Interview: Saywecanfly

By Mark Johnson

Braden Barrie is an example of the power of social media in today’s modern music industry. Back in 2011, Barrie set up a YouTube channel under the name Saywecanfly and since then, has been using the platform to promote his music and grow a fan-base. Five years later, Barrie finds himself signed to Epitaph Records and in the middle of his biggest tour to date, supporting his latest EP ‘Darling’.

These shows mark the first time that Barrie has toured with a full band and we found out how the Canadian singer-songwriter was finding the new experience, ahead of his show at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms.

How’s the tour going so far?

It’s good man, I love playing shows in the UK. This is the first full band tour I’ve ever done so it’s something completely new for me and for a lot of the kids coming to the shows, they haven’t seen me before, so it’s their first time seeing it too. There’s just been good vibes, all the kids seem to be excited about it and enjoying the shows, so it’s been good. Apart from being deathly ill!

How’s it been touring with a full band rather than travelling as a solo act?

The coolest part is just having more dudes around, but there has been a lot of extra stuff to bring over that I’ve not been used to before. We had problems getting our gear over here, just because there was so much of it. But it’s good having more people to delegate the stress to and help figure stuff out. It’s been cool.

When it comes to writing new material, are you going to be looking at that from a full band perspective as well?

I think it’s probably just going to be me. I’m always going to do my writing on my own, it’s the only way I’m capable of writing. I’ll jam with people now and then but I like to do the core of it on my own and piece it all together. Pat [drums] and Geoff [bass] play parts on some of my records, so I’m sure I’ll get them involved when it comes to recording, but I like to be in my own zone when I’m writing.

The ‘Darling’ EP was out a few months ago. How’s the reception been?

It’s been good, especially on this tour. This has been the first tour I’ve done since it’s been out and the sing-alongs have been great, the kids know pretty much every word. It’s cool, people seem to like it.

There’s a really great mix of acoustic and full band-type songs on ‘Darling’, was it a conscious effort to bring more of that vibe to the record?

I don’t think it was necessarily a conscious effort. That EP came together really quickly, it was originally going to be some songs for the deluxe edition of my previous album and it just turned into its own thing. Once it started building I realised I was doing a lot of full band stuff and I had to pull myself back to make sure I gave people some of my acoustic stuff too. I wanted to give people something super real and raw and I think that’s what we achieved with it.

In the past you’ve released records pretty frequently; pretty much one a year. Have you already started working on the next record?

Yes. I mean, there’s a lot already done, I’ve been writing a lot, it kind of never stops!

Is that going to be in the form of another EP, or maybe a full-length?

I’m not sure yet, I’m trying not to tie myself down to any format, I’m just concentrating on the writing.

It’s interesting to see how great a channel YouTube has become for young, aspiring musicians. Did you ever imagine the Saywecouldfly channel would grow to this size when you started it? Was that ever your aim?

No, man! Saywecanfly was just the name I gave to my Youtube channel back in the day. I just did it just because I wanted more of a reason to concentrate on my music. I didn’t really care if anybody listened or not. I never imagined I’d be able to do it full time and have so many followers that care, it’s crazy.

Even though it’s a good conduit for promotion, it’s also highly saturated with so many other people trying to do the same thing. How did you manage to differentiate yourself on YouTube?

I spent so much time every day just replying to people and having conversations. I dropped out of high school and quit my job at the grocery store and every single day it was just hammering and studying social media, learning how to use it. I just spent so much time connecting with people. There are people who have way more followers than me, but the followers that I do have are so invested and connected, it’s really strong. They do a lot of the promoting, they’re not just a number, they care so much and they’ve cared from the start. It’s crazy to see how it’s grown.

Have you got any advice for other artists who are trying to use YouTube and social media to get started?

It’s endless! With social media there’s limitless possibilities, but the biggest thing is there are so many people trying to do the same thing, so you’ve got to make sure you’re giving people something good. It can’t just be half-assed, you’ve got to have professional looking social media pages – photos, a nice video – because there’s so much stuff being thrown at people that their attention spans are short, so you’ve got to stand out. Being genuine with your audience is the most important thing though, even for like, Walmart, or any company, you’ve got to show your human side.

You recently signed with Epitaph Records ahead of the ‘Darling’ release. How has it been working with them?

It’s been great, they’re an amazing label. The reason I started working with them, and them being my first time working with a label, is because the first conversation we had wasn’t about my social media numbers it was about my songs. They expressed so much interest in simply the music. It’s definitely different, but it’s cool and a very interesting learning opportunity. They’ve been great.

Has your creative process changed at all now that you’re signed to a label?

No I don’t think so. I think people assume that when you sign to a label they’re going to change how you sound, but they already appreciated what I was doing and knew that it was working, so they’ve never tried to trample on that at all. And I wouldn’t let them!

Given that you’ve already generated a large organic following through social media, why did you decide that now was the time to sign to a label? 

A lot is to do with timing, it just made sense to me and it was a deal I was happy with. I never really intended to do it but it just made sense. If I hadn’t done it then I’d never know and really Epitaph is the best choice of labels I could’ve had. There are pros and cons but at the end of the day it’s about what you’re willing to keep control of but if you’re on top of stuff and you’re staying ahead of everyone then it’s great if you’re willing to make it work.

Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year?

I have another tour after this and some other stuff in the works but I’m really excited to take some time to write and work on my music because I really feel like I need to do that. I need to spend some time with it and really dive in. I’ll definitely be making more music, music videos and putting out more content.

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