While Jill Barber’s musical style has changed – ranging from folk to jazz to R&B and now contemporary pop, one thing hasn’t changed for the multiple-JUNO nominee, the importance of a well-written song.
Barber, who is coming to the last leg of a tour promoting her latest album, Metaphora, will showcase her voice and topical songwriting Friday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre. While she will be performing selections from her newest album, Friday’s performance will also serve as a primer for those unfamiliar with her work, or as a reminder for loyal fans about the breadth of genres her music spans.
“I’m going to be playing pieces from my entire repertoire,” Barber said over the phone Tuesday.
“I have a new record that just came out in June, so I’m going to be playing some new material, but I always play older songs. For people that have been fans of my music for some time, they can certainly expect to hear a familiar tune. It’ll be a whole evening that will take you through a bunch of different styles of music.”
Barber, who is from Mississauga, Ont, but now lives in Vancouver, said her genre-spanning shows bring a more dynamic experience.
“It’s more fun for me,” she said.
“I really pride myself on the fact that I don’t just stick to one genre. I like to mix it up. I have a lot of influences in my music, and you can hear a lot of them in my songs.”
Barber draws from her own life experiences, as a woman in the music industry, as a mother, and on relationships with people, good and bad, when she writes. Metaphora takes on some of those issues head-on. She connected with Ryan Guldemond, the lead singer of Mother Mother as she set out to write, with Guldemond earning co-writing credits on four of the album’s nine songs.
“Writing with Ryan was a big departure for me, and very exciting. He’s extremely creative and not afraid to push my creative boundaries,” Barber said in a press release.
“The sessions became part songwriting and part therapy because I was writing about things that felt pretty raw; politics, sexism, being a mother. I started to realize that this was going to be a very different kind of album for me. I had more that I needed to say and Ryan helped bring that out with his uncanny knack for melody and song structure.”
Barber elaborated on Tuesday.
“It’s a pretty personal record,” she said. “I’m not a new artist. I’ve been around. I feel like I’ve earned the right to really delve deep and say what I want to say, and not be timid or afraid to tackle challenging subjects. I certainly did some of that with my new record.”
What that translates to on stage, Barber said, is a closer connection with her audience.
“The more vulnerable a performer is, the more likely I am to connect with my audience,” she said.
“What inspires me to write is to connect … with my own feelings, but to also express them and to connect with other people that might relate. I’m not afraid to be vulnerable.”
So far, audiences have been appreciative. Barber has toured the country and has really gotten a sense for what resonates with different people.
“I feel like I’ve got the best fans in the world,” she said.
“People are really supportive of me over the course of my longish career. I’ve built up a network of really supportive fans that have a lot of faith in me. But the amazing thing is that I am hearing from so many people at the end of the night with their own stories or the way they connect to my music. I feel so fortunate and spoiled with some really positive feedback. It’s a real privilege … to go out on tour and connect with people in real life.”
Barber said she loves Saskatchewan and has found residents here to be very expressive and enthusiastic. Mostly, she’s played in bigger centres like Regina and Saskatoon, but she has made the occasional stop in Prince Albert too.
Her return to the city on the E.A. Rawlinson stage is set for Friday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the Rawlinson Centre box office or by calling 306-765-1270.