A black man raised in predominantly white rural Appalachia, Walter DeBarr is not a man who has ever played by the rules. But when he plays, everyone listening wants to join him. His music, colored by early punk influences and his grandmother’s gospel music, and washed in years of whiskey, cigarettes, and rough living, carries listeners along on his journey to redemption and love.
That journey has taken Walter from addiction and prison–as he says, places he really didn’t want to be, and trapped there for a really long time–from West Virginia to North Carolina and back again, to parenthood, the devastating death of his mother, and financial, physical, and emotional struggle. But through it all, that seed of music first planted by his grandmother kept him going. It took him years to really find his own voice, but the encouragement of a friend in recovery after his last stint in prison finally made it click for him, and he began to develop his unique sound that calls to mind elements of Tom Waits and Johnny Cash.
Walter’s music reaches into the dark, lonely places of his listeners’ hearts and carries them gently back out again to the light. It is hauntingly familiar to anyone who has ever lost a loved one or lost their way. But he offers hope in the form of fireflies and images evoking the wooded landscapes of his youth.
Rough, raw vocals backed by old-time finger-picking makes up the heart of Walter’s music. Among his influences he includes Townes Van Zandt, Sparklehorse, Bon Iver, Califone, and Jason Isbell. He released his first EP, We Fall, We Break, in December 2019.