Friday, 28 October 2011 14:06

Barber trying to emulate the all-time great songstresses

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By Jessi Gowan — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Inspired by the all-time great women of song such as Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf, Ontario native Jill Barber worked her way up from a shy, acoustic folkie to a confident touring artist.


Her upcoming performance at the Lyric Theatre Nov. 16 — part of the Blenders music series —will give local audiences a chance to experience her unmistakable contralto for themselves.
After learning a few guitar chords from her brother as a teenager, Barber started writing angsty music to express the emotions she was struggling with at the time.
While she did play in bands and continue to write music throughout her years in university, it wasn’t until Barber moved to Halifax when she really began to pursue her passion.
“I became a part of the music community there, and I was really inspired,” she explained. “Music was becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life, so I cashed in the saving bonds I had received from my grandmother and just jumped in to try to be a professional musician. I haven’t worked a regular job since, and I think it was the best decision I ever made. It’s a long road, and it certainly hasn’t been easy, but for me the only thing harder would be doing something that I don’t love this much.”
Barber had to overcome a bit of initial stage fright, and admitted under no circumstances was she born to be on stage.
However, the writing process isn’t really complete for Barber until the song has been shared with an audience — until her words have resonated with someone else.
“At the heart of it, I have a desire to connect with other people,” Barber said. “It goes beyond just writing songs and expressing myself, I feel that for a song to really fulfill its purpose, it needs to be both written and heard.”
Much of Barber’s writing takes place during intense periods of introversion, where she uses the inspiration she has collected from day-to-day life. It’s a completely different experience for her than performing.
“I spend a lot of time quiet, trying to explore everything that is going on internally,” explained Barber. “I really draw a lot from my own experience, and I don’t think I will ever be someone who tells other people’s stories.”
While her inspiration remains the same, Barber’s music has certainly developed since she began writing songs at the age of 14. Her music is constantly evolving, and Barber views past records or songs as chapters of her life.
“I like to think that I’m leaving a trail of bread crumbs with each song that I put out,” Barber admitted. “It’s really satisfying, doing the work that I do. It’s for myself, to further my own goals. It’s incredibly gratifying.”
Although it’s her name on the posters, Barber is adamant she is no longer a solo artist — instead, she is a part of a collective of talented musicians who are working just as hard as she is. She enjoys having an opportunity to share the experience of making music with both her band and with an audience.
“A show is no good if it’s just me, there has to be an exchange of energy,” said Barber. “I probably rely too much on my audience for the fuel that I need to put on my best show. There is an intangible energy that I feed off of, and it’s addictive. It gets me high to feel that intimacy.”
Barber especially loves performing at new venues, and is looking forward to playing at a couple of new locations in Saskatchewan — Swift Current and Prince Albert. She will perform at Swift Current’s Lyric Theatre Nov. 16, with doors opening at 7 p.m. and the show beginning at 8 p.m.
Tickets for the show are $30 and can be purchased through Shann at 306-778-2686 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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