CanCulture: So, first of all, belated congratulations on your wedding. That was pretty cool to read about.
Jill Barber: Oh, thank you.
CC: How long has it been now?
JB: It’s been actually over a year now, which is hard to believe. Yeah, I got married last May.
CC: That’s exciting. So, how is married life treating you after a year?
JB: It’s treating me really, really well. It’s great to be married, I love it, and it’s different in some ways and not different in other ways. Yeah, it feels great. It’s good.
CC: In what ways has it changed you as an artist, if any?
JB: I don’t know, I mean, it’s hard to say. Certainly, my music, my songs have been a reflection of what’s been happening in my life. I also have a constant kind of champion and somebody I can talk to that really understands my career and what it’s like to be an artist. I think, in terms of my creativity, it’s been really good because it’s kind of given me a lot of material, I suppose, to sort of think over and muse over. I think that’s really reflective of a lot of the new material on the new album. It’s a funny thing. I think, with my last record, it was kind of more like the falling in love phase, and this record, it’s a little bit more serious, I find, because now I’m kind of in love and that means I can kind of go deeper in my explorations of love and how to stay in love. You know, what do you do once you’re in love? It all kind of goes hand in hand: what happens in my life and in my work.
CC: Did he get a chance to hear everything ahead of time? Did he kind of act as your first listener?
JB: No, he’s kind of like my last listener [laughs]. You know, I’m really lucky, I have a few really close people that I trust creatively: my producer and some of the people that I work with, my band, my manager, who I’ve worked with for something like eight years now. And Grant is maybe almost too close. So, no, he doesn’t really get to hear stuff pretty much until it’s complete. It’s funny how I tend to be shy with people I’m really closest with, like my close, close friends and family . . . . It all comes from my own experiences on an emotional level. I try to write songs that are not diary entries, [but] it has to resonate with other peoples’ experiences.
CC: Based on that, what type of things do you hope your fans take away from your new songs and your new album? What kind of experiences do you want them to have?
JB: I guess it’s kind of like I was saying. I feel like the destiny of a song is to resonate with people and so my greatest hope is that people with connect with these songs on some level and that they can become a part of their lives, like, over cocktails, maybe the music is a soundtrack. I want my music to belong in other people’s lives and be a soundtrack, in a way. I think everybody is trying to figure out a soundtrack to their lives with the music they listen to and so it’s an honour to occasionally be let into other people’s lives via my music.
CC: I noticed when I was listening to the album that there were some songs that had kind of a Big Band influence on them, so other than love, what things influenced you for this album, if anything?
JB: Big drama. Nostalgia. I feel like I am pretty nostalgic for, not so much another time as a way of getting back to, preserving some of the traditions that have gone out of style these days, like celebrating life and taking the time. [laughs] I don’t know, I’m not doing a very good job of answering that question.
CC: No, you totally are.
JB: I’m influenced by lots of things, like film and art and novels and my friends and life, I guess. I like to think that my songs kind of celebrate life because that’s what I try to do every day. I studied philosophy in university and a big question in philosophy is how to find happiness, true happiness. I’m on a kind of quest, as most people are, to figure out what that means to me, and so I guess I explore that in my music.
CC: And that was a very good answer, don’t worry. One of your songs off this album is recorded in both English and in French. Did you find any challenges in recording in another language than the one you’re used to?
JB: Yeah, absolutely. I’m not a fluent French speaker. I’m just learning French. It was something that I decided I really wanted to do and at the start of this year, I actually went to France for a month and took an intensive French immersion course and just immersed myself completely in the language and the culture. The reason for that is, I guess in a sense, it’s all part of that pursuit of happiness kind of thing. I want to live life to the fullest and I feel sad that I could only speak in one language, could only communicate in one language. I love French. It’s just such a beautiful, sensual language and it’s a language of our country and I have a growing fan-base in Quebec. Quebec has really kind of opened their arms to me, so I’ve wanted to show my gratitude for that by singing in French. It’s been a challenge to sing in French because it’s not my mother tongue, it’s a foreign language to me still; although, I’m working on it. It’s just nice to be able to sing in French. It’s, in a sense, easier than speaking in French because I can practice what I’m saying. I love it. I love the shapes of words in French and I love how it sounds when it’s sung. So, yeah, it was definitely a challenge, but one that I was up for.
CC: How was it living in France and learning the language in, essentially, its birth place?
JB: It was incredible. It was totally romantic and totally enriching and one of the best experiences of my life, for sure.
CC: And so what did you do every day? How did you spend your days while you were in France and how did you learn the language while you were there?
JB: I was actually attending a school, so Monday to Friday, for eight hours a day, I would take classes with other international students, and eight hours a day, speaking only in French, communicating only in French with no breaks, it was really quite serious. And I made a lot of friends at the school there. I was in a beautiful apartment that overlooked the Mediterranean and after school, I would go to the market and pick up food and I would just cook in the evenings and drink wine with my friends from the school. I just went on my own, so it was a good way to make friends. We took some excursions. We did some wine tasting and some cheese tasting and that kind of thing. There was a lot to keep us busy but it was an incredible experience.
CC: It sounds like it. Did you get to use your singer-songwriter talents while you were in school?
JB: At the final party, I performed for everybody at the final dinner. Yeah, they all heard me perform. I played a show while I was there too, in Cannes.
CC: How was that? How was seeing it because it’s basically the place that everyone would want to see in France. So what was that experience like?
JB: It was amazing. I mean, it’s so beautiful there and it’s this essentially pristine southern French coastline and sort of pristine-looking people everywhere. It was kind of a trip, but it was really fun. Very good. Very romantic. Very French. I love French culture.
CC: Now that you’re back and you’re gearing up for some performances, what can your fans hope to see if they see you at Jazz Fest?
JB: Well, I’m going to be playing selections from my whole body of work, so whether people are fans already or a re just being introduced to my music, I think they’ll get a pretty good representation of what I do. I’m going to be there with my incredible band, and they’re amazing. I love playing intimate concerts in tents. I think it’s in an outdoor tent? I’m pretty sure. And I love festivals. Festivals always have a real vibe of celebration and they feel different than just regular, indoor shows. I think it’ll have a little bit of magic and I’m really due for a performance in Ottawa because it’s been a while for me, so I’ve been looking forward to this with a lot of anticipation, this particular show, so I really can’t wait. My band is really excited and it’s going to be wonderful.
— Photo by Ivan Otis