Louisiana native Graham Barham has been writing songs for other artists for years, but now, he’s finding his own voice with songs like “Preachers Need People” and his forthcoming single “Break It In A Bar.”
Barham recently spoke to Music Mayhem about how he transitioned from songwriter to artist, how his friend Bailey Zimmerman broke the news to him about “Preachers Need People” going viral, the most interesting place where he’s experienced a breakup, and more.
With a population of just 115 people, Oak Ridge, Louisiana is where Barham’s farmer dad and school teacher mom raised him. He knew from a young age that he wanted to be a songwriter, so he moved to Nashville as a teenager and began writing music for multiple genres.
This year, Barham began releasing his own music thanks to friends who nudged him to pursue a career as an artist. They would tell him, “These songs are awesome G, but these aren’t my songs. These are your songs.”
Barham says that he’s not trying to find his sound, but that it has been finding him. “I’m working with one of my best friends in town, Will Bundy is producing me and for these next foreseeable songs. And so I’d say he’s kind of helping me curate that too. He’s kinda helping me figure he is a part of that sound. But other than that, I think the sound is coming on its own and it’s never felt more natural.”
Fans on social media have been eager to hear Barham’s music, leaving enthusiastic comments when he teases new songs like “Break It In A Bar,” which he’ll release on December 9.
Barham wrote the song with his childhood friend Beau Bailey, who he calls “one of the most talented writers that I’ve ever been around in my life.” Bailey wrote the hook and invited Barham over to his house to finish it, which they did in 45 minutes. “He wrote the first verse and chorus. I tweaked a little bit of it. We spit out the second verse like that and the song was written in 45 minutes, maybe less than that,” recalls Barham. The pair of friends had been trying to write that type of song for around six months, inspired by Barham’s bartending and Bailey’s personal life.
“He had dated a girl back home and I was kind of doing what I do and never settling down,” says Barham. As they reflected on relationships that had ended, Bailey said, “If they’re gonna do it, it might as well be somewhere we’re close to whiskey.”
Thinking back on his own experiences, Barham revealed the most interesting place where a girl broke up with him – the parking lot of a Hibbett Sporting Goods store. “She dumped me in a Hibbetts parking lot,” he laughed. “That’s not nearly as good as a bar.”
Barham’s first single, “Preachers Need People,” was an “epiphany” for the singer-songwriter, “not just as an artist or a writer or somebody trying to find their way in this crazy industry, but as a human.” The song was inspired by a Saturday night shift of bartending.
“I was working late one night and I saw this guy sitting at the edge of the bar and it was past closing time,” recalls Barham, who wondered what he was doing. ”I was like, man, that guy needs me to pour him a drink to get through this, whatever he’s going through.” Barham thought about how late it was, that it was technically Sunday morning and that he needed to go to church. “That priest needs me to come… It sounds terrible, but I was like, he’s not gonna get paid, in essence, because he’s not gonna have anybody there to pray for. And I was like, and preachers need people like me to come and to be there.”
Barham took the idea to Kasey Tyndall and they wrote it in 45 minutes. “We looked back and we were like, damn, that’s a song. And she put it on hold for herself. And I was like, man, that’s pretty cool. I’m a huge Kasey Tyndall fan. I was before I moved to town. I’m just so happy to be able to write songs with her. This is amazing.”
A few weeks later, Barham was working with The 615 House, a collective of content creators, and needed an original song to perform. He decided to perform “Preachers Need People,” which The 615 House filmed. Barham recalls the day he decided to post the video and the immediate viral reaction it had.
“I was with my family in Mississippi on the river for the 4th of July. We were celebrating a day early and I didn’t sleep the night before. And I was driving back to Nashville after we had been partying all day with the family. And I just posted the video they sent me just like I’d do any other video.”
The next morning, Barham found out that he had gone viral overnight.
“I woke up to a bunch of calls and texts from a buddy of mine, Bailey Zimmerman. And he was like, ‘What are you doing with that song?’ My phone was blowing up and I was like, What is going on right now? I’m so confused. And I called Bailey, I was like, What do you mean? And he’s like, hey, gotta go to your TikTok right now.” Once he looked, he realized that the song had gone viral overnight. He asked Tyndall if it was okay with her if he released the song and she gave him her blessing. They decided to put out a duet of the track as well.
Preachers Need People, the duet, is out now!! @grahambarham
“It was just such a cool thing cause I wasn’t planning on it. I think it just kind of happened how my sound is happening. I think it’s just kind of happening and I’m just honing in on everything that every opportunity that’s being put in front of me.”
Those opportunities have led to major news for Barham, which he exclusively revealed to Music Mayhem. “I just signed a six song deal with… I don’t even know if I’m supposed to say this or not, I don’t care. I signed a six song deal with basically Virgin Records. It’s a subsidiary, BMG.” Two of the songs are “Preachers Need People” and “Break It In A Bar,” while the remaining four songs will be released in 2023. “I’ve got a song coming out starting in January every six weeks.”
Barham also teased that he’ll be touring as well. “I do know that I’m gonna be playing shows, which is gonna be awesome, so I’m super excited about that.”