Graham Barham

Graham Barham

Hailing from a rural Louisiana village called Oak Ridge (population: 124), singer/songwriter Graham Barham infuses his music with so many unforgettable images specific to small Southern towns: moss ponds and magnolia trees, pickup trucks and one-lane roads, to name just a few. But as shown on his breakout single “Preachers Need People”—a 2022 release that brought him massive viral success—the Nashville-based musician has a rare gift for turning that homespun storytelling into songs epic in emotional scope. After years of co-writing in such eclectic genres as alt-pop and hip-hop, the 24-year-old artist is now set to make his Virgin Records debut with a batch of songs showcasing his singular brand of country: soulful, straight from the heart, and steeped in lived-in detail.

The son of a farmer and a schoolteacher, Barham grew up on his family’s farm and got his start singing in church as a little kid. By age 10 he’d taught himself to play guitar and begun writing songs
of his own, mining inspiration from classic country artists like George Strait as well as heavy-hitters from the pop world (an element that still informs his knack for crafting immediately catchy
melodies). “I pretty much fell in love with songwriting right away, but coming from a place that’s extremely blue-collar, I didn’t understand how to make a living from music,” says Barham. “But
when I was 16 my best friend’s mom passed away and I wrote a song for her and played it at her funeral, which was the first time I really saw how much power music could have on people. That was a huge turning point for me, and I knew I had to find a way to write forever.”

At age 18, Barham moved to Nashville and soon started writing for other artists, steadily honing the potent balance of humanity and honesty and self-aware humor that now defines his lyrics. In early- summer 2022, he experienced a major breakthrough with the writing of “Preachers Need People,” a slow-building and undeniably poignant track spotlighting his gritty yet nuanced vocal work (from the chorus: “Like headaches need hangovers and gypsies need a road/Cussin’ need a tongue to talk and these cigarettes need smoke/To keep this world spinning and sinners in them seats/Yeah, preachers need people like me”). “That song came to me when I was bartending one night and saw a guy still sitting at the bar even though it was past closing time,” recalls Barham, who co-wrote “Preachers Need People” with his hometown friend Beau Bailey and singer/songwriter Kasey Tyndall. “I thought to myself, ‘Man, that guy looks terrible—he really needs me to pour him a drink to get him through whatever’s going on with him.’ It was a Saturday and I had to go to church in the morning, and the whole situation got me thinking how preachers need people like me, because otherwise they wouldn’t have anyone to pray for.” Not long after playing “Preachers Need People” live for the first time.

Mostly produced by Will Bundy (a songwriter/producer who’s also worked with Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, and Jason Aldean), Barham’s debut body of work delivers plenty of bittersweet reflection on the ups and downs of finding your way in the world. Along with “Preachers Need People” and the heavy-hearted but irresistibly fun “BREAK IT IN A BAR”. The project features songs like “TWO BROKE HEARTS”—a scorching take on the breakup blues, fueled by Barham’s gloriously twangy vocals and smoldering guitar work. “I was coming off a relationship and met someone who’d also just ended something, and came up with that whole concept of two broke hearts being better than one,” says Barham, who co-wrote the track with Bundy and singer/songwriters Summer Overstreet and Justin Wilson. “It’s sort of laughing at the irony of relationships, and making it into a feel-good song.” And on “Beer By My Bed,” Barham offers up a slow-burning and all-too-real portrait of post-blackout regret. “I like to have a good time, and I definitely enjoy beer or really anything alcoholic that’s wet,” says Barham. “One night I was hanging out with a girl, and when I woke up in the morning there was a beer by my bed and a note saying something like ‘I don’t sleep next to drunk guys.’ I’d flat-out blacked out, and so I turned that whole experience into a song about those nights when there’s no reason to keep on drinking but for some reason you just do it anyway.”

Now gearing up for the year, Barham remains intent on making music that tells the most soul-baring truths. “I’m generally a really happy guy, so writing songs is a way of releasing any negative energy and expressing myself with a level of honesty that can be tough when you’re talking to people,” he says. “A lot of my songs are about the man I’m trying to become, but I also want to be truthful about who I am presently and the man I was in the past. I hope people can connect with what I’m saying, and that it gives them that feeling when you listen to a song and you need to start it back up right away. It’s a kind of feeling you can’t even put to words—but I hope it affects them in a very positive way.”