Jill Barber, according to Jill Barber, took a big chance recording an album in French. Judging by the response in Canada so far – that chance appears to be being paying off.
The album is aptly titled “Chansons’. Released in January and inspired by Barber’s performance of a French song at the 2009 Festival International de Jazz in Montreal, it is a wonderful surprise to Jill.
“I wasn’t very confident singing in French and a friend of mine offered to translate my song into the language. I performed it and I was overwhelmed by the response. It was kind of a revelatory moment in my life. Then I realized that I wanted to get my French back from my childhood and sing more of the beautiful language which is the language of love.”
Barber’s ‘French’ childhood was French class in Port Credit, Ontario – her birthplace. Following stints in the East Coast of Canada and France – Barber now makes her home in Vancouver, B.C. With her fifth album completed and vastly becoming ‘Canada’s sweetheart’, her hometown Province proudly lays claim to the beautiful singer.
“It’s been really interesting to see how my English fans seem to embrace the album even though they don’t speak French. I think the songs and the music bring out the same emotions regardless of language. So far, the album has been released all over Canada and will be released in France and Europe in the near future.”
Barber has not sung many of the new songs live and is looking forward to her show in Montreal on the 2nd of May. It will be the ‘real’ test because a lot of Francophones and bilingual people will be in attendance. Because of this – Jill will be performing more French songs during her Montreal show than the ensuing gigs in Toronto and Calgary. The set list will include favorites from her repertoire so a performance consisting of ‘French only’ on Thursday appears nil and void.
“I spent time in the South of France, even enrolling in a French immersion school. I am going back there in about ten days. My first French song was an Edith Piaf song. Sitting in a café in Paris made me fall in love with the tune and language. Piaf’s songs are filled with something which cannot be described. When choosing the songs for the album, I did not choose a song just because it was French, the songs had to hit me in a certain way. If it did, then I decided to record it. I would say the entire process, the song selection, the recording, the producing took about a year. I am very proud of the result.”
Barber started writing songs when she was 14 and released he first CD when she was 16. She did not think of writing songs in French at that time, although her first single from the album ‘Mischievous Moon’ was released in both French and English (“Dis-Moi/Tell Me”). Her previous four discs focused instead on her folk – ish / coffee – house repertoire. ‘Chansons’ is not only Barber’s first album in another language, it is also her first album of covers.
A songwriter first, Jill believes if a song comes from the heart, it does not matter the language.
” I am writing songs for my new album now. So far – no French ones have come up but I may start writing in French. Obviously it would be better if I lived in Quebec and was surrounded by the language. I have commitments in Vancouver at the moment so i can’t just pick up and leave. I will be inspired over in France and hopefully one day, I will get to spend more time in Montreal.”
Jill Barber is performing Thursday night at The Metropolis. Showtime is at 8pm.
- Canadian jazz in Hamburg: Jill Barber (blogs.vancouversun.com)
- Pottsgrove Parent: French Teacher Can’t Speak French (roysrants.wordpress.com)
- What to do in Toronto, April 27 to May 3: Johnny Marr, Jill Barber and Stars on Ice (theglobeandmail.com)