A native New Yorker and private school brat, Barrett Zinn had an epiphany around Y2K. His years learning flute and guitar while attending Collegiate and St. Ann’s, and later Wesleyan University, were formative of course: That’s how he earned a place in the rollicking jam sessions of his youth, playing the music of the Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna, Jethro Tull and Neil Young.
But if the Bandshell in Central Park in the middle of the night felt like the pinnacle of success, Barrett always knew there was something more. Around 2000, a light went off in his head. By now a successful designer and manufacturer of lighting products, in business with his father and then on his own, Barrett realized there was something else he needed to do: There were songs he needed to compose, and the craft and art of performing were two things he needed to learn.
First a student of Hugh Prestwood’s New School songwriting workshop, Barrett then became a protegée of the late songwriting den mother Ann Ruckert, whose Songwriter’s Circle he’s been a part of for more than a decade. At Hunter College, where he earned a masters degree in Music Education, Barrett spelunked into the deep cavities of singing. The crafting of songs became a serious enterprise, and Barrett began to forge the tunes we hear on his debut CD, “Pavlov’s Dog.”
In 2016, after working the songs of “Pavlov’s Dog” in the studio, Barrett put an exclamation point on it all by asking his collaborators to form the band Barrett Zinn & The Mongrels.
The group — there’s not a dog in the bunch — just clicks. Unfussy, raffish, winkingly aware, The Mongrels are appealing to a multi-generational crowd — from the gang raised on ‘70s folk-rock, to the new kids for whom an earth-friendly idealism and earnest counter-culturalism feel right. Face it, we all are in the same boat in the Season of Hate we find ourselves.