Wish You Were Here is the moniker of LA-based musician, Jesse Barnett, and now he’s releasing his debut full-length, I’m Afraid of Everything. To mark the release Wish You Were Here has shared a new music video for “Christmas Creek” an album standout that starts with gentle percussion and slowly blossoms into a cathartic cut of post-rock inflected indie folk. I’m Afraid of Everything is a fully realized debut that strikes a precise balance between intimate and atmospheric, with Barnett’s warm, soulful vocals and undeniable melodies leading the way. Lyrically “Christmas Creek” explores the challenges of letting go and moving on from the baggage that accumulates along with life experience, and its accompanying video offers a more surreal interpretation of Barnett’s deeply human themes.
Purchase I’m Afraid of Everything:
For Barnett, Wish You Were Here is part reinvention, part catharsis, and part fresh start. While Barnett is mainly known for his work in punk and hardcore (fronting bands like Stick To Your Guns and Trade Wind) Wish You Were Here couldn’t be more sonically different. The project’s origins go back to Barnett’s earliest musical roots, falling in love with the work of songwriters like Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Bill Withers at a young age. This fascination with classic songwriting preceded his introduction to punk rock and engrained Barnett’s musical DNA with the idea that volume is not the only way to achieve impactful, compelling songs. At the start Wish You Were Here was less of an intentional project and more of a necessary response to personal upheaval–an outlet to find solace and process feelings through art. Recorded over the course of two winters the album documents Barnett wrestling with the inevitability of change, trying to make peace with uncertainty, and inadvertently finding a creative new beginning.
I’m Afraid of Everything track list:
1. Christmas Creek
2. No Say
4. Five Roses
5. Hell Inside My Head
7. Come Find Me
8. Dreams Like Dogs
09/28 Los Angeles, CA @ Hotel Cafe (record release show)
Wish You Were Here — the moniker of songwriter Jesse Barnett — is part reinvention, part catharsis, and part fresh start. The Los Angeles, CA-based musician’s debut full-length, I’m Afraid of Everything, began as an impromptu means of processing a tumultuous period and slowly evolved into a way forward. It’s a snapshot of upheaval that inadvertently became a new beginning, and resulted in a collection of powerful songs that reckon with the inevitability of change.
I’m Afraid of Everything documents many shifts in Barnett’s life but for those familiar with his music, the most immediately apparent transformation is a sonic one. For the better part of two decades Barnett has been making his mark in the world of heavy music fronting Stick To Your Guns, and while Wish You Were Here’s hushed vocals and lush instrumentation might seem like a drastic switch, it’s a sound that couldn’t be more deeply rooted for Barnett. “I grew up in a family that just really appreciated good music, so stuff like Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Bill Withers was always playing around the house. I didn’t find punk and hardcore until high school, but I was already playing acoustic guitar and singing, so that kind of music is actually closer to my musical ‘origin story’ than punk,” Barnett laughs. This deep appreciation for the songwriting craft followed him even as punk led him to unexpected places. Stick To Your Guns became a powerhouse in hardcore and allowed Barnett a career in music, as well as the opportunitiy to see the world. But the life of a touring musician is unconventional and full of challenges, which would eventually lead him to Wish You Were Here.
The songs on I’m Afraid of Everything began to take shape over five years ago during a freezing Montreal winter. “I had a hard time learning how to navigate between normal life and tour life,” Barnett explains. “My long term relationship was ending, and I was getting frustrated with being in a band because I blamed touring for not being able to make my relationship work. You can plan your whole life but it can be completely uprooted. I needed something to make sense of everything that was happening.” Barnett’s friend and producer Derek Hoffman helped him record and hone the early ideas, and often offered much needed encouragement. Spring arrived and along with it more touring, and it wasn’t until winter the following year that Barnett returned to Wish You Were Here at Hoffman’s behest. “I had no plans to release any of the songs, but Derek really pushed me to finish what we had started and to write more,” he recalls. “So going into that second winter of recording I knew we were making a record.”
By this time, Barnett’s relationship had come to an end, and on his own he found that he wrote with a wider perspective and seized the chance to look back on years of his life. A dichotomy of visceral emotion and considered self-reflection permeates I’m Afraid of Everything, as Barnett open-heartedly chronicles his ups and downs, paints vignettes of vivid moments and feelings, and incorporates references family, friends, and memories–all in an effort to find acceptance of the past while unknowingly starting his next chapter.
“Christmas Creek” opens the album with a gently pulsing beat, cloudy keyboards, and Barnett’s warm vocals before gradually cresting as he tells a heart-rending story of a family member losing their battle with addiction, and his mother’s moving lesson on loss and acceptance: “letting go isn’t the end.” This sentiment is woven throughout I’m Afraid of Everything, with tracks like “No Say” and “Obvious” grappling with self-doubt and times of uncertainty. “Hell Inside My Head” finds Barnett trying to come to terms with the impact constant travel has on the people back at home atop nimble fingerpicking and piano, while “Come Find Me” tries to shake interpersonal baggage over the album’s most propulsive beat.
Across I’m Afraid of Everything, Barnett demonstrates a confidence with arranging and an ability to make impactful songs with minimal instrumentation, often building layers of understated guitar flourishes, keys, and percussion into dynamic moments of shimmering atmosphere or cathartic release. That search for relief seems to drive Barnett throughout the album, but just as in life, it doesn’t offer conclusions or answers to the unpredictability of existence. The closing track “Dreams Like Dogs” rises and falls before landing on a final chord that sounds like it’s still waiting to be resolved, serving as a fitting non-ending to Wish You Were Here’s beginning.