Spencer Barnett (Almost) Does It All
February 21, 2019
Three bald men step into the lobby elevator at the Ritz Carlton San Francisco. They are carrying identical black briefcases, wearing freshly pressed suits, and speaking in a whisper. Spencer Barnett approaches one of the men, and confidently asks them what they’re doing. “We’re hosting a car show” one of the men sneers, then turns to his fellow car show hosts to continue his conversation. After we wait in silence, the bell dings and Spencer pushes his way through, nodding goodbye to the suited men. As we walk up to his room, Spencer explains that he’s been staying at the Ritz because of a flood in his house.
The Ritz Carlton is sophisticated, to say the least, with towering white pillars, soft jazz, deep purple lighting, and fresh cider in the lobby. It smells like a luxury beauty salon, and even the marble floor looks untouched. I think about how dreamy it would be to walk through the doors of the Ritz every day, but to Spencer, it’s customary.
But Spencer has more important things on his mind than reclining into the crisp white linen of his freshly made bed and eating the Sugarfina champagne gummies by his bedside. As I’m drawn to the different flavors of macaroons under the television, Spencer begins asking me scheduling questions. He is in Los Angeles for the whole weekend, shooting content and writing music. He also has two-hour phone calls to discuss his release plan after he gets home every weekday. I tell him that unlike him, my schedule’s open, and he moves on to recite the hotel’s complimentary meal schedule for guests in case I was hungry.
Practicality and class matter to Spencer. His room is clean, his toiletries are perfectly lined up, and, although he says he has “enough hours in the day,” he thinks of his days in chunks. Spencer Barnett is only seventeen, and talks with the confidence and persuasiveness of a thirty-year-old CEO. He’s a self-titled musician, and works with friends in Los Angeles weekly to write, record, and create a brand for himself.
But this mastery of scheduling and determination to grind doesn’t come from nowhere. Just like his mother, born and raised in Manhattan, Spencer is good at getting down to business: “My mom, more than my dad, is probably more of a stereotypical New Yorker. She doesn’t really mess around and gets down to the point… I think that did rub off on me a lot.” Coming from the East Coast, Spencer’s used to tolerating “zero bulls**t,” and he’s content with his life, because, “busy means [he’s] never bored.”
Although he inherited his mother’s drive and confidence, Spencer’s also a replication of his father. Roger and Spencer look the same, with the same flowy, jet black hair (except for when Spencer experimented with frosted blond tips), and a smile that invites people in, but also exudes that they should not be messed with. They not only look the same but also have the same calm West Coast demeanor: “Both my parents kind of influence me… Sometimes I’m super outgoing, sometimes I’m a little more reserved. It just really depends.” But, if there’s anything Spencer and both of his parents have in common, it’s productivity. Like his mother, Spencer’s focused, driven, confident, and gets stuff done. Like his father, he’s calm, charming, reserved, and creative. And as a result, Spencer is perfectly bred for the business world.
But he’s not all about work. Spencer plays sports, has close friends at school, and has committed to Brown University. Although music is all he seems to be, his work, “has kind of restricted [him] from some kind of normal high school life” where he’s “not doing anything.” In fact, the one thing Spencer wants people to know is that “there’s more to [him] than just music or school because a lot of the time people only see [him] in one aspect of that life.” One of his toughest challenges has been “balancing all of these different things like being a normal kid and going to school and also having a career.”
Sometimes, this constant push and pull in Spencer’s life can be too much, and he second guesses himself: “And I do kind of stop and think is this the right thing to do? Am I growing up too fast… and, I don’t have a definitive answer to that. I don’t think I ever will.” Spencer doesn’t have the teenage luxury of having a one-track mind, literally and figuratively. Rather than dwelling on what could be stress, Spencer sets small goals, because it causes him to be productive in all areas of his life, “I think setting small goals is important to keep your focus on the immediate and what you can control rather than what you can’t.” He knows that the situation has its “pros and cons,” but he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s gotten.
Spencer is always balancing. He’s balancing his ambitious goals with his career with his ambitious goals at Brown. He’s balancing studio time with homework and being the captain of Marin Academy Varsity Tennis. He’s balancing his East Coast efficiency and West Coast demeanor. He balances looking professional, in an all-black outfit with slicked-back hair as he performs, with his closet is full of Hawaiian shirts and colorful bomber jackets. He balances being a young kid in an industry of “30/40 years old, [who] kind of dismiss [his] thoughts from the get-go” with being a grown up and being in high school at the same time.
So unlike most seventeen-year-olds who already have a billboard in Times Square, Spencer’s aiming higher and using his sense of balance to maximize productivity and creativity.