Interviews

INTERVIEW: Erin Barra’s Digital Soul Revolution

by Marcus K. Dowling

“I think this is the era of independent artists. If I told a label a year ago that I wanted to have the level of freedom I have right now, they would’ve laughed at me.” – Erin Barra

There was a period of time in the 1970s where Stevie Wonder decided to seek a bit of freedom from Motown, and when he received it, matured and went electronic. Instead of being everyone’s favorite lovelorn balladeer, he matured into a man obsessed with technology, namely a synthesizer that filled an entire room named “TONTO,” and in trying to both differentiate and extend his sound, initially created a schism with audiences that as they became more aware of the excellence of Wonder at blending advanced sonics with time tested vocal dexterity. In 2011, technology has struck again. The production of records has literally become minimized. Laptop computers have replaced what was once a room of sound, and in the electro dance realm, artists like Oakland, CA native MNDR and rockabilly house producer Drop the Lime have embraced these advancements, especially in the realm of live remixing and creating immediate, fresh and exciting new sounds. Have you ever wondered what this same sort of forward thinking technology would sound like 40 years later in the realm of R & B? Well, on Monday, May 3rd, New York by way of Salt Lake City, Utah’s Erin Barra brings new style sounds from an old style soul to Washington, DC’s Ben’s Next Door in an event presented by Can A Sista Rock a Mic.

Since birth, Barra’s always had an interest in sound. “Yes, I was born in Salt Lake. My dad was involved in all sorts of acoustics, working with big rooms and concert venues.” Her skills in music led her to Boston’s vaunted Berklee College of Music, where she graduated as a member of the Class of 2006. While at Berklee, she had her first of what likely will be many brushes with fame, gaining a cosign for her songwriting and performance chops from John Oates, famous of legendary blue eyed soul pioneers Hall and Oates. “It was a huge moment for my career, and we definitely still stay in touch. (Regarding her use of Ableton Live) He’s in awe of what I’m doing, and very impressed.” As a soul singer, Barra blends a childhood love of rockers drenched in moody psychedelic blues like Led Zeppelin and The Doors and improves upon it with the modern touches of acts like Nelly Furtado. It’s a blend we’ve heard and seen before, and has always met with critical success. However it is in being something more where she truly excels.

Since birth, Barra’s always had an interest in sound. “Yes, I was born in Salt Lake. My dad was involved in all sorts of acoustics, working with big rooms and concert venues.” Her skills in music led her to Boston’s vaunted Berklee College of Music, where she graduated as a member of the Class of 2006. While at Berklee, she had her first of what likely will be many brushes with fame, gaining a cosign for her songwriting and performance chops from John Oates, famous of legendary blue eyed soul pioneers Hall and Oates. “It was a huge moment for my career, and we definitely still stay in touch. (Regarding her use of Ableton Live) He’s in awe of what I’m doing, and very impressed.” As a soul singer, Barra blends a childhood love of rockers drenched in moody psychedelic blues like Led Zeppelin and The Doors and improves upon it with the modern touches of acts like Nelly Furtado. It’s a blend we’ve heard and seen before, and has always met with critical success. However it is in being something more where she truly excels.

She originally came to the attention of many with the aid of live band The One Hitter Quitters. However, in an era where national and international touring is a premium, it became painfully aware that something more was necessary. “I needed to tour, and my band, they have jobs and families that it’s hard to pull them away from for long stretches of time.” In what is a marriage of longtime interests and professional convenience, Barra has embraced the use of computer program Ableton Live, and in representing Women in Audio and Ableton Live, has found herself in being primarily a soul artist on the cusp of a unique audio revolution. “Performing in from of crowds more familiar with dance music is easier. They have seen what I am doing, and they love it. More soul and R & B oriented crowds look at the set up and are a little shocked, but they eventually embrace it.”

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Live remixes, and the inclusion of audio effects as familiar as Timbaland or as classic as Zeppelin or as timeless as Carl Orff make appearances as Barra’s live performances a pleasant and populist audio journey. On sophomore album Illusions, it’s the blend of 31st century production standards as well as looping soul melodies that dart from reggae to hip hop and traditional soul that distinguishes her effort. “The album is about the breakup of a romance, and is autobiographical…I definitely wanted a mix of strong singles and great songs there, too.” Lead single “Satisfied” is “a traditional pop record,” one that deals with the lusting pursuit of sex that is at the crux of the passion of any relationship.

Erin Barra is an artist completely in control and fully aware of the technological evolution she’s squarely nearing the forefront of. “I’m proud to be a part of the “blue eyed digital soul revolution” she states, and I can’t help but agree. Catch her this Monday night, May 3rd at Ben’s Next Door for a glimpse into an amazing sounding future.

She originally came to the attention of many with the aid of live band The One Hitter Quitters. However, in an era where national and international touring is a premium, it became painfully aware that something more was necessary. “I needed to tour, and my band, they have jobs and families that it’s hard to pull them away from for long stretches of time.” In what is a marriage of longtime interests and professional convenience, Barra has embraced the use of computer program Ableton Live, and in representing Women in Audio and Ableton Live, has found herself in being primarily a soul artist on the cusp of a unique audio revolution. “Performing in from of crowds more familiar with dance music is easier. They have seen what I am doing, and they love it. More soul and R & B oriented crowds look at the set up and are a little shocked, but they eventually embrace it.”

Live remixes, and the inclusion of audio effects as familiar as Timbaland or as classic as Zeppelin or as timeless as Carl Orff make appearances as Barra’s live performances a pleasant and populist audio journey. On sophomore album Illusions, it’s the blend of 31st century production standards as well as looping soul melodies that dart from reggae to hip hop and traditional soul that distinguishes her effort. “The album is about the breakup of a romance, and is autobiographical…I definitely wanted a mix of strong singles and great songs there, too.” Lead single “Satisfied” is “a traditional pop record,” one that deals with the lusting pursuit of sex that is at the crux of the passion of any relationship.

Erin Barra is an artist completely in control and fully aware of the technological evolution she’s squarely nearing the forefront of. “I’m proud to be a part of the “blue eyed digital soul revolution” she states, and I can’t help but agree. Catch her tonight, May 3rd at Ben’s Next Door for a glimpse into an amazing sounding future.


  • http://camjus.com Cam

    Yo. Somehow I got her album in my car. I was like where did this come from? and just put it in the cd player. That joint was doooopppppeeeee!!!!!!!!