At first listen, what sets Jill Barber apart is her distinctive voice. But it’s her ability to write an immediately memorable song that has made her one of Canada’s most recognizable artists.
On Fool’s Gold, her 6th studio album, Jill continues to explore different musical styles, from traditional country, to jazz and Motown, though she rarely works neatly within the confines of any one genre. Instead she writes in the spirit of the Brill Building era where hook and melody reigned.
“I can’t help but feel nostalgic for other eras of music. When I listen to Etta James, or Ray Charles or Carole King, I feel almost intoxicated. It stirs something in me. When I write my own music, my greatest hope is that it ends up becoming the perfect soundtrack to some great romance, or at the very least a great cocktail party.”
Fool’s Gold was produced in Toronto by Jill’s longtime collaborators and bandmates Les Cooper (For All Time, Chances, Mischievous Moon) and Drew Jurecka (Chansons).
“Nobody knows me better musically than Les and Drew. We’ve spent years living and breathing music in the studio, on the stage and on the back porch. We speak the same musical short-hand. But most importantly I trust them, I really trust them.”
Much of the album was made at a distance, as Jill was spending some much-needed time at home in Vancouver with her husband CBC Radio personality Grant Lawrence and their newborn baby son Joshua. Many of the early demo recordings that were made for Fool’s Gold feature a baby cooing in the background.
“I won’t try to kid you about how hard it is to be a new mother, and work at the same time. Time becomes the new economy. For that reason, much of the making of this record came down to instinct. If it felt right, we just went with it. No second-guessing. It’s a good way to make music.”
Jill’s songs have always set a romantic mood, and on Fool’s Gold, the romance is still very much alive, but she also introduces a new sexy Motown-inspired sound on the lead single “Broken for Good.”
“What I love about Motown is that musically, it knows exactly how to deliver a message: with a strong backbeat, punctuated by horns, a driving bass line and an immediate pop appeal. It will ultimately get inside your soul but first it’ll just make you want to move your body. I wanted to write some killer songs with this approach and give myself and my band a chance to rock a little.”
“The Careless One” is a song born out of a collaboration with Nashville, TN-based Canadian musician Steve Dawson. Barber and Dawson combined forces with the CBC to pay tribute to the 60th Anniversary of the passing of Hank Williams with a concert of old time country music. During the process Jill was inspired by the often plaintive songs of heartache that define that musical landscape.
“I dreamed up the kind of song that I could imagine Patsy Cline singing. One full of resignation and sorrow, but not bitterness. It hurts me to sing it, just a little. But that’s how I know it is a keeper.”
Jill Barber has become renowned for writing songs that evoke feelings of a bygone era. The songs on Fool’s Gold are delivered by that distinct, evocative voice of an artist who has drawn inspiration from a cross section of musical genres. Regardless of Jill’s influences, the one thing you are always assured of is that you know a Jill Barber song when you hear it, and chances are, you’ll never forget it.