Even though Ashtyn Barbaree's fans have heard piano lines in her songs for years now, she's usually strumming a guitar.
Now she's working on bringing piano to the front of her stage, which she's never done before.
"I always kept my piano very separate," the local singer/songwriter says, even though she's studied the instrument since elementary school. "I could read sheet music, but I couldn't play my original songs or anything on piano."
She says she was still curious to return to the keys and experiment more with playing piano live and on her songs. She even played piano for her song "Grass Stains" while recording her last album.
Then an opportunity with CACHE's Mixtape Music Series gave her an opportunity to turn into that discomfort and grow. One of the requirements for receiving money through the Mixtape Music Series is to find a project that "presents opportunities for professional or artistic growth and risk-taking." So Barbaree pitched a concert of her own original music on piano.
Barbaree will perform a set of all original songs on piano for a Nov. 29 show with Candy Lee and the Backyard Bugs at the Medium in Springdale. The show is free and open to the public.
The evening will be a reunion of sorts, Barbaree says. When she was a teenager, Barbaree sang with Candy Lee and the Sweets -- long before Lee put on her colorful overalls and started singing about bugs and feelings.
"She taught me so much," Barbaree remembers. "I was singing harmonies, and I knew somewhat how to do that. But I learned the stricter stuff like recording rehearsals and listening back through and adjusting your notes [from Lee]. It was very educational."
The Mixtape Music Series concert with Lee comes right as Barbaree is preparing to record a new album.
"That's been a big push and really helpful in a lot of ways," she says. "All the songs I'm writing for this debut piano show are also being considered for the record."
Barbaree says that many of the stories and songs on the new album will reflect her experiences in the Ozarks.
"The working title right now is 'Sent Through The Ceiling,' and it's going be about resilience and the bittersweet nature of life's journeys," she says.
"A lot of people in this area that have watched me grow up, they know me more as my trio and a more stripped-down sound, so I want to make a record that's a kind of a combination and more representative of the stripped-down, raw Ozark folk music sound where vocals, upright bass, piano and guitars and harmonies are more the focus."
She adds that she'll still add drums and some piano, of course, too, when she heads to Haxton Studios in Bentonville. It will be her first time recording an album here in her home state.
"I've done some session work and little demos and stuff there through House of Songs and various things. But this will be my first time making a record [there]. So I'm excited," she says.
Joining her on the album will be local musicians whom she's worked with many times including Jacob Campbell, Derek Weiand, Ty Dunn, Nick Caffrey, Phillip Cannon and Garrett Jones. She also plans to bring in Lacy Hampton of Dandelion Heart and Common Roots for backing vocals.
"Then Adams Collins from Arkansauce is going to join in on at least one. We're working on all the details on that," she says, saying she'll add more locals "who we know and love" later.
"I'm having a lot of fun planning it and getting my ideas together, but it's not 100% all together yet," she adds.
"For the first time, I really want to press it to vinyl. That's a personal dream. I've always just loved the feel and sound and everything about vinyl," she says. She also hopes that a record that better reflects her live sound will land her on Americana and folk festival circuits.
"I think having an album that reflects my live sound pretty accurately will help a lot with that."
The Nov. 29 show at the Medium is free and open to all ages. She also plays with Common Roots and Falllift at 8 p.m. Nov. 25. Keep up with Barbaree's journeys at ashtynbarbaree.com.