Instead of taking the predictable path, Warren Barfield's climb to fame has been quite a journey. This young artist spent five years (between the ages of 18 and 23) logging almost 200,000 miles in his trusty ’93 Mustang, carting himself and his acoustic guitar from church to church, gig to gig, all over the U.S. (as well as Mexico and Russia), all year round, all by himself, living hand to mouth while patiently honing his infectious, earthy baritone, complex instrumental prowess, and expert stage presence—and without a hint of expectation.
As to why Barfield chose this rarely traveled musical path in our electronic age of indie-artist websites and lightning-speed solutions? “I believe it’s what God had in mind for me,” he says, matter of factly.
The son of a North Carolina preacher, Barfield developed his endurance for travel early in life. “I was born in Goldsboro and have lived in Dudley, Clayton, Spivey’s Corner—which, by the way, is the Hollerin’ Capitol of the Universe. Now my parents live in Autryville—and I live in Charlotte with my wife, Megan.”
His folks also instilled in him a love for music very early on. Since his mom and dad led worship services for the bevy of tiny, rural churches, it wasn’t long before Barfield—along with his sisters and brother—got into the act as well. “We were the music!” he recalls. “My mom plays piano by ear, and my dad plays drums and sings. So they got my sisters Tonia and Rena to lead worship and sing as well his younger brother Jeffrey took over drumming duties for his dad, too. And about the time I turned eight, I began picking up the guitar. Before that, I was singing ‘Somebody Prayed for Me,’ standing eye-level with the piano keys. I always liked music.”
As the years passed, Barfield caught the country bug and began teaching himself Garth Brooks tunes; then things really shifted into high-gear when he discovered Contemporary Christian artists like Wes King and Steven Curtis Chapman. “Learning about Steven Curtis Chapman especially was exciting because he showed me how to combine my two main passions—my faith and my music,” Barfield explains.
Shortly thereafter, Barfield was found playing at his parent’s church Chapman and King tunes along with songs he had written, and taking his guitar to school to play during breaks. The talented teenager received invites to play youth group lock-ins and services for nearby congregations—he even recruited his mom to chauffeur in a pinch. “Every month, it just slowly grew,” Barfield continues. “I remember telling my parents that a youth conference called and wanted to fly me down to Atlanta for a few days—and they let me go!” As his reputation expanded regionally, Barfield continued his homework, graduated high school, and enrolled in a local college as a religion major. But his academic pursuits wouldn’t last.
“During my freshman year of college, I realized if I stayed in school, I’d be stuck with more responsibilities and wouldn’t have time to do music,” Barfield recalls. “Besides, I couldn’t imagine looking back years later and imagining, ‘What if?’” So, with little to worry about, Barfield packed up some clothes, his guitar and hit the highways. A year later, he took stock—and was pleasantly surprised: 100 concerts in 13 states. “So I booked more shows in the second year and did it all over again.”
Life on the road all by his lonesome not only opened Barfield’s eyes to many realities of the music business—especially when money he received from Gig A often had to cover gas, food, and lodging on the way to Gig B—but his full-time musician status also forced him to improve and grow as a singer and songwriter on a daily basis. “My sound,” he notes with a chuckle, “is the combination of all my influences, Steven Curtis Chapman, Dave Matthews, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Edwin McCain, James Taylor, and Pat Monahan from Train. They all pushed and challenged me in different ways.”
Barfield found himself opening for well-known artists such as Crystal Lewis, Anointed, Clear, Scott Krippayne and Russ Lee. After opening for Krippayne, Barfield found that Scott was handed a copy of his songs from a promoter and Scott contacted Warren to fly him to Nashville, where his most recent chapters have been written—penning and recording his debut album.
“I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer,” Barfield humbly admits, “so when I came to Nashville to start working on the record, I realized that I have a huge opportunity to express myself—then everything I saw driving down the road became a song title! I ended up writing a bunch of songs, and we narrowed it down to 20, then down to the 11 that made it on the record.”
The main ingredient Barfield has been trying to get across in his songs lately is honesty—and he draws a ton of inspiration from authors, especially Christian authors like Brennan Manning and Philip Yancey. Warren’s pastor Tim Aukerman also challenges Warren to be honest about his faith. “Most Christians want you to believe they’re perfect, but they’re just wearing masks and not being very honest about their lives,” he notes. “But Manning and Yancey challenged me to be honest in my struggles, even to the point of questioning my faith at times. Because I believe that Christians who’re honest about their lives will have the greatest impact on the world around them—and at the end of the day, that’s the kind of artist I want to be.”