BJ Barham, singer and frontman of American Aquarium, never fully intended to become anything close to a rockstar. However, the concept of being able to be a storyteller through lyrics was always something that intrigued him and ultimately pushed him to become a musician in his college years.
“I was always drawn to the storyteller, I was drawn to the songwriting,” Barham said. “I realized in order to be a songwriter and not a really shitty poet, I had to learn how to play a guitar.”
And so, Barham taught himself how to play guitar and began to navigate the tumultuous waters of the music business.
Barham began American Aquarium as a twangy rock and roll group in his dorm room around 2006 and played in the band with 26 different members throughout the past 12 years. In February 2017, a “mass exodus” occurred and all band mates at the time left American Aquarium at once, leaving Barham with no band and a lot of questions.
While Barham bore no ill-feelings toward his past band mates and chalked the break-up to him being difficult to work with, the situation left him feeling lost. Barham decided to take a hiatus from band life and instead traveled the country with his wife to play a solo tour.
“It was an eye-opening experience getting to see the country that way,” Barham said. “It allowed me some time to reflect and see what I wanted to do with my career.”
When he returned that August it was with a new mindset, a new band and a new album in mind. The band now consists of Joey Bybee on drums, Ben Hussey on bass, Shane Boecker on guitar and Adam Kurtz on the pedal steel guitar.
With this new band and his recent new album, “Things Change,” which was released at the beginning of June, American Aquarium and Barham are making somewhat of a comeback to the music industry.
The new American Aquarium will take the stage of the Georgia Theatre on June 30 with opener Travis Meadows. Similar to Barham, Meadows, a singer-songwriter as well, has encountered a multitude of obstacles and adversity throughout his life, from bone cancer to addiction, to difficult times in the music industry. Like Barham, Meadows persevered through it all in part due to his love for music.
“I’m really at a place where I’ve wanted to be my entire life. So it’s incredible,” Meadows said.
American Aquarium will perform on June 30 starting at 8:30 p.m. Although the prospect of being a rockstar still isn’t necessarily something Barham strives for, getting to tell his stories through songs, something he loves, while getting paid is what he considers a great success.
“Success is just being able to play your music and have it pay your bills. If it never gets any bigger than this, I don’t care,” Barham said.