Allison Burney

"To live will be an awfully big adventure." - Peter Pan

If James Barker Can Do It, Why Can’t I?

Break out of small-town life, that is.

Dream bigger. Achieve extraordinary things. Reach people on the world stage. Make an impact by bringing people together.

These are all things that James Barker is already well on the road to doing – and he still hasn’t hit 25 years old.

His beginnings, though, don’t look much different from mine.

He grew up in the small town of Woodville, also on a farm, 10 minutes down the road from where I grew up.

Woodville Welcomes James Barker

Last week he was back in his hometown, doing a presentation at the school he attended growing up, Woodville Elementary School.


My mom, a retired long-time staff member of Woodville school, decided she wanted to attend this special assembly and hear James Barker’s story, and I tagged along.

As James sat up there on stage, taking ridiculously funny and cute questions from the elementary students and answering them with as much heart as possible, I was struck.

Here was this guy, not much younger than me, who’s recently been rising to fame with his country group, the James Barker Band.

Here was someone from humble beginnings who’s making a name for himself – and taking the town of Woodville with him.

We All Have That Chance

If he can take himself from Woodville to Nashville, who says the rest of us can’t do the same?

If that’s what we choose to do, that is.

I don’t mean that me and all the hundreds of little kids in the gym that day are going to become famous musicians (or that we should).


James Barker is living proof of this – for the community of Woodville, and also for anyone else out there from a small town in the middle of “nowhere” (as I like to say).

Of course, it’s not going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to happen without being intentional about it.

James didn’t get to where he is now by picking up his guitar and playing for an hour ten years ago.

He got to the position he’s in now through years and years of daily practice – by challenging himself, by refining his skills, and by putting himself out there time and time again, playing shows and doing performances any chance he got.

How We Limit Ourselves

This is where I think a lot of us get stuck – myself included.

We see someone famous, or well on their way to fame, and we separate ourselves from them in our minds. We start to see all the ways we’re not like them, and why we could never be like them, or achieve what they’ve achieved.

The “yeah-but…” syndrome starts to kick in.

If, just for a moment, we let ourselves believe that he’s just like us, our minds quickly kick us out of paradise with a rude slap in the face:

Who am I kidding? I could never play guitar like that.

I’ll never be brave enough to play for an audience.

He was born with special talent that I’ll never have.

He’s gifted. That sort of talent comes naturally to some.

He’s just lucky. The right person “discovered” him at the right time.

Something like this could never happen to me – I don’t deserve it.

I’ve certainly had these same fears and doubts about my own dreams, but I’m forgetting something important here.

 The Reality of It

James said himself that he never expected music to take him on the journey he’s now on.

He just worked hard at it and made it a part of his life every day because he loved it and enjoyed playing it so much.


Even when he wasn’t really sure if it would lead him anywhere – he didn’t give up on it.

This admission was powerful beyond belief.

For me, it was the proof I needed to keep believing in my own dreams.

It was the proof that if I stayed true to myself, acted on my passions, and remained committed to them no matter what – there was every chance in the world that sooner or later, they would become my reality.

James Barker’s Advice

He ended by encouraging all the students (and writers) in the audience that day to let their passions lead them in life.

He told the kids that if they had something in their lives right now that they really loved doing, to keep doing it. He told them that if there is something that brings them joy and happiness, that they should hold onto it.

He encouraged them to practice it, work hard at it, and dedicate time to it.

Here’s what I took from his words:

It will take you on its own journey, as long as you are committed to it and follow your heart.

What is your true passion? Why aren’t you allowing yourself to be led by it?

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About Allison Burney

I’m a coffee-addicted writer with a passion for anything and everything travel or adventure-related. I love reading, both for pleasure and to learn something new. I’m on a mission to never stop learning, growing, challenging myself, and being the best me I can be.

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