All that jazz with Emilie-Claire Barlow

When it came to pursuing a career in music, jazz vocalist Emilie-Claire Barlow did not have to worry about lengthy discussions with her parents as to why she felt it was a good idea.

As the daughter of two musicians, you might say that her destiny was chosen long before she may have even realized it.

Emilie-Claire Barlow will be making her first Metro Moncton appearance at the Capitol Theatre tonight. The show is scheduled to start at 8 p.m.

“Music has always been a big part of my life and was something that I grew up with,” Emilie-Claire says from her Toronto-area home. “When my parents discovered I had musical inclinations, it was something that was nurtured in our household.”

Emilie-Claire says that some of her earliest musical inspirations came from her mother who helped expose her to the catalogues of Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. Those early influences, along with Toronto jazz vocalist Holly Cole, carried over onto Emilie-Claire’s records where she has performed legendary tracks from the American Songbook of the 1930s and 1940s.

“The first time I saw Holly Cole live, she was fairly new on the scene,” Emilie-Claire says. “She was doing a lot of interpretations of these songs from the first half of the 1900s and was doing the songs in a very unique way with her trio. To see and hear that was really inspiring because she was taking these standards and was totally reinventing the songs. It struck something within me that was very positive and very exciting.”

Emilie-Claire’s most recent record, The Beat Goes On, sees the musician move forward to the songs of the 1960s, interpreting classic tracks such as Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” by Bob Dylan.

Her move into the music of the later decades of the 20th Century was a deliberate move on her part.

“With The Beat Goes On, I was really looking to do something different and do something with focus,” she says. “It was about taking pop songs from the ’60s, completely stripping them down and then trying to rebuild them in my own style with a jazz flair.

“It was refreshing to move away from the American Songboook and concentrate on a whole different decade of music.”

Despite her success and obvious vocal talent, Emilie-Claire says that she is not terribly inclined to begin writing her own material, considering herself to be an interpreter of song rather than a song writer.

“People always seem to want to ask if I am going to write my own material but at this point, the answer is that I have no such plans. People often assume that because you are a singer, you can be a songwriter too. That is not the case with me. I do not feel inspired to write songs at this point. My creative satisfaction comes from arranging and trying to reinvent songs and doing my part to keep those songs alive. In the absolute best case scenario, I have the opportunity to introduce these songs to a whole new set of ears.”

Heading into Canada’s Juno Awards later this month, Emilie-Claire has one nomination in the category of Vocal Jazz Album of The Year for The Beat Goes On. Despite having been nominated a few times in the past, she has not yet been successful in bringing a coveted Juno home.

“I think it is important to keep things like this in perspective,” she says. “As cheesy as it might sound, it really is an honour to be nominated. Just to be invited to the party is a great thing. Ultimately, it gives the record another burst of life and another wave of publicity so really, I win regardless.”

In spite of her philosophical take on the prospects of being nominated, she admits that she would love to be on the winning end of a Juno Award at some point.

“When you receive a nomination, you really can’t help but think that you are going to win because you want to win. I would love to not be the Susan Lucci of the Juno Awards,” she laughs.

On the evening that the Junos are handed out in Toronto, Emilie-Claire is slated to perform in Vancouver, something she maintains is the best possible trade-off.

“The music business can be such a roller coaster; you have to be able to handle the ups and downs. Especially for a person like myself who serves as the artist as well as my own record label and manager.

“I would love to be in the audience at the Junos when they are handed out but I am going to be doing that I really want to be doing that night; hanging out with my band and playing a live show in front of an audience.”

Article published in March 17, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript