented vocalist won the televised singing competition “The Voice.” Jordan Smith took top honors of the popular show, which concluded Dec. 15. He’ll likely go on to a successful music career.
Unfortunately, it also meant local favorite Barrett Baber didn’t win. He took third, having survived the knockout rounds, a previous live final and initial audition that wowed all four celebrity judges.
But don’t feel sorry for Baber, a Marion native who has called Fayetteville home for many years. He sold thousands of songs online. He went from a few thousand Twitter followers to 60,000 during the show’s run. He sang a duet with country icon Wynonna. And now he waits for the decision of Universal Republic Records, which has first right of refusal on offering him a record deal. If that company doesn’t offer him a deal within 30 days, he can explore other options. That might include another record deal from a different label, or forging out on his own, his situation just months ago before a friend convinced him to try out for the show. He’s comfortable with or without a record deal – “The Voice” already gave him a shot of momentum.
“I felt like I had a really good shot at making the final,” Baber said by phone from Fayetteville while reflecting on his run a week after the show concluded. “I had done so much groundwork. I’m not sure anyone else did that much work.”
He also had something else propelling him forward in the competition, he said.
“The people of Arkansas? That was my ace in the hole,” he said.
The people of Fayetteville have already demonstrated their support upon his return. As an independent, local artist, he once sold about 300 tickets for a show at George’s Majestic Lounge.
“300 or so? That’s a good night for a local guy,” he reflected. Or at least it was.
He booked his homecoming show for tonight (Dec. 28) at the club and promptly sold out, moving more than 700 tickets in just a few days. He added a second storytelling concert the following night and sold 200 tickets within a few hours. It has since sold out, too. The first show will feature his local band, made up mostly of Fayetteville residents, many of whom play in the band Boom! Kinetic. They are the best, he said, and he’d like to use his current band forever and on every project. Contractual obligations from a future record deal may mandate otherwise, but he’s hopeful.
The second show will be a listening environment, with tables and chair arranged on what normally serves as the dance floor inside George’s. Since his run on “The Voice,” Baber has often fielded questions about his song choices and his musical inspirations. He’ll try to answer those questions with just his stories, voice and guitar. He will also have a similar listening room concert in central Arkansas soon.
“That idea really has some legs,” he said. During the second show, he will perform acoustic renditions of the songs he performed during the show and a few more he worked up for performance but was not able to perform.
Christmas came as a nice respite from the work to prepare for those shows and his future, but the break won’t last long.
He’s got momentum now.
“Sarah (his wife) and I know this is a time when I’m hot,” he said. He’ll start working to book shows soon. He’s already snagged a string of opening dates for a national act he can’t quite announce yet. That came after he locked down a partnership with William Morris Entertainment, the largest booking agency in the world.
The goal is clear – he wants to turn his hard work at this critical juncture into lasting success beyond “The Voice.”
He’s got a vision for that, and he knows what’s just on the horizon – opening up for major-label headliners, a potential record deal and more.
“There are some big things coming, that’s for sure,” he said.