— by Brandee J. Tecson
Some guys have all the luck.
Texas pop-rockers Barefoot were in Hollywood less than 24 hours before being spotted by an A&R rep who gave the budding musicians their big break.
"We were sitting here with our friend [and fellow Texan] Ryan Cabrera, having breakfast, when this guy named Victor came up to us and asked us if we were in a band, and we looked at him and we're like, 'Yeah, what of it?' " guitarist/singer Chris Munselle recalled, laughing over what happened nearly three years ago at the Kings Road Cafe.
"To this day, we haven't seen or heard from that guy," lead singer/guitarist Chris Pearson added.
The music scout requested a copy of Barefoot's demo, and within a matter of days, label heads were clamoring for the "TRL"-worthy 20-somethings and their four-part harmonies. But just as the madness was about to ensue, Munselle and Pearson — along with fellow guitarist/singer Clay Jones, drummer/singer Jason Dering and bassist Matt Fellenbaum — recruited Joe Simpson, an old frat buddy of Pearson's father.
"My dad and Joe went to college together and worked in ministries in Texas, and a couple of us went to school with Jessica and Ashlee," Pearson explained. "We were staying at [Joe's] house in L.A. when all this happened, and when he heard about the labels calling, he was like, 'What? Well, I can come with you to these meetings if you want ...' "
"... so we didn't just sign our lives away," Munselle quipped.
"And we were like, 'OK, you know what you're talking about,' " Pearson added.
Simpson signed on as the band's temporary manager, but he eventually adopted Barefoot as his very own once he inked a deal to form his own Geffen Records imprint, Papa Joe Records.
"They're like my children getting their first break and I'm doing everything I can to give them the best shot they can get," said Simpson, who immediately shipped Barefoot overseas for three months to begin work on their debut album. For the effort, the group holed up with Swedish producers Anders Bagge and Peer Astrom, who have concocted beats for Jessica Simpson, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez.
Barefoot then spent the next two years honing their sound — a blend of bluegrass, Southern rock and British pop stemming from influences ranging from Guster and Red Hot Chili Peppers to Coldplay and the Beatles. They penned more than 50 songs for their forthcoming disc, which was originally tapped for an October 2005 release, but has been pushed back to later this year. Many of the tracks, including the somber, heart-tugging "Rain," deal with the universal message of love.
"The theme of that song is clearly the aching heart, how you can't live without somebody and it feels like there's a piece of you missing without that person there," Jones said of the track. "It's like you're walking through the streets, void of reason.
"[I think] love songs are the greatest songs out there," he added. "[Those] are the ones that last forever and go from generation to generation."
The band had many willing females to woo when it scored a spot opening for former-schoolmate-turned-pop-sensation Ashlee Simpson on her recent fall trek. Barefoot say the experience was a major shift from their first outing just a year prior when they toured the back counties of Texas and Tennessee in Munselle's parents' van.
"We were like a bunch of little kids when we got on the bus," Jones recalled. "It was like, 'Ooh, cup holders!' and we were jumping from bunk to bunk. It was just ridiculous."
All of this good fortune isn't lost on the guys, who chalk much of it up to divine intervention.
"This is one of those things that you couldn't have planned or ever intended, you know?" Pearson said. "We like to think it was just part of a bigger plan for us."
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