When Jill Barber describes her latest tour, Dedicated To You, a word that comes up a lot is ‘collaboration.’
But for Barber, one of the country’s most celebrated modern sing-songwriters and a Queen’s University graduate, the word ‘collaboration’ doesn’t mean bringing other musicians on board when she refers to the tour. In this case, the collaboration is between Barber and her audience.
“I’ve been playing shows for years, and, at the end of my shows, I always go out and I get a chance to meet with the audience. And it’s one of my favourite parts of the night because people share stories with me about what certain songs of mine have meant to them in their lives,” Barber expressed.
“But then, inevitably, I also will hear ‘Oh, I wish you’d played this song’ that I didn’t play. And I always think ‘Ugh, if only I had known that you really wanted to hear that song, I could have done it!’”
This is precisely the concept behind the Dedicated To You tour, where Barber is inviting her audience to submit requests ahead of time, leading to a truly unique concert experience where no two shows will be alike.
“This is just a way to really bring the audience into the show. I mean, I’m always trying to do that anyway, but I think that audiences tend to underestimate their role in a live show,” Barber said.
“This is just a way to invite people in to be a part of it.”
Barber, a three-time Juno Award nominee whose 2018 album Metaphora garnered her a #1 hit with Girl’s Gotta Do, landed herself with Gold certification when her follow up and breakthrough jazz album Chances, which sold 40,000 copies in Canada. Her music has been featured in television and film, including on hit shows like Orange is the New Black and The L Word. But, while touring on that album to some of the country’s biggest theatres and halls was “incredible and rewarding,” it left Barber with “a longing,” she explained.
“Last year I played a show in Roy Thompson Hall, and that was like a dream come true for me to play such an impressive venue. But something is lost in that. I mean, it feels great, but there is a certain amount of intimacy that is lost in a big room like that. And I love the idea of just bringing it back to kind of where I started, you know?”
The Dedicated To You tour does just that, bringing Barber to smaller, more intimate venues where she can connect with the audiences that are helping to create her set list each night. That’s where the collaboration comes in.
“So it’s not that I don’t feel like I’m in control [of the show and set list], I feel like it’s just an invitation for people to be a part of it,” she said, noting that, so far, she hasn’t received any requests for songs that she won’t be honouring (unless the songs are those of other artists which she’s not performed before).
“It’s also helping me to rediscover songs of mine through other people’s eyes, because people have been really generous with sharing their stories about what a song means to them… I can write a song about my experiences and from my own experience, but if the song does its job, when other people hear it, they can insert themselves into that experience, their own life experience of it,” Barber continued.
“That’s the beautiful thing about music, so I’m just trying to play on that concept and bring it out even more.”
The Dedicated To You tour kicks off tomorrow in Smith Falls, and comes to Napanee on Thursday, Sept. 12, when Barber will perform at Doghouse Studios – an intimate venue that will allow for just the kind of atmosphere Barber has in mind. The tour will then take Barber across the country, stopping in cafes, theatres, and smaller concert halls for a unique show each night.
And for Barber, that’s the whole point of being a recording artist, she explained.
“For me, the studio is just a way to put the music out there to attract folks to the live shows. That’s always my end goal: to get to that live show. That why I make the albums,” she said bluntly.
“I think in this day and age, and in the industry that I’m in… the tactile kind of CD or album has been lost in exchange for more modern streaming or downloading. There are so many ways to access music today, but the one thing that you can’t recreate is the experience of a live show, and being in the room, and being with other people. And that’s what this is all about.”
For more information on the Dedicated To You tour, including a video overview of the tour, the opportunity to submit requests, and tickets, click here.