The last time BJ Barham and his band made their way through Dallas, American Aquarium looked different from how it will appear when they return to town to play in the new Statler Ballroom on July 28.
In February 2017, the band, comprised mostly of childhood friends, all called it quits after more than a decade of touring relentlessly.
“When we started this thing, we were all on the same page with the same goals.” Barham says. “Fast forward 10 years, everything changes. We all started from the same tree but ended up so far apart from each other.”
It took a few months to regroup, but Barham retooled American Aquarium, pulling mostly from Texas talent. Ben Hussey (bass), Joey Bybee (drums) and Shane Boeker (lead guitar) all hail from the Lone Star State while Adam Kurtz brings some Nashville flare on pedal steel.
It’s been almost a year, and the band is swinging through Texas to promote its first record under the new lineup. Aptly titled Things Change, the record’s name fits on many fronts. Since the 2014 release of Wolves, the last offering under the old guard, a lot has changed in Barham’s world. In addition to the new band, he’s gotten sober and gotten married. Three months ago, he became a father.
In our chat with with Barham, he gushed about his work, his band and his family.
“I’ve never been this proud of a group of songs, start to finish," he says.
Barham, an autobiographical songwriter, penned all the songs on the record. He’s never been afraid to bleed for the sake of the song, documenting his struggles with alcohol, women and making a living in music. While Things Change touches those pages, there’s a big left turn toward hope, resilience and maturity, all qualities that come in handy when becoming a father. Despite the uplifting subject matter, Things Change is still gritty, Americana rock ’n’ roll that goes perfectly with Barham’s blue-collar truth-telling. It’s his best songwriting endeavor to date.
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Barham also insists that with this incarnation of Aquarium, the shows are better than they’ve ever been.
“There’s a different kind of spirit that we’re playing with right now," he says. "We feel we have something to say that’s timely and important to communicate. There’s an urgency, and we are playing each show like it’s our last.”
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Although Barham grew up in a tobacco town just outside Raleigh, North Carolina, American Aquarium has been embraced by Texans craving real, craftsmen-style songwriting packaged in folk-style rock ’n’ roll.
“Texas and Oklahoma kind of gave me a career,” he acknowledges. “After Burn. Flicker. Die., we were going to hang it up, but right after making that record, Turnpike [Troubadours] took us out on the road, so we played a lot in Oklahoma and Texas. After a couple of years, we were able to come back and really have our own fan base.”
Folks attending the June 28 show will also get to see Frisco native Dalton Domino open. Domino, considered a promising young talent in the Texas/red dirt scene, garnered praise for his album Corners in 2017.