It may have taken a while—his whole life, he’d argue—but Seattle composer and bassist Evan Flory-Barnes is ready to step to the front of the stage. Everything finally started to coalesce thanks to an important audience of one: his therapist. “Through therapy,” he says, “I became aware I was taking a backseat to myself in my creative work. While I was playing music and involving myself in projects with dear people, my own self-led creativity was suffering.”
Flory-Barnes decided to shift his focus and create his new staged work, a part-theatrical, part-musical performance entitled On Loving the Muse and Family. The show, based on the late night talk show concept, revolves around the relationships—both familial and intimate—that have shaped him over his life and career. On Loving features original compositions by the musician as well as performances by local standouts like The True Loves, The Seattle Girls Choir, and Flory-Barnes’s new doo-wop band, The Traumatics.
Anyone familiar with the work of Flory-Barnes, a master of the upright double bass, knows he is an adaptable, prolific player. On any given night he can be found in a jazz club riffing scales, in a recording studio with stars like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, or on a big stage with his award-winning jazz quartet, Industrial Revelation. Often, though, his role is in that of support—such is the task of a bass player. But at 39, Flory-Barnes is finally ready to acknowledge his desire to be the focal point.
The call to action for On Loving began in 2014 after a performance of Now I’m Fine, the musical comedy written and produced by friend and bandmate, Ahamefule J. Oluo. But the seeds were sewn over the last year during Flory-Barnes deep therapy sessions. During those conversations, Flory-Barnes dissected and investigated many of the significant relationships in his life and how these bonds shaped him. The fruits of that work serve as the subject matter for On Loving.
During the first half of the performance, Flory-Barnes showcases four distinct characters: his “higher self, inner child, shadow, and old man self.” The characters speak to the audience in expressive monologues and help host the show a la Dean Martin or Nat King Cole. The second half of the show more directly focuses on Flory-Barnes and the arch of the impactful relationships in his life, like those with his deceased father, past romantic partners, and musical collaborators.
Flory-Barnes says he can’t help but occasionally feel doubt. But when it’s clicking, he says he feels “moved to tears” by the catharsis On Loving provides. “In our lives we inherit beliefs and traumas,” Flory-Barnes says. “In our relationships, we either have to work these pains out or we end up passing them on. That’s what this show is about.”
On Loving the Muse and Family, March 1–4, On the Boards