Emelie – Claire Barlow; The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and ‘Bunny’

For Emelie – Claire Barlow, the fifth time is a charm.

Following four previous Juno nominations, Barlow finally won a 2013 award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year. The album is called ‘Seule ce  Soir’ . A disc which was recorded in 2012 and was initially intended as a compilation of all her French songs she has done over the years.

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‘Most of my records have one or two songs in French and we played most of them live. I just thought it was time to  re – record  them because over the years they have evolved. So the project took on a life of its own. Half the record is newly recorded versions of old songs and the other half are new songs. ”

Barlow, combining new and old – did not discover that a huge gap existed between the compositions. According to the native of Toronto, the blending of material was smooth.

“I found the album worked in a very cohesive way. For me, my creative process is taking a song and changing the arrangement completely and making them my own style. An example would be Croissants de Soleil. Ginette Reno is very pop oriented and we took her song, stripped it down and made it a lush romantic Bossa Nova. Because I have a band that has played with me for several years, there is a consistency in the record between the older and newer songs. They all sound as if they come from the same place.”

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Barlow makes no bones about the fact that she is in control of the arrangements and the writing process. She chooses the repertoire and the album name. Although, over the years she has mellowed and given up more of her ‘ perfectionist’  habits, she has learned  to ‘trust’ more people. Changing arrangements, especially on stage,  used to stress her out. Now – she realizes that sometimes, the most  interesting things come from the need of adapting it. Having musicians who are world class helps that process quite a bit.

Emelie – Claire explains …

” I sit at the piano and come up with the ideas and write out the charts for the bands. They are very generous musicians who bring their own ideas and styles and then – things evolve. Especially after playing the songs live.  Getting older and trusting everyone more leaves me more freedom to improvise on stage. Don’t forget, we are also traveling with a different amount of musicians sometimes. We may not have a piano player one show. My voice will compensate for that missing sound and my voice becomes the piano. If the horns are the instrument that is missing, same thing – my voice fills in that gap.”

emilie488152-000009_LREmelie – Claire’s voice is very ‘instrumental’ in her career.

Starting at the age of nine, Barlow has used her voice in television commercials singing jingles which appears to have launched an ensuing  career which started about fifteen years ago. Barlow plays or ‘acts’  characters in animated television series ( see link below).

Singing Jazz or doing voices are equally comfortable for the late thirties Barlowe and she is currently the voice behind an animated character in the television series; Almost Naked Animals. It is in the third season and Emelie plays ‘Bunny‘, a rabbit aptly named and ( as it turns out ), aptly placed as well …

“I moved into a new place about six months ago and I actually have a mantle. I took my Juno award – which is quite heavy ( I may use it to work on my biceps), and surrounded it with a stuffed animal of ‘Bunny’ along with a glass duck and a mouse. They are all looking at my Juno – it is pretty funny.”

The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and 'Bunny'.
The Juno, the Duck, the Mouse and ‘Bunny’.

Something that is not very humorous, is when Emelie discovered that she had won the Juno award. She was on tour and could not attend the ceremonies. She came off stage following a one-of-kind performance and was informed by her trumpet player she had won. According to Barlow – shock was the first emotion that invaded her body.

” I was in total shock, it took a while to sink in and when it did – it was such a great feeling. It is hard to describe. I was also a lot happier than I thought I would be.” She laughs. “It was a little disappointing not being there to accept it but then I realized that I was surrounded by the people that made it happen and that I had  just finished doing what I loved.The ensuing ‘craziness’ that took place celebrating was memorable and will always be that. A great memory.”

Emelie – Claire was also overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection from her family and friends. According to Barlow – it was the most moving part of receiving the award. A feeling which was overwhelming in a good way and fills her with happiness and pride. Her parents, both professional musicians ( Dad’s an award winning  Jazz percussionist and Mom’s a singer), were so thrilled and excited for her. All this means a lot to Emelie yet this place in her life was not so much envisioned as it just came about naturally…

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“I really don’t know what I imagined.” Admits Barlow.” I think it’s just a path I followed from the beginning without even questioning it. My parents were very busy session musicians and I spent a lot of time in studios. It all feels normal to me and even now, when I am in a little studio, locked away from the craziness of the world around me – I feel safe and cozy. I am in my little cocoon and that’s perfect for me.”

Emelie admits the music business is very tough and when an award happens like this – it is a sign indicative of how people feel. It validates what she does and although she would still make music regardless – she cannot help but feel all her hard work is worthwhile. The end justifies the means.

Emelie- Claire Barlow is playing July 5th at Theatre Maissoneuve as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. A theater which – according to Emelie, is a beautiful place to play. She will be performing a lot of her new songs – both young and old, and bringing a full band along for the ride. That way – her music will be heard as recorded. She also has a couple of special guests joining her on stage yet she is not at the liberty to say who they are at the moment.

“I cannot remember exactly …” Says Emelie.” I think this will be my fifth appearance at the Jazz Festival and I love it. Montreal audiences are so passionate and they make you perform so much better …”

The fifth time is a charm after all …

Visit Emelie’s site here !

Voice and animation work

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