Photo: Blair LeBlanc

Seán Barna finds inspiration in personal truths and Open Mic Nights on “Naked Heart (Missy)” (BPM Premiere)

Seán Barna is a nuanced and precise storyteller, though his narratives aren’t composed with any sense of musical convention. His songs, in fact, break with tradition in both their subject matter and their use of familiar singer-songwriter tropes, as Barna uses his formidable lyrical insight and rhythmic fierceness to explore aspects of queer identity and social destratification in dizzying detail.

Blending modern indie folk rambles with the twangy reflections of artists like Gram Parsons and The Band, Barna crafts a sincere and captivatingly weird glimpse at his own internal motivations and the experiences around which they have been shaped. Possessing a distinctive voice which veers between opaque falsettos and an almost spoken word tonality, it digs into the joy and the ache and the struggles of those who are marginalized and pushed to the edges of society. Transfixing and altogether necessary right now, his words and music paint both a tragic and joyous portrait of living in America in 2020, a place where freedoms are easily lost but where hope can survive in the darkest of environments.

Barna will release his new EP, Margaret Thatcher of the Lower East Side, on May 29, a 6-track emotional whirlwind that finds him continuing to tackle themes of inequality and oppression in a wry and heartfelt manner. Collaborating with Dave Drago, Tommy Sherrod, and Kyle Joseph on the production side of things, he also worked with Dave Immerglück of Counting Crows and Camper Van Beethoven to give the music the proper sway and melodic elasticity.

On his latest single, “Missy (Naked Heart)”, Barna draws from an experience he had at an open mic in Denver where he encountered a person who would inspire him to craft a call-to-arms to those who fight against societal restrictions and are able to maintain their humanity in the face of such inhumanity. Adapting classic folk-rock aesthetics alongside more modern indie rock theatrics, he concocts a spry (and, dare I say, jaunty) homage to Missy’s vivid and independent spirit, a daring reminder of the power of courageous truth and emotional awareness.

“I was at Syntax Songwriters Open Mic in Denver, hosted by my friend and amazing musician, Anthony Ruptak,” Barna says. “One of the performers was this mystical human, Missy. Missy, as far as I could tell, was fearlessly, unapologetically queer, and over the course of a few songs I deified them in my brain. This song is basically an answer to Rufus Wainwright’s song, “Gay Messiah,” because I think maybe I figured out who the gay messiah is. It’s also a call to arms for other queers out there to live fearlessly against any oppression from society or one’s family, and to continue to be fucking weird whenever possible. This song features Counting Crows’ Dave Immergluck on electric guitar.”