“A good song has a way of speaking to everybody” Danny Barnes says. “I have faith that more people are going to hear my songs, which is really what I have to offer. I’m not one of those virtuoso instrumentalists, I can’t compete with those guys, but the one thing I can do is write really good songs.”
Part Southern gentleman, part humble artist, Barnes is being more than a bit self-effacing with this statement. Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and genre-bending artists of his craft, Barnes' musical interests are both varied and adventurous, and he incorporates that versatility into a progressive approach to an instrument that is musically polarizing and steeped in tradition. Although he demonstrates an appreciation for the history of the bluegrass, country, and folk music from which the banjo's reputation was born, his inventive take is what truly separates him from his contemporaries…using the banjo as his ‘weapon of choice’ to play non-traditional music like rock, fusion, and jazz with electronic percussion and loop elements.
He has come to redefine the banjo’s perceived image in an eclectic career for which genre definitions have merely been a polite suggestion. From his early days as the driving force behind the impressive Austin-based Bad Livers, a band of pioneering Americana missionaries, through a prolific solo career and the development of his trademark 'folkTronics' project, a startling approach that incorporates digital technology and various effect pedals to stretch the tonal range of the instrument, Barnes has always listened to his proudly offbeat inner voice.
His skills as an instrumentalist and his open embrace and infectious love of music for music’s sake, have brought him to share the stage and record with a wide array of marquee artists that reads like a who’s who among broad musical landscapes, ranging from bluegrass greats Bela Fleck, Del McCoury, and Sam Bush, newgrass stars Yonder Mountain String band, to Americana artists Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, and Nickel Creek, to Jam friendly Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, and Keller Williams, to jazz and blues instrumentalists Bill Frisell, Chuck Leavell, and John Popper, to members of the punk and metal Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys, and Ministry.
Nick Forster is a professional musician, record producer, radio host and Executive Director of a non-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado. He is most widely known as a long standing member of the award winning bluegrass band, Hot Rize and as the host and founder of the musical and environmental radio program, eTown.
Born in Beirut in 1955 while his father worked for the State Department, Nick was raised in upstate New York. He started playing drums at age ten, but abandoned them in favor of his first guitar a year later. As a teen, he played in folk and folk-rock bands. His desire to pursue music as a career in the mid-seventies led him to Colorado, where he worked at the famed Denver Folklore Center. It was there he met the three young men with whom he would form the contemporary bluegrass band Hot Rize in 1978. For the band, Nick supplied bass, vocals and guitar and was also well known as the M.C. and host. He won recognition as a writer as well, earning praise from Rolling Stone Magazine as “an exceptional songwriter.”
Hot Rize established an acclaimed international reputation, releasing ten albums and touring worldwide fulltime for over 12 years. The band appeared on countless radio and television programs, including Austin City Limits, The Grand Old Opry and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Hot Rize earned both a Grammy nomination and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award in 1991. Ironically, in the face of this success, the band members collectively decided to pursue individual projects later that year and went into semi-retirement. In September of 2014, Hot RIze released When I'm Free, their first new studio record in 25 years and will be touring heavily through 2015. The Bluegrass world is welcoming them back with open arms.
Based on his varied experiences, and while on a musical State Department tour in eastern Europe, Nick conceived the idea of a new concept in radio - eTown, the popular weekly radio variety show now heard worldwide. As eTown’s host, Nick leads a radio program that entices the audience with live performances from today’s top musicians, then engages listeners with conversation and information about our communities and our environment. His warm on-air wit, insightful interviewing skills and stellar guitar playing are hallmarks of the show. eTown shows are recorded live at the brand new solar-powered eTown Hall in downtown Boulder, adding eco-friendly and innovative high-end music venue building skills to Forster's resume.
In addition to eTown and Hot Rize, Nick remains an active player in the music world, performing at major festivals around the globe and playing recording sessions for various artists across all genres. He also is an accomplished record producer with a Grammy nomination and other prestigious awards to his credit.
Nick lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife Helen and their cat Lucy. He has three daughters and one granddaughter.