All Smiles with Javier Barria

In Chile there’s a common phrase used to describe somebody who you get good vibes from. Whether it’s from a new friend, a stranger who did you a favor or a cool band making you groove, buena onda encapsulates that “good feeling” you get when things are right. And that’s precisely how I felt when I first met and heard the musician Javier Barria.

itemId=7542 Photo by Laura Adviento

With a warm, focused and thoughtful tone combined with introspective mannerisms, Barria shows an affable side of Santiago’s young, vibrant music scene that can often go unnoticed. Some of his songs are sweet and clear like a midnight summer drive with the top down. Others are seedy, strained and go great with a cheap tall beer or a nice long pull off a bottle.

itemId=7537 Photo by Adam Fuller

But these friendly vibes go beyond just his songs. Many artists won’t talk to you unless they’re picked up in a sedan stocked with champagne, cocaine and banana leaf-fanning virgins. The egoless Barria, on the other hand, showed up on time for our interview after pedaling his bike, with a guitar on his back, for half an hour in the scalding summer sun.

His website reveals a pseudo-trippy, Jack Johnson-esque guitarist experimenting with various effects. At live performances, though, he sadly and beautifully sings to a smoky, dim moon, with heavy strumming and a buzz in his voice. Though laced with demons and intensity, his songs, like stoned campfire music, still evoke sentiments of family, friendship and home while touching on what he calls “day-to-day occurrences and introspective themes."

itemId=7520 Photo by Adam Fuller

“Every show is different,” Barria said with a shrug and a smile. “It’s intimate, so sometimes you feel like you’re playing with a group of friends, and other times you feel like nobody is paying attention. But I’m used to it.”

With six home-recorded albums already under his belt and his first professionally recorded studio album on the way, Barria maintains a soft, mellow persona and seems content rolling along the Bellavista and Santa Isabel bar and venue circuits.

“There’s a lot of good music being played here in Chile,” Barria said. “It’s a new generation of Chilean music and we really want to expand and start our own traditions, too.”

He left our office with a firm handshake and a pat on the back. As he rode off, balancing the guitar on his back while dodging traffic, his tunes remained bouncing around in my head and I couldn’t help but smile.

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