Game day Q&A: Nick Barnett on adjusting to a new team, and his off-field passion

September 9, 2013

Nick Barnett developed a love for music because his mother owned a record story when he was a child. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

It’s game day, and we’re bringing back a weekly feature called the Game Day Q&A, where we’ll sit down with a member of the Redskins’ team and get to know him.

We’ll talk some football, but we do a lot of that throughout the week, and so, we’ll also get into some off-field topics.

Up first this season is one of the newest members of the team – inside linebacker Nick Barnett.

Barnett entered the NFL in 2003 as the Green Bay Packers’ first-round pick (29th overall). Barnett spent eight seasons with the Packers, earning All-Pro honors in 2007 and helping the team to victory in Super Bowl XLV. Barnett then spent two seasons in Buffalo, and on Aug. 1, signed with Washington.

Our conversation follows:

MJ: What has the acclimation process been like for you?

 NB: It’s a little challenging to come in, basically, in the middle of training camp and trying to get the defense down and get acclimated with the locker room and things of those natures. But, it’s part of the business and I’m blessed to be with a team like this to go through the process. But, I’m glad I’m at this point where I’m getting ready to play a big Monday night game against a division opponent, and it should be a hell of a game.

MJ: This is a different experience for you, though. Isn’t it? You’ve been a career starter, now you’re a backup.

NB: Yeah, this is definitely different, and obviously a different experience for me. Obviously, I have to prepare as if I am the starter, so if I go in, I don’t want to miss a beat with London out. So, I have to prepare just as well as if I play four quarters. I might not play any, but it all depends on the flow of the game, on if they need me, if they don’t. I just have to be prepared.

MJ: What has been the most difficult off-field adjustment?

NB: [Laughing] Living in an apartment (with his wife and four children). The other one might be traffic. For me, playing in Buffalo and Green Bay, there wasn’t much traffic to and from work. But, coming from Leesburg, there’s a little traffic in the mornings and on the way back. The other is trying to get the kids in the school. There are so many schools here. So, just the living adjustments.

MJ: I bet you’ll be glad to get all that settled.

NB: Yeah, by the time I get all that situated, the season will be over. Hopefully, I’ll get another year signed here or whatever. But if not, I’ll be packing it all up again. It’s a little different from what I’m used to – used to having a little more security. But, I’m just blessed to have this opportunity.

MJ: What’s something interesting that not a lot of fans know about Nick Barnett?

NB: There’s a lot that they don’t know about me. But probably out here, probably a lot of people don’t know that I DJ’d and produced music.

MJ: What kind?

NB: R&B, hip-hop, I’ve done rock before, I’ve done produced jazz bands. I’ve done a lot. But, since I left Green Bay, that’s where my studio was, now I’ve just been focusing on this because I don’t know how much longer I have. But I’ll always have music. I can just wait on that.

MJ: How did you get into that?

NB: I think it was because my mom used to own a record store when I was a little kid, and that’s when I got real versed in music and started off DJ’ing and wanting to produce beats.

MJ: Was that your backup plan if football didn’t work out?

NB: Naw. Hell naw. Had to get that business degree. I didn’t finish, but music was always just a hobby.

MJ: So, what kind of DJ’ing did you do? House parties?

NB: All through college I DJ’d – house parties, I’d throw them, make little fliers – to make a little side cash. I worked for a little bar as a DJ.

MJ: What is it you like about music?

NB: For me, I’m just an emotional person. I play with a lot of emotion and live with a lot of emotion, and I think that music can – it’s almost like a drug. If you want to get up, you listen to something that gets you up. You want to be sad? You listen to something that gets you sad. There’s all types of music that can put you in moods and emotional states, and you don’t have any side effects except for the emotional part.

MJ: Do you sing?

NB: Hell naw. I wish I could sing. I’m just behind the scenes. I can make good music, though. I can make good beats and write good music, but I can’t sing.

MJ: Play any instruments?

NB: I can play the drums. But I’m not dude from Metallica, whatever his name is. [Lars Ulrich]. But I’ve got a couple different beats I can do.

MJ: What was the name of your record label?

NB: It used to be Clarity Music Group, but it’s all over. I dissolved it.

MJ: Will you ever go back to it?

NB: You know what? I’ve got guys that work for, like, Universal, and big record labels, in distribution, and there’s just no money in it unless you’re that far off. I think I’ll always have a studio and I’ll always produce music for fun. But, I’d like to start DJ’ing again on a bigger scale. That way you can produce music and go out and play it. That electric music that dance is now, that’s the way you utilize that equipment for. I never was into electric music really until recently when I went to an EDC electronic music conference, and then you’re seeing all they’re doing is they’re playing hip-hop, and beats but doing different breaks and things like that, so I’d like to do that someday, but I don’t really know.

MJ: So what’s on your pre-game playlist?

NB: I have a lot of different things in my phone. It all just depends on the day. I’ve got country music, rock music. But, mostly, I’ve been playing hip-hop, because I’ve been playing my speakers in here, and everybody in here likes that, and I like it as well. So, it hasn’t been a problem.

MJ: Anything unique about your pregame ritual?

NB: No. Just music and that’s it. I just like to have fun pregame. My biggest thing is, if you can’t be laughing in a locker room before the game, you shouldn’t be playing. Obviously, this game was invented as a business, but it was a fun game. It was meant to have fun, and if you take away that aspect out of it – at least for me – you lose the emotion to the game. So, I just like to have fun, laugh and let it all hang out.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins’ season kicks off at 7:10 p.m., and ESPN goes on air at 6:55. Here are Dr. Gridlock’s tips on getting to FedEx Field on Monday night.

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Keith McMillan · September 9, 2013

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