Q & A with Jill Barber

Since her 2004 debut record, Canadian vocalist Jill Barber has evolved from an early folk roots sound to embrace the sounds of jazz, big band and more. This change in musical direction began on her 2008 record Chances where, inspired by the sounds of the 1930’s and 1940’s, she gave her sultry, authentic take on the music of the World War II era. Any question as to whether the genre-hopping Barber could pull off such a musical shift were quickly laid to rest once the first notes of Chances played out.

With an excellent new record (Mischevious Moon) slated to drop tomorrow, Tuesday April 5, Barber should find her stock continuing to rise at home in Canada. Inspired by the timeless music of Ella Fitzgerald and Etta James, the vintage sound of her new record draws upon darker melodies and dramatic orchestration than her previous work has done. And yet it all works beautifully.

Jill recently took the time to take part in the MusicNerd Q&A session where she tells us about her first record purchase and how she ended up lingering in the arms of country legend Kris Kristofferson.

Where do you currently call home?

I’ve called many places home over the years; Kingston, Halifax, Toronto… but Vancouver is where my heart is now.

Why do you live where you do?

It’s very beautiful and green and I can ride my bike all year ‘round!  Also, I married a Vancouverite.

What is occupying your time these days?

I am releasing a brand new record called Mischievous Moon, so I’ve been doing lots of press and getting set to go on tour with my band.  I’ve also been learning how to cook and speak french.

First record purchased and at what age?

Tiffany, self titled featuring I Think We’re Alone Now.  It was a cassette.

When did you start to play music?

When I was fourteen… I borrowed my brother’s guitar.

If we took a look inside the bedroom of a 13-15 year old you, what posters would have been on the walls?

It was about that age that I tore down the pretty floral wallpaper of my childhood and replaced it with posters of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Blind Melon, Soul Asylum.  Yes, I was a child of the “grunge” age.

What three records could you not live without?

Joni Mitchell – Blue, Carole King – Tapestry and Jimmy Scott – The Savoy Years.

Who or what is getting too much attention these days?

“Reality” television.  It’s a cultural epidemic.

Who or what is not getting enough attention these days?

Reality.  Also, the Arcade Fire’s guitar tech.  His name is Tyler Messick and he is a friend of mine and one of this country’s finest singer-songwriters that nobody knows.

What has been your most memorable show?

When I opened for Kris Kristofferson at the Metro Centre in Halifax. Kris watched my entire set from the wings and when I stepped off stage he was standing there grinning, with his arms open wide.  I literally fell into his embrace and probably lingered longer than was appropriate.  I tried to contact him after the gig, but never heard from him again.

Worst career moment thus far?

I was opening for Ron Sexsmith at The Grand Theatre in Calgary, and for my last song I pulled a stunt where I walked backwards up a set of stairs singing an acoustic, unplugged version of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”  It was pin drop-silent. I was wearing these silly cowboy boots (because I was in Calgary) and during the last verse I missed a step, dislocated my knee and fell really hard on my ass slamming my guitar against the ground.  The crowd let out a collective gasp and I hobbled away humiliated, burst into tears backstage and fell into Ron Sexsmith’s arms.

Most extravagant rider item?

Single malt scotch… but we usually get Wisers instead.