The hardest part of doing anything is often the beginning. There’s something so daunting about starting this brand new experience, and it can be intimidating. Whether it’s working out, learning a new skill, or creating art, these hurdles exist for many of us. Of course once we get into it, we often realize it was more than worth it. We feel euphoric during exercise, we make progress on our skill set, and we’re cranking out art we’re passionate about. The last part is key for any musician, and that’s where Girl Wilde comes in. The new musical project of life-long performer Alex Barnes, Girl Wilde has been releasing singles at a torrid pace, beginning in late 2018 with “Bad Side” and including last week’s release “Fake Louis.” While Girl Wilde is just starting to shape her musical career, she’s already embracing all the freedom, fun, and friends that come with a new beginning.
The incredibly forward, energetic, and honest Alex Barnes you hear in Girl Wilde’s music is the same Alex Barnes you get when you talk to her away from the stage. From the start of our conversation she bounces from topic to topic with equal enthusiasm for all of them, a fire and passion that’s evident in the deeply emotional, personal lyrics of her singles. You would never guess this is Barnes when she’s tired, but she describes the last few months as “exhausting, but very fun.”
This is a schedule she has wanted to embrace for some time. Like any industry, the music industry can often move slowly, with the timeline from an album’s conception to its release stretching on for months, and sometimes even years. Barnes says this is a reality she has felt pressure to follow both internally and externally, but with Girl Wilde she is rejecting it. “With this project I really wanted to make sure that I was able to put music out on a consistent basis and share my creativity,” she explains. If she and her writing team like a song, it’s getting put out almost as soon as it’s done. She laments there are songs she’s made she really adored, but because of the wait and other factors they never saw the light of day, so she decided to change that. While an EP is coming in the future, for now she explains her release strategy by saying “I much prefer putting songs out that I love, when I love them, in the right, timely manner.”
The release schedule is not the only part of the process Barnes handles speedily. The process of writing usually works quickly as well. All of the Girl Wilde singles we’ve heard so far came in just a handful of sessions. The most extreme example she gives of how fast she works is “Nervous Breakdown,” which was written in just 30 minutes. Barnes normally works with some close friends on writing, and between the group of them they can clearly crank out some music when they put their minds to it.
Working with those friends speaks to a theme in Barnes’s music and in her life, which is the healing, joyful power of friendship. While she never loses the lighthearted tone in her voice, Barnes gets serious when we talk about what her friends mean to her. “I think that friendship is one of the most important things you can have in your life. I do think at times more than a romantic relationship, friendships are what saves you,” she says. She further explains her friends have supported her and taught her the power of fearlessness and love, which in turn have delivered those themes into Girl Wilde’s music. While Alex Barnes is Girl Wilde, it’s safe to say this project would be very different without her friends. That’s true from a more immediate, practical standpoint as well, since Barnes writes music with her friends. “It makes everything really easy and honest and it’s really refreshing to be in the room with people who get you, and the ability to really go deep because there’s no fear,” she says of the songwriting process amongst her friends.
Her friends aren’t the only people she shares her emotions with, though. Barnes is an open book, saying “I’m the type of person where if I meet someone they know me and I know them within five minutes.” I can attest to that truth about her myself from our conversation. She laughs while she says this, but she does view it as a genuine, positive part of her personality. To her, it’s in serve of a higher cause of helping people. “Being honest about your life, your emotions, your mental health, your experiences, your journey is only going to help someone else,” she explains. She says she finds it “a relief” to put all of her emotions into her music and sharing them, and says she wouldn’t feel like she was connecting with people “all the way” if she held back how she was truly feeling in her music.
That connection also comes in the form of live performances, which Barnes lives for. She describes being the “weird kid” and forcing her neighbors to buy tickets to come see her perform in the backyard when she was a child. “I’ve forced everyone who has ever known me to in some way, shape, or form do karaoke or perform or whatever,” she says, laughing as she counts all the ways she love performing. While Girl Wilde is solely her project, she has a band for live shows and brings the same chatty, open nature she exhibits in conversation to the stage. “Performing is important to me and it’s how I can really connect with people” she states simply.
Sharing this much of herself can be an exhausting process, and while she lets out a sharp “HA!” when the topic of taking care of herself comes up, Barnes says she’s trying to be better about it. “I think that days I’m writing I know that I’m more emotionally vulnerable so I will definitely spend alone time with myself leading up to working, or right afterwords I spend some time with myself,” she says of her process. She’s also a big fan of small comforts, from skin care face masks to wine (red, never white). Bringing it full circle to an earlier point, she explains spending time with her friends is still one of the best ways she knows to take care of herself.
Looking toward the future, Barnes is following her own path with Girl Wilde. She’s currently unsigned, which she says is simply the way things are more than any deliberate decision on her part. “I just feel like whatever path is happening for me right now is the way it’s supposed to be and I am really enjoying doing my own thing,” she muses. Besides the musical endeavor of an EP coming later in the year, she’s also learning more about the business side of music and is serving as her own manager at the moment. While it’s daunting, she’s very proud of where she is at this point in her career. Beaming with pride and determination, she tells me “How about maybe your path is the one you’re supposed to travel, and that’s what I keep telling myself. I have to calm the fuck down, this is my path. My journey is not going to look like anybody else’s.”
With three well-received singles out in the world and more music coming in 2018, Girl Wilde is off to a strong start. More importantly, Alex Barnes is doing what she loves to do: working with friends, connecting with people, and sharing her emotions with people in a way that makes sense to her. If you ever wonder how she’s feeling or what comes next for Girl Wilde, there’s no need to worry. She’s going to tell you, and it’s going to sound great.