Born and raised in Nashville, Mike has a special place in his heart for bluegrass and country music. At age 14, Mike recorded his first CD, Lost Indian– a collection of traditional fiddle classics. Shortly after, the director of Vanderbilt University’s fiddle program as well as Mike’s first fiddle instructor, Crystal Plohman, invited Mike to teach alongside fiddle greats Vassar Clemens, Buddy Spicher, and Bobby Hicks at the Vanderbilt Blair School of Music International Fiddle Camp.
Soon thereafter, Bobby introduced Mike to bluegrass icon Jesse McReynolds, who invited Mike to tour with him and the Virginia Boys including regular weekend performances at the Grand Ole Opry. Jesse’s humility, originality, and stamina have been a tremendous personal and musical influence on Mike.
At ages 14 and 15, a few years after moving from Nashville to Massachusetts with his family, Mike toured with the Gordon Stone Trio (Gordon, Aram Bedrosian) throughout Vermont and the northeast. Together they recorded Rhymes with Orange, an eclectic collection of tunes which won Vermont’s 2006 Album of the Year award. Gordon introduced Mike to the amazing guitarist and singer, Michael Daves, who taught Mike mandolin and introduced him to early bluegrass music. Michael later introduced Mike to Tony Trischka, one of the most influential banjo players in roots music. Mike has toured with Tony in a number of his projects including the Double Banjo Bluegrass project, Territory, and Great Big World. A great banjoist and tremendous person, Tony continues to be an inspiration and important mentor to Mike.
At about the same time, Mike met up with influential mandolinist Joe Walsh, and together they joined one of New England’s renowned folk bands, Northern Lights, andtoured and recorded One Day in 2007. Through this project, Mike met and performed with folk-singer Jonathan Edwards and Amy Gallatin and recorded on their projects, My Love Will Keep (JE) andPhoenix (AG).
Through touring with Tony, Mike has shared the stage with some other highly innovative banjoists who are also house hold names in the bluegrass world, including Bela Fleck, comedian Steve Martin, and Greg Liszt (Crooked Still/Bruce Springstein). In 2007, Liszt conceived the band The Deadly Gentlemen, and Mike signed on for what turned out to be a 7 year ride through Europe and the States performing and sharing the stage with so many great musicians. With the Gents, he recorded The Bastard Masterpiece in 2008, Carry Me to Home in 2010, Roll Me, Tumble Me (on Rounder Records) in 2013.
While at Berklee College of Music, Mike got to know so many rising acoustic stars including bassist Sam Grisman, who later connected Mike with his dad, David Grisman. In 2009, Mike joined the David Grisman Quintet (DGQ) to form a sextet, joining an amazing lineage of fiddle greats in the history of the DGQ, some of whom include Vassar Clemens, Stephan Grappelli, Darol Anger, and Mark O’Connor. David has been a hugeinspiration and influence for Mike, has opened new doors, and provided an opportunity to learn some inside scoop of the history of bluegrass and Dawg’s experience and path as a musician.
In September of 2014, Mike released One Song Romance on Compass Records. A compilation of original tunes, the album reflects my many musical influences from bluegrass to swing, and hosts a cast of the some of the greatest players in the scene today including Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, Paul Kowert, Rushad Eggleston, Dominick Leslie, David Grier, Mike Bub, Sam Grisman, Maeve Gilchrist, Greg Liszt, Stash Wyslouch, Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Jefferson Hamer.
In March of 2016, Mike guested for 4 nights on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert with the young Jazz prodigy Jon Batiste and his band of virtuosos, Stay Human. Mike plays frequently around New York City with the saxophonist in Stay Human, Eddie Barbash, as a member of Eddie’s band and in other configurations.
In April-May of 2016, Mike was invited on an American Music Abroad tour on behalf of the U.S. Embassy as a member of the Stash Wyslouch String Band, featuring Dominick Leslie and Jeremy McDonald. The tour took them through Latvia, Romania and Estonia. Coming up this summer, Mike will be touring with the great guitarist Bryan Sutton in support of his new project(s), which also features Casey Campbell on mandolin and Sam Grisman on bass. Mike was featured on Bryan’s release “The More I Learn.”
Mike Barnett is the recipient of the 2007 Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin created by Jonathan Cooper and awarded at the Mark O’Connor Sting Conference.