From right: 2019 Trucker Talent Search winner Taylor Barker and his wife, Cherie, with session-wizard Jay Vernali this past Saturday at Vernali’s “Jay’s Place” recording studio on Music Row in Nashville.

Beginning mid-afternoon Saturday, November 23, at Jay’s Place on Music Row in Nashville, Tenn, Heniff Transportation-leased tank-hauling owner-operator Taylor Barker laid the groundwork for what he’s hopeful will be initially an EP and later a full-length record. Saturday, he recorded four base tracks with producer-engineer and all-around studio wizard Jay Vernali (also on bass and keys) and veteran session percussionist Wayne Killius.

As noted Vernali about midway through the session …

“It’s Saturday night on Music Row.” –Jay Vernali (pictured) on an evening’s work…

Percussionist Killius at work sequestered in Vernali’s “boom room” for the drums and working out the first of the four tracks Barker laid down Saturday, an original called “Do you ever think of me?”

The session was the end result of Barker’s win at the 2019 edition of the Overdrive and Red Eye Radio Trucker Talent Search music/songwriting competition, where Barker’s live rendition of Zane Williams’ “While I was away” brought him the first prize. The Williams tune was the second of the tracks Barker laid down this weekend. Read more about Barker’s history in trucking and music via this link to our November issue cover story.

All in all, “those guys are awesome,” Barker said the day after the session about Vernali and Killius. Particularly impressive, Barker said, was Vernali’s piano contributions to the songs, something he’s long wished he could integrate into his originals.

Barker’s hopeful to have an album’s worth of material finished by the time of the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, he says, with some further support from his leasing fleet, Heniff. Saturday at Jay’s he was able to accomplish the bones of the four tracks, though he held off for now on laying final vocals given the compromised state of his vocal chords this Saturday. He plans to return to Nashville in early December to finish those, and will likely work with Vernali further after that on the record.

It’s always a treat to see a plan laid come to fruition, whether in the studio or on the haul.

Barker notes he has taken, “partly by choice,” an approach to trucking leased to Heniff to stay out for two-three weeks at a time — sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on where the freight takes him — to maximize good-rate opportunities when they come. Shown here is the chart Vernali drew up for Killius for the third track laid down in the session, “The Preacher and the Stranger.” Readers may recognize the track, written by Carl Cartee and Jerry Salley, from Joey and Rory Feek’s recording of it on their 2013 “Inspired: Songs of Faith and Family” record.

The last of the four tracks laid down is called “Cherie’s Song,” an original involving Taylor’s wife, Cherie Barker (pictured here behind Taylor). As noted in the November cover story, Cherie manages Cherie’s Boutique in the Barkers’ home base of Kingsport, Tenn. — the business is focused on reclaiming and rebuilding antique furniture and custom builds from vintage materials. Taylor’s own passion for woodworking also dovetails with the business’ efforts.

Stay tuned for more from the session in a podcast later in the week.


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