The term “self-taught musician” means something different than it did 20 years ago. Back then, it typically meant someone who learned how to play guitar or drums or keyboards on their own. Now, it describes someone like Greenville’s Britt Barker, who spent most of the last year learning how to build electronic-music tracks from the ground up in his home studio for his debut EP, “Trust.”
“I’m so grateful that we live in the internet age of YouTube and tutorials and blogs and forums,” Barker says. “I was able to find everything I needed to learn to make this record online.”
Electronic music allows the composer a lot of sounds to choose from, and for the five tracks on “Trust,” which Barker released under the name Catch the Rise, are warm, lush tunes with echoing keyboards, pulsing beats and blurry, dreamlike guitar. It’s an all-instrumental album that’s infectiously tuneful and contemplative, giving the often-cold genre of electronic music a genuinely human beating heart.
“I definitely want the music to be easy to listen to,” Barker says. “We’ve learned so much about how musical textures affect our brains, and you want something that’s going to soothe your ears.”
Barker dreamed his whole life of making music, but something more pressing got in the way: Years of drug and alcohol abuse.
“I started this four-year cycle of being in treatment and out of treatment. There were car wrecks and detoxes and all of the things you hear about that come with substance abuse disorder.”
“The first time I went to treatment was 2011, and the last was 2015,” he says. “I came to this realization that I’d partied all throughout my 20s, and it was one of those things where I was hoping that one day I’d kind of grow up or snap out of it. And it became clear to me that it wasn’t something normal that I was going to snap out of on my own. So I went into treatment, but I didn’t take it seriously.”
Barker, son of former Clemson University President Jim Barker, started a pattern with that first attempt at recovery in 2011.
“I didn’t understand the gravity of what I was dealing with,” he says. “I was comparing myself to other people, saying ‘I’m not as bad as this person,’ and I fell on my face again. I started this four-year cycle of being in treatment and out of treatment. There were car wrecks and detoxes and all of the things you hear about that come with substance abuse disorder. And then it came to this place where I kind of let go and went back to the treatment center. I told them, ‘I’ll do anything. I’ve destroyed my life so badly that I really don’t have anything to go back to.’ And I ended up staying in treatment for seven months.”
“Music gives me a reason to take care of my physical and emotional well-being, because that’s the place where my music is going to come from.”
2015 was a year of rebirth for Barker. He’s been sober ever since, he got a degree in philosophy from Clemson University and he currently works as a recovery coach at FAVOR, a community-based recovery assistance center.
Oh, and he also made his lifelong dream of playing and producing music come true with Catch the Rise. And as it happens, making music has been therapeutic for him during his recovery.
“When I graduated, I had a bunch of free time on my hands,” he says, “and just decided I was going to fill it with music. It kind of helps me in a cathartic way, and on another level, it gives me a lot of purpose. Music gives me a reason to take care of my physical and emotional well-being, because that’s the place where my music is going to come from. So the better I take care of myself, and my psychological, emotional, and spiritual state, the music will be more authentic and come from a deeper place.”