Del Barber admits that he used to lie about how he made his living.

“Saying I was a musician always sounded like gloating,” he says simply. But with four albums, a handful of awards and a JUNO nomination under his belt, it’s a title he’s now using a little more comfortably.

But Barber, 30, who grew up just outside of Winnipeg, says he never made a conscious decision to become a musician. “It wasn’t a grandiose dream,” he laughs. “It trickled into a job, and it’s a job I really love. But I see it as a trade and I try to apply myself to it like a trade.”

“My music has the possibility to de-centre people and to make them think about what they believe in.”

While Barber, who comes from a long line of storytellers, cites artists like John Prine, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen as inspiring his folk and alt-country sounds, he’s just as quick to credit the prairie landscape and the people he spends his days with.

“I’ve always been influenced by people who really make things – people who produce goods, in agriculture and manufacturing,” he explains. “I spend most of my spare time fishing and hunting and helping on farms. So I can’t help but feel that at best, my job is about being a recorder of those types of feelings, and the people I encounter through those activities.”

Though he has done his time in urban centres (including Chicago, where he studied philosophy), Barber says being around the people whose lives he wants to capture in song is key to his creative process.

“I have a hard time understanding people writing in the country music idiom without having lived it,” he says. Not that he’s given to navel-gazing. Barber hates the idea of being perceived as a “middle-class, white, country kid who complains about the world. I think I can say more politically and socially through other people’s stories,” he explains.

At the end of the day, Barber says his goal is to write songs that will appeal to a broad audience, no matter where they live.

“I love songs that are accessible to [people of] every sort of creed and class,” he says. “My music has the possibility to de-centre people and to make them think about what they believe in,” he says. “That’s what stories do.”

Track Record

  • In 2011, Barber won two Western Canadian Music Awards, for Independent Album and Roots Solo Recording of the Year, and was nominated for a JUNO for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year.
  • Seeking an organic sound, Barber’s current album Prairieography was recorded inside a 150-foot tall grain silo.
  • While he plays with a band whenever he can, Barber does most of his touring on his own. “I do a lot of storytelling if I get the right venue,” he says.

FYI
Publisher:
True North Records
Discography: Where The City Ends (2009), Love Songs for the Last Twenty (2010), Headwaters (2012), Prairieography (2014)
Visit www.delbarber.com
SOCAN member since 2009


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Yao, a Franco-Ontarian artist of Togolese descent, born in the Ivory Coast of Africa, found out he had a creative spirit when he took a special interest in writing and acting as a child. After moving to Ottawa with his family in 1999, he was admitted in the Centre for Artistic Excellence of the De La Salle High School, where he specialized in Theatre and Creative Writing. Encouraged to pursue his musical interests, Yaovi, as he was then known, soon hooked up with FLO, with whom he created the RenESSENCE duet and, in 2006, released the self-produced album 2 faces d’une même âme (2 Sides of One Soul), followed by dozens of live shows.

Hooked, Yao remained torn between his passion for music creation and his search for a more traditional career, ending up neglecting his creative side as he pursued undergraduate studies in Finance and Political Science. Once he had secured a comfortable job in the banking sector, music came calling again in 2009, thanks to a chance meeting with his old friend Lynx, who had his own recording studio and production company by then, and invited Yao to join him. The end result was the 2011 hip-hop album Généris, with lyrics written by Yao and music composed by Lynx.

“Sometimes we’d discuss a theme, like the day I mentioned my problem with insomnia, and Sonny later sent me a piece.”

Yao then decided to take the final jump, joined SOCAN, and started taking his destiny in his own hands. His financial background helped him set up his own company and manage his business but, more importantly for the evolution of his music style, Yao discovered slam and, in 2012, joined SlamOutaouais, a Ligue québécoise de slam (LIQS) member team. Meanwhile, the musician started cooking up his next album and looking for a high-profile collaborator, who turned out to be Sonny Black, the co-writer of numerous K-Maro, Dubmatique, Corneille and Marc Antoine hits.

How did Yao get Sonny’s attention? “I just wrote to him,” he says. “I sent him my Généris album and asked him for a personal review. He went along and, as it turned out, his comments were exactly what I’d expected they would be. That’s where it all began. Sonny accepted to re-work the album with me, and we ended up with the Généris 2.0 promotional version.”

Towards the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, they worked on the new version, which came out last fall. Then Yao moved to Montreal for two months to build a creative bubble with Sonny that eventually produced Perles et Paraboles (Pearls and Parables), an album that was recorded practically as it was being written. How did it work? “It varied,” Yao explained. “Sometimes we’d discuss a theme, like the day I mentioned my problem with insomnia, and Sonny later sent me a piece that became “Solitude nocturne” after I wrote the lyrics to it. Sometimes it was the other way around.”


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The year 2014 is shaping up as Edgar Bori’s moment. This Montreal artist – who has long hidden his face from his audience, only revealing his identity in 2009 – has just completed his dream album trilogy Balade-Malade-Salade. He’s gearing up for an extended tour of two continents, while preparing to celebrate 20 years as a professional artist and 60 as an earthling. Quite a way of leaving behind 2013, a year that definitely ended on a bad note.

At this time last year, Bori and his spouse Cathie Bonnet were about to sell Productions de l’onde, the small company set up in 1992 to deal with the singer’s musical activities and provide a home to emerging artists. They wanted to pass the torch and ensure the company’s long-term financial viability. Four months later, the new owners had abandoned ship after accumulating a $375,000 debt.

Rather than watching the company sink, Bori has now come back on board and launched a fundraising campaign in the hope of being able to pay back those who had been swindled, and things are looking up, with some $35,000 having been raised so far through the Kapital crowdfunding platform. Bori will then fugure out how to share power while avoiding the same mistakes and retaining the artistic control of the company. “We must prepare for a transition,” the artist says. “It’s a lot of work, and I’m pushing 60. The administrative part is time-consuming, and after awhile you can no longer do it all by yourself.”

Musical Salad

The troubles came at a time when Bori was about to complete his most ambitious project ever, the Balade-Malade-Salade trilogy. Released in 2012, the Balade part of the trio featured a variety of creative collaborations as well as a few uncompromising personal creations. This was followed by Malade, a more experimental and introspective venture, and then by Salade, a recording project that was released slightly behind schedule in the spring. Unlike the first two installments, this latest disc is comprised of covers involving guest artists (François Cousineau, Yannick Rieu, Romulo Larrea), including a brilliant piece amalgamating two classic French songs, Léo Ferré’s “Avec le temps” (“In Time”) and Jacques Brel’s “Ne me quitte pas“ (“If you go away”).

This last piece was inpired by a meeting between Bori and the late Roger Zanetti, aka Zaneth, a friend of Ferré. “Zaneth told me that Léo had written ‘Avec le temps’ in response to Brel’s lyric saying ‘If you go away… Oh, I’d have been the shadow of your shadow.’ Ferré was telling Brel, ‘Don’t worry, man, in time, you’ll stop being in love.’ I put both lyrics side by side, and since they both talk about the same things – jewels, fire, a dog, a shadow – I thought there might be something to this.”

Salade is avaibable both on its own and along with the other volumes of the box set. To encourage people to buy the full collection, Bori added a fourth recording called La Route (The Road) that includes pieces that did not make it to the final trilogy, as well as excerpts of an interview that took place in his car.

Magic

Noting that 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Félix Leclerc’s birth, as well as some of his own personal milestones, Bori is pretty confident that this year is going to evolve into “something quite magical.” Part of that magic is sure to carry into his stage shows as the performer prepares to embark on an extensive Quebec tour to promote both his new compositions and his growing discography. And since Bori, now a solo artist, performed as part of a group (also named Bori) from 1994 to 2000, the chances are that former colleagues will join him on part of the tour. These people include the actors and musicians who fronted his shows in the years when he preferred to remain a faceless performer.

“This show will be called Balade-Malade-Salade, but it will be subtitled ‘La dernière répétition’ [‘The Dress Rehearsal’]. This will make it possible for me to stop the music half-way through a song if I want to, take instructions from the stage director or talk with the audience. I feel ready for this after spending so many years behind a mask or a screen.”

Besides his shows for grown-up audiences, Bori is also planning to continue performing his long-in-the-making children’s show Le petit ours gris de la Mauricie (The Little Grizzly from Mauricie), which combines his own creations and a tale written by Félix Leclerc. In the fall, the singer-songwriter is planning to resume his activities in France, where he has a solid followng in the alternative music scene. He could end up spending quite awhile there, as he’s planning to set up a series of cabarets for emerging professional or semi-professional artists, and songwriting workshops, on top of the two types of shows he normally performs at home. In the meantime, Bori is looking forward to moving on to his “next dream of writing a book, which would be another world again!”

Visit www.bori.com

To make a contribution to the Production de l’onde fundraising campaign, visit
www.kapipal.com/aidonsproductionsdelonde


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