Listen in on this short documentary on Barney
cmlifevideo, Published April 6, 2017
AND/Or follow along with the transcripts:
Hi, my name is Barney Betka I live here in Mt Pleasant MI. I love to play music, I love to play! Yeah, that's one of my many mental health resources.
My music career is interesting because I came to Central years ago to study classical trumpet. Like a lot of young men and women you know, you have an idea of what you want to do musically, and I just wanted I want to play drums. My folks basically said that’s not going to happen! My dad had an old trumpet up in the attic and said so if you are going to do anything you're going to do this! I said okay, so I started to play trumpet. I pretty much am one of those guys that if I give myself to something I want to be better than advertised. I did well, competed all through High School musically and won a bunch of metals and competitions. I ended up auditioning at CMU and got into the symphony and the bands that freshman usually can't get into, so I had a pretty good run in the marching chips. That was a rush marching out in front of the big stadium. But, I got kind of disillusioned with the whole music scene it was extremely competitive. For you to succeed in that world and a lot of the music setting, you have to hope other people do poorly and I just didn't like that at all. You know I had a couple friends who were playing, and we were competing for similar slots in the little symphonies. I had a good day, this guy had a bad day, and you know he didn't get in and I got in. I did not enjoy that part of the whole thing. I took a year off of school and wandered around, bought a guitar before I took a year off and basically taught myself how to play.
I've had some friends of extremely good musicians who try to make it in the music scene and they spend the majority of their 20s and 30s trying to pursue this passion that they had which is great. But they end up not being able to really make it. There’s a line in Nashville… you know what's the favorite line of a guitar player…. “Do you want fries with that?” Because there’s so many smoking musicians in the world and they congregate in those areas, so the work It's tough.
It's interesting, I have a job that I do very well, and it took a lot of time to get there to graduate school, a lot of years. All you people in school, there is life after school. I'm a nurse anesthetist so hopefully you'll never have to see me in the real world. You're looking up at me, I put you off to sleep to keep you alive during surgery, that’s what I do. For some people living in the van or living on from one wheel to the next, if that's making it, and they love to do it that's great. For me I just didn't see it working out that way. I got married and did that whole responsible adult thing you know, started to have kids which has been great. My whole family's musical, my daughter came up and joined me the other night, she has a good voice. My son is a great musician. My wife doesn’t think she has a voice, but she can sing too. So, there is a lot of music in the house, but yeah it is a passion of mine.
My work really does allow me to make a steady income and to be able to do the things I want. The guitar is an interesting beast, if you see me play you can kind of see I'm a frustrated percussionist so I kind of do beat on my instrument just a little bit. I have a gentleman that built the guitar for me, he kind of teases me, his name is Bill Wise, he’s a great guitar builder. He kind of says I'm like his stress tester for his instruments so I bang the crap out of them.
The thing with Ian (Armstrong)...I am one of those guys that really don’t believe in coincidence. I don't believe that you and I met just for no reason. I had a day off from work and I just decided, well I'm going to go down to the Dreamer Coffee Shop to see if they allow music to come in and I wandered into the place just on a whim you know. These things happen to all of us, there’s these little voices if you want to call them that, that speak to you, sometimes you listen to them sometimes you don’t. I just felt like I was supposed to go in and check the place out. I walked in and there’s this guy standing there, he’s nice and we get chatting a little bit and then I kind of turned from him and looked to the front counter. There was a Barista there making coffee and I said “is there anyone here I can talk to about maybe listening to my performances” and Ian had just basically walked around the counter at that time. I guess Ian here was like the music coordinator at Dreamer’s. It was just one of those cool moments you know. I think it's an appointed thing if you want to call it that and we just hit it off and started talking. Ian basically said he was putting this project together he's got a new album coming out he was having like a night when he was going to have some musicians come out. He asked if I wanted to come out play and I said Yeh! So, it just kind of evolved from there, he heard me play a little bit then I did an open mic night a week or two after that. Then he told me he had a three-hour slot down at the Taproom. He asked me if I wanted to play. He was extremely generous and gave me the sweet spot of the night you know, he let me have an hour.
I've been around a lot of musicians for a lot of years and you know we all start at different places. I've been critical of artists in the past only to see them hook up with these major bands in the United States because they have the passion to work hard, work harder than me basically, to get to that place. I see Ian as one of those guys he’s young, he’s got a lot of talent, he’s got a lot of drive, so I'm thinking this is probably the last I’ll see of him, he’s a good soul, with a good heart, that's Ian.
My daughter Rachel, you know as a parent to people watching this you know when you come to that place in your life where you start to have children there's an interesting responsibility that comes your way. You start to wonder, I mean you really don't know how your kids will end up. You know Rachel and my son Mike are both just great human beings. Rachel is just one of those people in my life, you know she's my daughter but if she wasn't my daughter I’d just want to hang out with her. She is just fun to be around, she’s great, just a great human being. She was involved with the high school choir here in town, it was a few years back. They were good enough, they went out to Carnegie Hall so that's a big deal. She’d say she did Carnegie Hall, I’ve never done Carnegie Hall! I've seen her through the years just mature, but she hasn’t had a chance to sing much lately so I'm just excited to bring her back into it. You know she’s got a great voice, we're just looking forward to doing a lot more stuff together.
My son, I got to tell you a little bit about my son. My wife and I had a son years ago born with Downs Syndrome and if you met Mike he would change your whole world. He’s changed a lot of people that met him. He started out banging on small drum kits and we ended up finding him a big kit, an electronic kit now. I'm just a little biased - he's got a good meter, he loves to dance. He's an amazing guy, I think you had better interview him next time.
The thing about music, I think the thing I love the most about it is that it crosses every line you can imagine, cultural, political, sexual, … you know it just speaks to your soul in a way that not anything else can. I met a couple guys the other day playing, I have never met them before. We just connected, they’re musicians and it's just a supernatural thing it is, and I don't know how people can deny that. When you hear a song and you get chills or brought to tears because it's deeply, spiritually, emotionally engaging.
I have a passion for this God who loves me. I don't think you have to necessarily preach it in your music. I'm not here to fix you. You know I'm here to love you, encourage you. Twenty years ago I could have fixed you maybe, I thought I had it all figured out. I don’t have that stuff figured out quite so much anymore. You know, much like that, and that's okay “evolved” if you want to call it that. It's good, sometimes you need to challenge your beliefs, look at it and say, “you know, I was just wrong” and that’s a hard thing to do. It is healthy we need to do that, look in the mirror once in a while instead of judging everybody else around us. Say dude, why don’t you just take care of your own little world. Just loving on some people, that's what I want to do with my music. I just want to somehow move people, help people.
Life’s tough, it can be really hard. You may be able to get away for a moment with a song or a moment and get away with some friends and have some good laughter and maybe a tear or two from some music. If I can do that, that’s a good thing. I think most musicians want people to feel and emote something from their music, otherwise why would you do it? I just hope to connect with people on some different plane if you want to call it that. Some supernatural, spiritual thing, not to get weird. Music is deep, it's deep stuff. It's one of those things you can't describe it, you can't figure it out, you don't know why that song just moves you. One of your friends say that’s just crazy. Well I've listened to music and just been in tears. A song can do that, so if I ever write a song that does that to people that would be cool. I am hoping my music will move people, that’s what I hope.
His guitar techniques have been influenced by Phil Keaggy, Michael Hedges, Pierre Bensusan, Ben Harper, and Billy McLaughlin.
His song writing style has been influenced by Sting, Twila Paris, and Larry Norman (to name a few).