Pat Barrett remembers the first time he met Chris Tomlin. It was while he was in high school and he and his buddies were walking down the street and saw Tomlin and his band members walk out of an ice cream shop.
“Hey, Tomlin!” Barrett remembers yelling as Tomlin walked away.
Tomlin, who was in town to lead worship at a conference, turned around, paused and struck up a conversation.
“Come worship with us tonight,” Tomlin eventually offered the eager young fan, “Just tell them I invited you.”
So, Barrett and his friends showed up at the conference but were turned away. They ended up sneaking through a loading dock door and wormed their way into the audience that night.
Barrett laughs as he recounts the story saying, “It’s not a shining accolade of my youth.”
Barrett had every reason to be in awe of Tomlin who is one of America’s iconic Christian music artists. Chris Tomlin has endeared himself to believers with numerous hits plus worship songs that are standards in many churches around the world and in many languages.
Today Barrett finds himself still in contact with Tomlin but this time as a musician and worship leader himself and part of Tomlin’s current tour, “Worship Night in America.’
Barrett is in good company. He’s joined by a host of other critically acclaimed musicians including Big Daddy Weave, Phil Wickham, Zach Williams, Mosaic MSC and Jason Barton. The tour stops April 18 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Tomlin recently said he sees in Barrett someone who can be shaped to have a tremendous impact on music.
Tomlin is doing that through his own small music effort called Boyer & Bow which is part Capitol – the label that represents Tomlin.
The first artist for Boyer and Bow is Pat Barrett and Tomlin sees himself in a mentoring role.
“I thought if I ever see somebody and I think, ‘Wow. They’ve got all the gifts. They just need opportunities.’ When Pat Barrett came across my radar, I thought this is the guy. This guy has everything — incredible heart of worship, incredible songwriter, great singer, great husband, great dad, just an incredible guy to be around — and I want people to hear his music,” Tomlin says.
Tomlin is not exaggerating. Barrett recently netted his second top 10 on Billboard‘s Christian Airplay chart, with “Build My Life.”
But devotees of Christian music may be more familiar with his music than just his recent releases. Those include his second solo release “Life” which followed “The Way (New Horizon),” that hit No. 5 in September. Both tracks are from Barrett’s 2018 self-titled first solo album.
Barrett, a member of Atlanta-based worship collective Housefires, co-penned (with Tony Brown) a song that everyone knows: “Good, Good Father.” Recorded by Chris Tomlin, it topped the Christian charts in 2016 and is a mainstay in many churches.
So who is Pat Barrett and why should you know of him? Metro Voice had the opportunity to interview him as he prepares to stop in Kansas City on April 18 at the Sprint Center for the Tomlin tour.
Metro Voice: Chris Tomlin had some great things to say about you and considers himself in a mentoring role with you as you are the first artist on his new label. Does that add extra pressure on you?
Pat Barrett: Before I ever even met Chris he was an influential person in my life from being a songwriter to worship leader. What I’ve gleaned most from him as I’ve been recording music as a solo artist is he has really encouraged me to be myself. That’s so powerful – being encouraged to sing what is important to you. You have to be true to yourself. One of the things that is so powerful is meeting with him every night. He’s doing that same thing — just sharing songs and stories from a really true place. That’s a gift to see first hand. It puts pressure on the right thing. Making sure my kids have a dad whose present and my wife Meg has a husband who is engaged. Those are good pressures.
Metro Voice: Where does your inspiration come from when writing? Is it everyday life, personal struggles or as a witness to the struggles of your generation?
Pat Barrett: All of it. Well, growing up the most amount of live music I ever heard was in a church setting. My dad is a pastor. Every Sunday there’s a band and music and people singing things they believe, or sometimes don’t believe but want to believe. Now, when writing and sharing that type of music I have a rule for myself that I won’t share anything that hasn’t been helpful to me or true in my life.
The pressure I put on myself is to be really honest. Music for me is a means of doing that. Sometimes it’s more like journaling. It feels like that. It’s never ‘what would be nice to sing.’ It’s always ‘what am I grappling with.’ It could be a Bible verse or something that has been helpful to me. I usually just end up singing it myself first.
I do know that under my breath I’ve been saying you’re a good, good father. Phrases like that calibrate my heart and soul – everything. When I hear words like that it is more than a line in a song. It’s a melody of faith and I feel something powerful in those words.
Metro Voice: “Into Faith I Go” Seems like an anthem for a generation moving into leadership roles in society and the church and not sure if they’re ready for it. What were you trying to accomplish with this song?
Pat Barrett: That’s what I felt. In this current climate politically, socially, everything – there’s a redefining of faith and that happened in my life, too. Faith doesn’t mean the same thing to me now than it did when I was 15. I have a sober-minded awareness of life as unpredictable and certainty doesn’t behave like we want it to behave. Jesus talked about a deeper type of connection that actually had nothing to do with the outside circumstance. People say they ‘lost their faith.’ I think faith can handle a lot. It can handle getting fired, or family tragedy. It’s not fragile. It doesn’t shatter and, if it does, it wasn’t real faith that shatters. For me, staring down an unpredictable life showed me what I was calling faith wasn’t faith. It was more replaying my anxieties and making sure life turned out the way I wanted.
Now, being free of that, if life goes bad I’ve already determined where my trust is. There’s freedom in that. No matter how this situation turns out I’ve devoted myself, and my life, to the teachings of Jesus. That’s a very liberating feeling. I hope my generation does comes to grips with the faith that can handle that. Whether we disagree on something that doesn’t determine how I’m gonna treat you. That’s a really important message.
Metro Voice: Does success breed stress?
Pat Barrett: It’s more like I’m feeling the stresses of life and the reality of having three kids and figuring out how to do that. Plus, giving them as little to unlearn as possible as Meg and I set the example.
We’re almost 10 years into our marriage. People change. You’re continually walking together and relearning.
Something happened seven years ago for me that opened up my writing. I began to believe that all of life was holy and not just the spiritual parts. Once that happened, even worship music opened up for me. It affected all areas of normal life. All those areas should be touched as we walk with God.
Metro Voice: You are of a different generation than Chris Tomlin. Are there generational differences in what believers are looking for in Christian music today?
Pat Barrett: I think I’m looking for things that speak to the realities of my own life – anything that does that feels important. Genres change over the years and pop music changes but as long as it touches the reality of your ordinary life and illuminates the hope and holiness in all of it or the authentic and true things that make you uncomfortable, as long as that’s happening there’s always going to be a generational resonance in it.
I grew up in the church with massive-sounding worship music. Today there’s a refreshing wave of music that’s a little less polished, a little rough around the edges, it makes the picture of life and worship look more whole.
I hope my kids think about worship at supper and bedtime and not I want a whole list of things. It’s hard to worship when you’re not thankful for what you have today. You start with that simplicity. Music like that resonates with me.
Metro Voice: You’ve been to Omaha recently and numerous other cities on this tour. Is there a difference between the audiences in each region of the country? Are some areas more open to worship and exposing their hearts than others?
Pat Barrett: Yeah! I always assumed that for whatever reason the northeast would be more reserved. I found the opposite. If they’re gonna come out to a worship night it’s not like in the Bible belt. You’re coming out on purpose to worship. It’s similar to being in the UK. If you’re coming to church its not normal in that society. You’re there because you NEED to be there. It’s not culturally popular to be there. It’s deeply important. There’s a lack of apathy. It’s contagious. On these nights it feels like everyone who wants to be there IS there. It’s a laser focus. We’re here together – we’re here to worship.
Metro Voice: When do you know an audience has connected with the words you’ve written or your presence on stage?
Pat Barrett: The worship that happens in a room when you’re with thousands of people singing about the things that matter most, the encouragement is like a joy explosion that you’re not alone. I hope that the next morning the spirit of worship is present at the breakfast table as well.
Metro Voice: What worship music do you listen to?
Pat Barrett: It kinda changes. I love Amanda Cook, Mack Brock and Hillsong. A lot of the writers have been really inspiring to me. Songs like ‘So Alive.’ I love songs that talk about creation and God. You can pack it all into one thing.
Metro Voice: You tweeted yesterday that you had a daddy/daughter date. How has it been for you as a dad to have an unconventional family life and to be on tour. What are the margins you set for yourself to keep family first and not let the lure of fame distract you from your first calling as a husband and father?
Pat Barrett: The one constant thing for Meg and I and our family the past five years is change. In some ways it can be exciting but also unsettling. You feel you’re reinventing the wheel every three months. The previous three months when I wasn’t traveling, we didn’t feel the reality of being gone. When I’m home I’m just home. There’s not time to spare. A lot of time I would be creating those margins. Turning those phones off. Just to be where you are. It’s hard for anyone. We all know what it’s like to be at dinner with someone and you ‘re there but you’re not really there. You’re thinking about bills etc. We don’t see the traveling and touring as negative. We as a family are doing this. We try to do as much as we can when it is feasible. Harper Grey and Gracie came out on this tour. I hope what it teaches them is that dad is doing ministry work and it is not that he is absent. That’s the bigger value. We’re doing it together. There’s a togetherness that we’re trying to cultivate and grow. We have not had a stretch in any given year where it looked the same. It has made us cling together in the irregularity of the schedule like for Meg when she has to be a single parent for four days straight. That type of challenge has brought us closer in our relationship. It reveals that you need each other. It’s been hard but really beautiful. We try to make sure there’s a lot of off time and family party time with the kids. We take it in seasonal strides.
Metro Voice: Your kids are Harper Grey, age 7, five-year-old Crew, and Cash who is 20 months. Do you regularly travel as a family? Give us a look into how parenting on the road looks.
Pat Barrett: We’ve entered the dawn of the school age kid! Harper Grey is in school but we pull some unexcused absences to have her travel with us. Now that our schedule is much more rigid I’m paying attention to the school calendar a lot now. We thought it would be a negative but it’s not. It’s been amazing up to this point. We don’t know if we’ll homeschool in the future and the kids love school.
Metro Voice: How is the tour going this year? You get to share the stage with Chris.
Pat Barrett: Each night it feels different but it is always amazing. It’s been really special. So fun! Touring and traveling with Chris is a blast. He’ll start off the worship night and he’ll start and we’ll each do some worship songs and I’ll share that story about sneaking into the conference. It’s a powerful night of worship and then hearing a message preached is just amazing!
–Dwight Widaman is editor of Metro Voice and www.metrovoicenews.com