Barny Fletcher is an English musician making rap music with a focus on the fun. He debuted in 2019, and has continued to pump out tracks packed with pomp and playfulness since. He’s been featured on BBC Radio 1, the soundtrack for Michaela Coel’s critically acclaimed “I May Destroy You” and an exclusive campaign with Umbro.
His latest mixtape, Jetpack, continues Barny’s trend of talkative tracks filled with catchy hooks and limited emotional substance. With production and comedic style similar to Anderson .Paak and flow and lyricism similar to Aminé, Fletcher is distinctly drawing on influences from across the pond while securing the hometown support of BBC 1xtra.
Barny is full of energy and humility, as he’s excited by each step of the process without the naïveté of a completely novel artist. He was a ball of confident energy — he wanted to show me photos of his tour from his phone, and make sure I understood everything he was sharing. I sat down with Barny to talk about growing up in the countryside, his TikTok fame, filming on the London Underground and whether or not “BARNY FLETCHER IS INNOCENT.”
H: Where are you based right now? Where did you get started?
Barny: I’m based in London. In north Northwest London…it’s kind of near Camden. You got the nice parks and stuff? Yes, it is a nice part of London. And then I think it’s my favorite area.
Is that where you grew up then?
I was born in London, and was born around this area. But I grew up in Somerset, which is the countryside. As a young person there, it’s not the most stimulating place to grow up. I mean, I appreciate it more now, as I get older, I look back like, ‘Oh, wow. I see…It’s quite idyllic…rolling hills, lots of farms, all this kind of stuff where as a young person there where you’re kind of seeing all this cool sh*t happening everywhere else — events and stuff. And you’re stuck in the countryside with bad internet…It’s easy to feel a bit…not disgruntled, but like…it’s not like when you’re a young person. It’d be, I don’t know, in America, it’d be like the equivalent of somewhere in the Midwest.
We actually have a Somerset here, that’s also very much like that…Did that push you to music at all?
I think I think it pushed me probably because for me, the live show element is something I really like. That’s my favorite part of all this whole music thing. Playing live is kind of why I do it. So I guess being in a place where there aren’t too many live venues gave me that drive to want to actually get to a point where I can perform, go up to London and perform there and do this kind of thing.
Why do you think playing live music is your favorite part of it now?
I just think it’s just so rewarding. It’s tangible. Like all of your work that you’ve done in the studio behind a microphone writing in your bedroom…but it’s kind of personified in the crowd of people there singing your lyrics back to you. And that is just the craziest, best feeling in the world because you kind of forget when you’re posting online. You don’t see all the separate people, downloading it, listening to it, enjoying it, not enjoying it, whatever. You kind of just post it out there and there’s lots of you just looking at numbers like,’ Oh, how many streams did this get?’ And I think you do kind of forget that those streams are actually all people. I’ve got a song with like a million streams, but that’s not even considered a big number now.
That’s a city.
Yeah, right! So when you do a show and you see people sing the lyrics and stuff and buying your merch or your clothes, it’s a pretty, pretty wild feeling.
Have you played a tour? Have you played any festivals before? Have you gone on a tour yet?
Yes, I did! So festival wise, I’ve done so when I put my first music out in 2019. I did a run of festivals that summer and it was the first one of festivals I’d ever done. That was really exciting. And so that was Reading and Leeds Festival, Lollapalooza in Paris, something in Ireland and something in Portugal and something in Hungary. It was pretty wild. That was over like two months. I think we did 13 or 14 festivals. And then obviously by the end of 2019, it was my first year as an artist to the world and then it stopped in 2020. We had a few things locked in for that summer and then everything locked down. Coming into the game in 2019 is really the worst time because I felt like there was good momentum and then everything kind of got stopped.
Then this year I went out to tour because I really want to. I want to go out and tour with a project behind it. I’ve not had that until this project comes out, so I want to. That’s why I’ve kind of held back on festivals this year. Next year will definitely be doing festivals. This year I did one festival, since I was invited out by the Lipa family. Dua Lipa and her family run a festival in Kosovo in Albania called Sunny Hill Festival, which I played before in 2019. And this is the first time it open back up again since COVID. We flew out there, did the show, and it was a lot of fun.
I did a support tour with a band, at the start of this year, with this band called Noisey on their UK tour. It was like 17 shows from the top of Scotland and back again. It was just me and my DJ driving around in a white Mercedes, wich cost me like £900. We literally did the whole, the whole tour in it and after each show we let people sign the car. So the car was, by the end of it, absolutely covered. So funny! Yeah, that was my first ever actual tour…We didn’t have to sleep in the car ever. But we got stopped by the police quite a bit because the car looked so crazy. So on one side it said “BARNY FLETCHER IS INNOCENT” and on the other side it said, “F*CK BARNY FLETCHER” just because it was a white car and we were like, ‘How are we going to get some [attention] online? What’s going to turn some heads when we’re driving around in this thing?’ So yeah, and It did last for a while afterwards. You could get to Google and type in ‘Barny Fletcher’ and one of the top suggestions was, ‘innocent?’! Like people had been seeing the car and [looked it up]!
How did you get into making music?
I grew up in quite a musical household…There are a lot of instruments in the house. So I was very lucky in that sense that I was never forced into having to play stuff, but having the actual opportunity there to pick something up and try it was always really cool I think…I can play a little bit of guitar and a little bit of piano, but apart from that, I don’t really play anything else…I saw someone walking around school with a trumpet and thought, ‘Oh, maybe I should try trumpet lesson.’ And I would. And I remember having my one trumpet lesson and I borrowed some of the guy’s frickin trumpet to do it! But I remember my mom encouraging that, like, ‘Yeah, just try out!’ I mean, she definitely, definitely didn’t want me to be a trumpet player! I think I’m just happy having that opportunity. Everything I do now, is just that I like writing stuff with new people…that’s part of the fun with music, is exploring all these different sounds and working with different people.
How did you get into doing this professionally?
So I finished college, which is high school…College in America is university, right? I finished college and then and then like a gap year…So I went to America and I was in L.A. for four or five months, just honestly, doing nothing to do with music, working in a hostel…I’d never been to America before…and I did do some music out there cause I met a bunch of different characters…Nothing super serious. And then I came back and then I had to get a job in London and then I was working at a restaurant.
I started this thing where I found beats on YouTube and started making songs over them. So I’d make a song a week and I’d post them up every Friday. I’d post up one song and then get my friend to do some artwork for the front of it. And yeah, I just, I just made these kind of like Friday songs once a week for about, 10 or11 weeks or something. And then the last one of them I made a video with my dad and my brother and then the video — it didn’t go viral or anything crazy like that — but within the music world, the industry world, [it did]…I put it out and then out of nowhere I had a bunch of management’s labels. Then I chose management and from that point on, I was like, ‘Yeah, kind of go start doing like trying out like sessions.’ That was all pretty new to me, but from then on really I just managed to keep doing that full time. It was a little like zero to 100. I was going from just doing stuff in my bedroom to being in proper studios of producers with plaques on the wall!
What’s that big shift felt like?
It was pretty insane. I think at first that when everything’s new, it’s so shiny and you’re so starry eyed…I remember being impressed by absolutely everything. If there was a producer that worked on some song that I might have heard about that was in an ad, I’d be like, ‘Oh my God that’s crazy,’ but now it’s just like, ‘Oh, yeah, he produced for Drake…He does that. I just feel like everyone by now…Within the music world, you’re only one or two degrees of separation away from pretty much anyone.
That’s why it’s funny because I went from that, to when COVID happened. With this tape, all of the beats are from YouTube because I wasn’t doing sessions during COVID…so I found myself writing producers online and just running over their tracks. It was really refreshing, actually, because I’d been doing studio sessions for so long — I go to America doing sessions, writing, writing trips, standard, blah, blah, blah, and then just kind of taking it back to where I started with scrolling through YouTube and finding cool beats. As I was doing that again, I forgot how much I enjoyed it. So that’s what’s funny about this tape, like nine out of 10 tracks on there have beats [from online].
Sounds like it’s very much about the people. Do you have any people that you’ve worked with that were really meaningful?
I worked with DJ Shadow, who’s — within the hip hop world when it comes to sampling — kind of like a legend. I kind of didn’t really know at the time how much of a legend he was…and that was really interesting working with him because it was actually all remote…that was really crazy. Honestly, the type of characters I’ve worked with is such a big range of characters. They’ll be guys when I turn up in a club and I go to them in a bedroom and we produce a hip hop beat. And then I’m all on the opposite side of that…I had this guy, Mike Scott, from a band called The Waterboys. They did a song called “The Whole of the Moon,” and are a classic band. And he’d heard one of my mixtapes and he really liked it and did the backing singing stuff. I did the harmonies and stuff, like putting in music…We worked on a whole project together which isn’t out yet…He’s considered an old legend…and then it’s back to a hip hop session! So there’s more underground kind of SoundCloud stuff. Honestly, that’s what I love about this, is that because I don’t just rap, it’s kind of like I can kind of dip into anything. You got these old OG kind of characters who are in bands…who f**king with the music and we make cool stuff together. And then we’ve got my guys who are posting up on SoundCloud over these Lil Uzi Vert-type beats, like ‘Yo, let’s do a session!’ I just love working with everyone and making just and making tons of stuff.
Right now, the focus is actually on writing my own stuff and doing my own project. But I do like writing things for other people too. I just like working with interesting characters.
You said you’re not just a rapper. Would you consider yourself a rapper or a musician if you had to label yourself?
So currently to the world, 100%, yes, I am [ a rapper]. I would consider myself a rapper who sings as well, but that’s mainly because that’s just that’s the sort of music I’ve just decided to put out right now. If you went to my Spotify and listened to the music, you’d probably just be like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a rapper.’ Especially when I’m still quite early on in this whole thing when it comes to building an audience. I don’t want to put out a rap song and then a couple of months later drop a track where I’m singing over it. It’s very tempting to do that — It’s like you can kind of show off and be like, ‘Oh, I can do both. Both sides of the spectrum, I rap and I sing.’ But I don’t think it actually benefits me because to some extent I think you need to make the journey for the audience kind of digestible, in a way…So on this mixtape it’s going to be a hip hop type. I think at first I was very when I first started music, I really wanted just to kind of show up and kind of do everything… but I think it’s easier to just break it down a bit.
I feel like no musician wants to put themselves in one box, and clearly you’re just trying to find your lane.
Yeah, I think everyone just does a bit of everything. I like that I can rap well and sing well, and I think that’s quite rare. Not that there aren’t rappers that sing, but like…Drake sings, but it’s like Drake-singing…No one really likes pigeonholing themselves.
And so people have started over the last few years, people outside of the UK, have started to get more into drill music and UK rap. How do you feel about the world of drill as a UK rapper?
I like drill music, but I mean…you’ll go to some of these YouTube channels where they’re uploading like six music videos a day, and the videos are the exact same…So it’s from the UK but at the same time, that it is not part of my history or ike anything, really…I think to do drill, I do feel like you need to have kind of lived in that world. Like I’m a white guy. I grew up in the freaking countryside. I’m not from a f**king rich family or anything, but, I mean, I’m not out there f**king up up on the streets kind of thing…You’ve got to you’ve got to rap your truth, you know, and that’s not mine, so I just think if I tried doing that, it just wouldn’t work.
So with your upcoming mixtape, how do you feel?
Right now why I’m calling the why I call these mixtapes is because they are just songs I just really f**king like…I’ll know when it’s album time, because when it’s album time, I want to do an album. I think [an album] should have like a, like a strong theme behind there or some sort of some sort of journey you’re getting taken through.
What makes a song cut out to be on the mixtape?
Oh, it’s really hard…I guess it’s just the ones where and a week later you’re still humming it and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I really like this.’ And then you want to listen to it again. They’re just the ones that stick with you. And then after a while I just want other people to have this too, because, ‘This is really good.’
Social media seems to have played a pretty substantial role in your story.
Obviously, social media is so key to everything now when it comes to music, I think I’ve just only in the past like two months of studies like and started using TikTok and that’s been really good for getting my music out to a new audience. Before, I didn’t like where things are headed with music and the way people consume music…The song’s hot this week and then next week is not hot anymore, and it kind of definitely devalues the work which artists create, But at the same time, if you can use success from that and propel that into a successful career and follow up one viral song with another, you can really reach out to people that way. I think that’s great. Everything’s so quick…You put so much time and effort into making stuff and then you post it and it’s kind of out of your hands from that point…does the algorithm like you that day? And if it does, great! But if not, then it’s just kind of throwing it into the void.
So you started with a music video that kind of blew up in that because start. Do you still feel like music videos are a really important part of your process now?
Yeah, I’ve always liked having cool visuals to go along with kind of anything. I always try and do as many music videos as budgets allow.
You filmed a video on the Underground. What was that like for you? What was that process?
Yeah, that was crazy! I literally met the director at the end of a show and he was like, ‘Yo, I’m a director. We should make a video,’ and I was like, ‘Okay.’ So we met up and then we came up with this really cool idea and I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s try to do this!’ And then, yeah, we kind of brainstormed for ideas, and then we shot the whole thing in a single day, technically, but it was from like 9 a.m. to midnight. So that was a long, long, odd day. We shot on the London Underground and yeah, it was just very, very sketchy. I mean in I don’t think we technically had a permit to shoot there.
Okay, that was my next question.
Yeah! I mean, I think you’re supposed to, but we kind of just went on, we had a camera. It was quite funny. The camera, a focus puller with the producer doing it and it was just pretty hilarious. It was quite a hot day as well. So, so many variables you can’t control when it’s something like that, you know? So it’s us waiting for a carriage which was empty so we could film in it and get the strobe lights out and bubble machines. And we were like, ‘Oh, God,’ because all of the bubbles go off and pop on the floor and then you’re left with a really soapy floor and wondering, ‘What if an old lady gets on and then they fall over?’ So we shot it as quickly as we could.
It was a pretty hectic day, but it was really fun as well. At the end of the video we showed an arcade race, at this place in Soho we booked for a couple hours and had my friends come down. They were dressed up in suits and then we had access to free arcade games for four hours. It was a very fun day, but by the end of it was super tiring.
What can fans look forward to from your music?
My latest mixtape called Jetpack has released and I’ll be on all streaming platforms and I’ve got a bunch of videos for that and tons of content and stuff around that! Next year, a bunch of things like a tour and festivals and stuff. I’m really going to take this as far as it can go. I truly believe in the music and not because it’s UK rap, it’s more universal than that. I know the music’s good. We’ve got cool people getting involved. I think sky’s the limit with this project.
Is that why it’s called Jetpack?
Yeah, to a certain extent! I mean, at first it was because it was just a little pack of new songs which could take me to like the next level and lifts you off the ground..I’m just having fun because none of it is promised. I don’t know, next year I might have to be working in a restaurant or something. I never take anything, anything for granted. I’m just going to keep working as hard as I can.
You can listen to Jetpack everywhere now.