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SONG PREMIERE: Scranton singer/songwriter James Barrett deals with change in ‘First Days of July’

SONG PREMIERE: Scranton singer/songwriter James Barrett deals with change in ‘First Days of July’
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This weekend, Scranton singer/songwriter James Barrett will once again live out a longtime dream and return to the Scranton Cultural Center to open The Menzingers’ annual NEPA Holiday Show – this time with a full band. To give locals a taste of what that will sound like, he is premiering a brand new single today, “The First Days of July,” exclusively on NEPA Scene.

Like much of the indie/alternative rock music he has released since he was a teenager, this song is emotional and personal, yet relatable to his peers and those much older.

“The song is kind of about a bunch. A lot of it deals with trying to overcome the anxiety that arises from change. When our lives change, our visions of the future suddenly are in question and that causes a ridiculous amount of fear and anxiety, at least for me. This song was kind of my way of combating those emotions,” Barrett told NEPA Scene.

Though unlike his past EPs – “One More,” “The Metamorphosis EP,” and “Twenty” – the 21-year-old Clarks Summit native has crafted a larger sound for this track, which will open the full-length album he plans to release this spring.

“My brother Tyler Barrett drummed on the recording. I did all the other instruments and vocals. Everything was tracked, mixed, and mastered by my friend Jake Checkoway. It was recorded in two separate places in Philadelphia. The drums were tracked in The Boom Room near Fishtown, and everything else was tracked in Jake’s apartment,” he explained.

“Jake has recorded all my releases since ‘Twenty.’ He also runs a label called Honest Face Records. Meeting him totally changed everything for me. He’s insanely talented, and there’s nobody else I trust more with my new songs.”

Whether it’s his youth, undeniable passion, or a mixture of both, it’s clear in just a few minutes of talking to Barrett that taking this next musical step is a big moment in his life and career.

“I’ve waited a painfully long time to release a full band song, so it feels unreal to finally have something different out in the world. I’ve spent over two years working on these songs, and I’m just excited to show everyone the music I’ve wanted to play my entire life,” he enthused.

While Barrett has performed with a full band, Emberá, before, he said last week on the NEPA Scene Podcast that he will be essentially combining his solo work with this group rather than splitting his time between the two. He released an EP, “Skinny,” under the Emberá moniker last year, and soon after, 2017 ended on a high note for him.

He was a last-minute addition to the NEPA Holiday Show after two acts had to drop out, but this year, he will join Philly punk bands Dark Thoughts and Ramona as the billed openers on Saturday, Dec. 22. As a group originally from Scranton who signed to Epitaph Records and toured the world on the strength of five brilliant albums, The Menzingers have been a major influence on Barrett, who will welcome his brother Tyler, Doug Griffiths, and Angelo Maruzzelli on stage as his new live band.

“I am honored to be back again to open this year’s NEPA Holiday Show with The Menzingers. Last year was an unbelievable experience, and I’m overjoyed to be back with a full band for the first time in Scranton,” he said.

Doors open at 5 p.m., and the all-ages concert (21+ to drink) is standing room only. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 the day of the show and are on sale now at, all Ticketmaster outlets, and the Scranton Cultural Center box office (420 N. Washington Ave., Scranton). Proceeds from the show benefit Arts Alive, a local intensive arts institute for students in kindergarten through grade 12.

See NEPA Scene’s photos and full review of last year’s NEPA Holiday Show here and learn about Barrett’s music, the story of how he was added to the Holiday Show, and more in Episode 87 of the NEPA Scene Podcast:

Photo by Keith Perks/1120 Studios/NEPA Scene