— SUNBURY -- Spend five minutes talking with Brandon Barnhart about music and you’ll quickly realize he’s not your typical musician.
While many solo musicians perform acoustic shows, Barnhart uses an electric piano for gigs featuring covers mainly from the 1970s to the 1990s.
While this separates him from the pack of area talent, it’s Barnhart’s enthusiasm and sheer joy to share his music with others that makes this talent’s music have an impressive quality.
Tomorrow night, the Valley’s Electric Piano Man, as he is often referred to, will electrify the music scene at McGuigan’s Pub with his powerful voice and lively piano skills.
“McGuigan’s was the first placed I played last March when I started to do a solo show, so it’s always nice to go back there and have a great time,” Barnhart said. “I’ve played in many bands over the years, but performing solos is the ultimate in self expression.”
Performing at numerous venues across the Valley, Barnhart has developed a strong fan base after people experience not only the music at his gigs, but the upbeat vibe that resonates throughout the room.
“I have people tell me they were not sure what to expect at my shows since I was a solo musician playing an electric piano. But they all tell me how much they enjoyed the show and also that they knew all the songs. Some people even sing along. So for me, it’s a great feeling to help people enjoy themselves and hear some songs they might not have heard in a while.”
No two gigs are ever the same since the songs he performs can range from an old Johnny Cash tune to something from Journey, Billy Joel or Elton John and back again to a country song.
“Writing your own music is great but I believe people enjoy hearing the songs they know or remember when they were in high school or at a certain point in their life,” he said.
While the 41-year-old plays covers, he isn’t creating a carbon copy of the original tune, since he adds his own spin to each song and in some cases, changes a hard rocking song, such as the Scorpions’ “Still Love You” into something much different.
“I was messing around one day and I don’t know why but ‘Still Love You’ came into my head, so I thought I would try and create a piano version,” said Barnhart, a factory worker by day. “I was amazed at how great the song sounded and I would say right now, that song is my favorite song I play.”
The piano man also weaves emotion and feeling into many of the songs he performs and in the process, takes the song and kicks it up a notch or two.
His effortless style of making the piano echo with a complex sound comes from nearly 35 years of playing the piano which started when he was a mere 5 years old and would pound out a tune on a toy piano.
At age 6 his mom bought a real keyboard because she knew he not only enjoyed making music but also had a talent that needed to be encouraged.
“We were at the mall and I saw this piano and I told my mom I would love to have that,” he said. “She bought it, as if she was buying a pack of gum. She was a single mom, but she found a way so I could have a piano.”
Hearing Barnhart play a fast-paced song or a romantic ballad and that investment 30 years ago was money well spent.
Over the years Barnhart has been in numerous bands including the country band Black Mountain Jack, Jezebel’s Sons, River City Band and Faded Daze.
“I love what I do. I get excited. I enjoy being able to have someone leave my show feeling good,” he said. “And I always play Billy Joel’s ’Piano Man.’ People love that song and they always want to hear it and I love that I can play something they want to hear and enjoy.”