Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lockwood Barr is beginning to see the fruits of her labors pay off just the way she dreamed. After moving to Nashville from her native California to attend Vanderbilt University, Barr has paid the usual Music City dues, playing various writers’ nights and co-writing with her fellow artists.
In just the past two years, she was named as an emerging artist to watch by the Country Music Association. She’s also performed at the top Music City venues like the Bluebird Cafe and opened for a number of acts, including Tyler Hilton and Wiz Khalifa. In 2016, she released her breakthrough project, the ten-song CD “Signs Along the Road,” produced by Matt Odmark of the Grammy-winning band Jars of Clay.
Recently, Barr realized another accomplishment, one of a much more personal nature. It sprang from an incident that happened 10 years ago this January 29th, the tragic suicide of her childhood friend Casey Brooks. The 17-year-old Brooks jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, just months away from her high school graduation. Others had ended their lives in a similar manner, nearly 1,700 in fact since the structure opened in 1938. For years, Barr and her colleagues have petitioned for a preventive barrier to be constructed along the iconic bridge, to deter the number of suicides. This past spring, following some delays and red-tape snags, plans for a $200 million barrier were finally approved, and completion is due by the year 2021.
“It was such a grassroots effort,” says Barr, as she recalls the years of putting the project together. “It started literally at the town council level and worked up from there.” But there were disappointments along the way. “Something would get pulled or someone would come up with an appeal,” Barr says. “I sort of gave up hope at certain points. But I’m excited that this is now happening. I feel like Casey would be proud of our efforts.”
The touching story caught the attention of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post and, ultimately, CBS News. On January 7th, Barr appeared on the popular CBS Sunday Morning program to talk about the Golden Gate Bridge project and advocate further for more awareness of mental health issues.
“I flew back home for the launch ceremony and went with the council members who helped me draft the proposal,” Barr notes. “And I think Casey’s story just stood out. The media outlets were moved by how her friends responded to her death. It was kind of crazy after that. After the Chronicle ran the story, I was looking down at my phone and I had a message from the Washington Post, wanting to talk to me. They got my number from the Chronicle reporter. The Post reporter stayed on the phone with me for a long time, getting all the details about Casey’s story. CBS got hold of me after that and invited me to be on their Sunday show. It was all kind of surreal,” she adds, “but I feel like we’re getting Casey’s story told.”
Barr has helped relate her friend’s saga with her song “Starting Over,” included on her previous album “The 25th Hour.” Barr wrote the song in memory of Brooks, who would have turned 28 this year. When she plays the song in a live setting, fans often approach her afterward and share their own stories of pain or loss. “I’m always reminded how a struggle with mental illness has touched so many people’s lives,” Barr says.
These days, Barr continues to build on her songwriting and musicianship resumes. Banjo is her primary instrument, though she’s also proficient on piano and guitar. She’s equally comfortable in the diverse worlds of bluegrass, Christian and country. “I’m ready to release a couple of new songs,” Barr says. “By the end of March, I’ll be hitting the road again.”
Barr also shares an additional clear-cut goal for 2018. “I want to play the Grand Ole Opry,” she states with enthusiasm. “That is definitely on the list. My family and I are such huge fans of the Opry and we always listened to it on WSM.”
She’s gained a new-found confidence following the acclaim of “Signs Along the Road,” which featured the title track along with the country ballad “Forgotten How to Cry” and others. “That was a great launching pad,” Barr says. “As far as the songs, I think we took it to the next level. I started writing with more different artists around town and they helped me open up a little. I found out that the more honest I am with my songs, the more I connect with the audience. ‘Signs Along the Road’ really inspired me.”
Much like her lifelong friend, Casey Brooks.