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The Barn: A chapel to songwriters

  • The Barn primarily features Americana, blues, and some bluegrass artists, but it’s a venue like no other.

Just outside of the home of Steve and Kay Ellis in Columbus, Mississippi, The Barn is a beautiful display of what happens when you combine community, music, and a passion for helping others. What started as a simple pavilion in the Ellis’s sideyard has blossomed into a beloved venue for live music, attracting both locals and visitors from afar.

The Barn isn’t just a venue; it’s a sanctuary for music lovers. Dubbed “a chapel to songwriters” by New Orleans musician Andrew Doohan, The Barn offers an intimate setting— a pavilion in a neighbor’s yard— where artists and audiences connect personally. The walls are decorated with photos of past performers, creating a visual history of the talent that has taken center stage. As Doohan put it, the audience is the congregation coming together to celebrate the art of songwriting.

Steve Ellis recalls the moment Doohan mused about The Barn: “He just paused and looked at all the pictures and saw a lot of people that he had even played with or played on their albums or written with. And he turned to the audience and said, ‘You know, the Barn is the chapel to songwriters and you guys are its congregation.’ And I just went, ‘I’m gonna use that.’”

From Humble Beginnings

Steve Ellis, a retired broadcaster who built and ran WMSV at Mississippi State University, had a vision for The Barn. Initially used for family gatherings and weddings, he saw its potential as a venue for live music. In 2019, he transformed the space, inviting musicians to perform and creating a unique experience for concert-goers. Despite a Covid-induced hiatus in 2020, The Barn has continued to grow, hosting an impressive lineup each year.

One of the Barn’s most remarkable aspects is its deep connection to the community. When tragedy struck at the home of a neighbor next to the Ellis home just hours before a show, the community rallied together, using the already scheduled concert to raise nearly $4,000 for the victim. This spirit of giving and support is a cornerstone of The Barn’s philosophy. Steve and his wife don’t take a cut from the donation jar; all proceeds go to the featured charity of the night.

“He had been cooking in his carport, grilling, and had gone like a grease flame or something, grease fire, and caught the carport and his car on fire,” said Ellis. “And within minutes, his whole house was consumed. We pushed the concert back about an hour until we had to get the fire department out here to make sure it was safe because our lines ran through his property. Everything was okay, and we immediately switched our decision to raise money for (the neighbors) and not just the people at Main Street Columbus.”

The Ellis sells tickets to cover artist fees, but donation jars are set up to benefit local causes. That night, the donations rolled in for the neighbor.

Here’s the kicker… they still raised money for both and were able to meet the needs of Main Street Columbus and help the neighbor get back on his feet. 

A Showcase of Talent

The Barn primarily features Americana, blues, and some bluegrass artists. From local legends like Paul Thorne to up-and-coming bands like Top House, the venue offers a platform for both established and emerging artists. Each concert is a unique experience, often featuring special shows that aren’t part of the regular season lineup.

“The one that opened our series this year, Top House, there were four guys from Montana who got work out of Nashville,” said Ellis. “We caught them going through the area. We did an inside show, and it was a huge deal.”

Looking Ahead

Ellis shows no signs of slowing down. He’s already planning the 2025 Barn Concert Series and has even started making purchases for more equipment so that The Barn can continue. While he acknowledges that the future is uncertain, his commitment to The Barn and its mission remains unwavering. The Barn isn’t just about the music; it’s about creating lasting memories and fostering a sense of community.

“I am 67, so I don’t know, you know? But I am thankful either way. I want to keep doing it as long as I can,” said Ellis.

A Venue Like No Other

What sets The Barn apart is its authenticity and the genuine love for music that permeates every event. It’s a place where artists and fans can unite, where the hustle and bustle of everyday life fade away, and where the magic of live music takes center stage.

Typically held on Thursday nights, concerts at The Barn are designed to be accessible to working folks, wrapping up by 9:15 PM. This careful planning allows folks to catch a great night of music and food and make it to work the next day.

Oh, and the food? Steve and his wife, Kay, do it all. They buy and cook the food, serving it like a night at The Barn is just another family gathering. 

If you are looking for a friendly, comfy musical experience, make your way to The Barn. You’ll enjoy fantastic live performances and contribute to the community at the same time.

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