Performing Artist Page

Zoe Speaks

Music: Ensembles and Groups

Zoe Speaks consists of Kentuckians Mitch Barrett and Carla Gover, their daughter, fiddler/vocalist Zoey Barrett, her multi-instrumentalist husband Arlo Barnette, and bassist Owen Reynolds, who draw on their deep roots in the region to put their own spin on everything from traditional ballads to finely-crafted originals. Their recent album "Wings" made it to #1 on Folk Radio nationwide, and they continue to create music that provides a fresh and progressive view from Appalachia. 

Zoe Speaks is rooted deep in family, in the music making, storytelling lineages of their rural Eastern Kentucky origins, where music is a part of daily life, and where singing goes hand in hand with working. In addition to sharing banjo, guitar, dulcimer, fiddle and traditional flatfoot dancing, they connect audiences with stories from their families and communities that help provide a clearer picture of an oft-stereotyped region. To create their southern singer-songwriter sound, they have worked with some of the powerhouses in the folk, Americana and old-time worlds, with previous albums produced by Mark Schatz, Bruce Molsky and Dirk Powell. Their music is rooted in the Appalachian sounds they grew up playing, but freely draws on a variety of rhythms and styles from smooth folk-pop to blues and calypso. 

It also doesn't hurt that two members of the group are award-winning songwriters, with wins from Merlefest's Chris Austin Songwriting Contest (two times!), the Kerrville New Folk Award (two times!), The Telluride Troubador Contest, The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival Songwriting Contest and Kerrville's Music To Life Contest between them. Zoe Speaks has performed at venues like Merlefest, The Kennedy Center, The Kerrville Folk Festival and Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, to name a few. 

Known for both their originals and their unique spins on the mountain tunes that they cut their musical teeth on, their songs are socially conscious and spiritual, with themes ranging from the environment to family to addiction to interracial relationships, and populated by tricksters, angels, addicts, truck-stop waitresses, fools, mules, heroes and werewolves.

In counterpoint to the relentless tales of conservative Appalachia, Zoe Speaks uses the family heirlooms they grew up hearing and singing, as well as striking originals, to shine a light on the other side of the Appalachian culture, which has produced some of America’s most distinctive, thought-provoking progressive artistic voices.