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