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Meet Bari

Hello friend. Here I can tell you a little more about me.

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I grew up on Long Island and attended Syracuse University, where I majored in Television, Radio and Film (and boys and the Grateful Dead). I thought I was aiming for a career at PBS or some other philosophical network, but on a whim on vacation in Canada, I bought a guitar. I always loved to sing and in high school, I was the original Glee; singing in school and taking the train to NYC for afternoon rehearsals at the First Act Children’s Theatre Off Broadway.

About one year before I graduated college, I picked up the guitar under my bed, and in a week I was writing songs. Within a month I had my first gig of mostly original material. All those years of music instantly came flooding back–just needing a vehicle, and the guitar drew the music out of me.

Suddenly I was pursuing an entirely new path. I did get a job at Court TV in NYC (in the early days when they actual covered cool trials that challenged the First Amendment, but unfortunately the network soon spiraled into more trashy territory—climaxing with OJ Simpson and Jeffery Dahmer). Very unfortunately, I was named “Chief TV Researcher” on the Jeffery Dahmer trial. I had to write chyrons for the broadcast (the text that you read when you see a talking head on TV). I wrote notes like: “head found in refrigerator.” These were not my proudest career moments.

All the while what I really wanted was music. But how to pay the bills?

I was a part of an NYC music scene that gave birth to many famous recording artists. But I was struggling and playing door gigs, often for $50 or less.

Finally though, I landed a booking agent—this was the answer. This was the big time. I was able to quit my TV job. Suddenly I was catapult, like an episode straight out of Sex and the City, from Ludlow Street, direct into the heart of the heartland: North and South Dakota. I had landed a Midwest booking agent, and this was where he sent me.

The first day I arrived in Fargo I was wearing a jacket approved for expeditions to Mount Everest, liquid hand warmers, leg warmers, ski pants and a full wool facemask, all insisted upon by my very concerned mother. It was 40 degrees.

I toured the Midwest for almost 10 years, playing colleges and clubs all over Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, you name it. If it was cold there, I had a gig. I sometimes played over 190 dates a year, which would keep me home in NYC for maybe 3 or 4 weeks until it was time to travel again.

I drove through rainstorms, snowstorms, ice storms and tornado warnings.

I was booked in Maryland the week a sniper was targeting random gas stations. “Don’t get gas,” my mother insisted! I flew through some of the craziest turbulence I ever felt as the weather pummeled the Midwest open country in deep winter. I got stuck in a snow ditch outside a radio station in South Dakota and sat in their office reading Ducks Unlimited until a tow truck could finally come get me. I danced with cowboys and made out with freshman 10 years younger than me. I played in venues from the sublime (opening for the Jayhawks), to the absurd (college cafeterias where your mic would go off whenever they announced, “Table Number 10, your order’s ready”). I was a vegetarian in meat country, stopping at Cracker Barrel only to hear the “vegetable” of the day was corn bread stuffing.

I played on.

Finally, on yet another turbulent flight from Kentucky to Iowa after tornados were spotted not far from the runway, I clutched the hand of the man sitting next to me, an Indian executive from Pepsi who was flying to a meeting.

Suddenly it was all crystal clear.

After a decade of traveling alone and very little to show for it, I was so done with life.

“Sir, I said. I don’t even know you. But I have to tell you, I’m over $50,000 in debt, I have no idea what else I am trained for, but I can’t do this anymore.

Without flinching he asked, “What is your name?”

“Bari.”

“Bari, I know you will figure it out.”

I took a month off the road to live in a Zen monastery in California’s Muir Woods. I washed dishes and I got up every day at 4am to meditate. (For anyone curious about this kind of life, for what it’s worth, I can tell you it’s way easier to work your butt off touring and traveling the Midwest than rising every day at 4am and working like a slave at a Zen monastery. But that’s for another day.)

I finally got back to New York City scared, broken and pretty alone. My friend Sadie Nardini had become quite a yoga star, and suggested I take her yoga teacher training. Throughout my touring in the Midwest I was always doing yoga, standing on my head in the middle of parking lots (I was very good at headstands!) getting my yoga on in front of random Comfort Inns off some turnpike. Yoga was essential to my wellbeing. It had also helped rescue me from nearly debilitating anxiety throughout my 20s. So in other words, yoga was never something that was far away from me.

Well, that training wound up opening up a lot of doors for me—literally, figuratively and spiritually. It put me in a much better frame of mind. And much more open and in tune with my potential. Just because I had struggled earlier and hadn’t exactly reached my potential, well, that didn’t mean I couldn’t make a shift now into something better, right?  My ears were tuned for the next step, for a big step, and I was listening for hints.

My buddy John Medeski from the awesome band Medeski, Martin and Wood had a cabin in the woods in Woodstock, NY. Woodstock was already very dear to my heart, as I’d written most of my “adult” songs there. He said I should go to the cabin one weekend and try to write a couple of kids songs because he had just gotten a deal with a kids label and he thought I would be suited for it.

So in the fall, with $2,000 left in my checking account, a mound of credit card debt and a very unclear future, I went up there with just my guitar and for two days, I wrote songs for my niece.

My little niece Mikayla had luckily been born while I had a break from the road, and every possible minute I could spend with her, I did. I took her to her first concert. We had so many sleepovers in her Dora Bed! I was the one who discovered she liked mangos when she would only eat 3 things! I was an aunt with a car seat. She was the daughter I didn’t have. We were so close. Two peas in a pod.