Read our interview with Canadian singer Del Barber
Here’s Part Two on Canadian Del Barber who has just released a great album Prairieography (see my review here) and is touring Australia for seven weeks, starting at The Melbourne Folk Club Wednesday 19 November 2014. Tour dates are listed below.
Del was kind enough to reply to some of my e-mailed questions. Here is the full Q and A.
Q: Congratulations on the album Del which I think is your fourth. It’s been getting some great reviews and I have been really impressed by it. How long did it take to put the whole thing together?
A: Thanks! It took quite a while. I’ve always wished I could just go into the studio and record an album in three days or even a week. My route is usually one of constant pining and changing little bits till I think its good enough. I like a longer process, I guess because I’m a tinkerer by nature.
I don’t like when projects are completed. I like the process more than the end product. I think the whole thing took about six months.
Production-wise, Prairieography to me has a vibrant warmth and clarity. I read that you used a grain silo as a part of the process to get just the right sound. Why did you decide on such a challenging approach and how did you actually manage it logistically?
I really wanted an album that had an authentic sound, something that couldn’t be easily reproduced and something that had a brilliant sonic characteristic. We started out by recording the rhythm section directly to tape, did some overdubs then we took the whole session out to one of my best friends family farms and began the painstaking process of running each individual track, every vocal take, every guitar lick (etc.) through the giant homemade reverb tank. The other major part of the idea for our own sound was to try a weave in some agricultural infrastructure into the fabric of the record.
Since the songs on the record take up many rural and agricultural themes I thought it would be really interesting to use the sound of the farm on the record. When we set out to do it, I wasn’t even sure that it would work. It was definitely a crapshoot. We had to hang up microphones at different levels in the silo the pump the individual tracks into the silo and record the reverb. Doing it in post-production allowed us to record the tracks well, record a reverb after the fact and still have the ability to control just how much of the silo effect we wanted on each track.
The stories you tell are captivating – there are references to working cattle, long driving hauls, mountains and mine dust. It gives the impression that you have experienced first hand a great deal in your life so far. Is that true or do you have a very vivid imagination?!
I have been lucky to experience a lot in my life thus far. Most of the ideas from my songs come not from my experience directly, but usually I’m telling other people’s stories. I get to travel the world, and I have worked
too many jobs to count on my hands and toes. In the past years, the only other thing that I do besides tour around and tell stories in songs is work cattle.
The themes of town and country recur throughout the fourteen songs on the album. Where do you feel most comfortable?
I feel most comfortable in small towns and rural areas. Maybe it’s as just that I enjoy quiet, or maybe it’s a cultural thing. I lived in Chicago for a year of my life, and it just about broke me. I do enjoy the big metropolis for a few days; they have an electricity that can get me going. But for the most part though, I feel more of a sense of place and an understanding of who I am, when the sky’s full of stars and coyotes are yippin’ in my yard.
It’s not an utter romance about the prairies (though there is some of that for sure). It’s just a place I feel like I understand better than anywhere else.
Tell me about Bill Western, your pedal steel play and co-producer. He appears to be an important ingredient in your career?
Bill is one of my best friends and one of my favourite players. I’m lucky that he has made himself able to be a big part of the last record. I hope we can do it again sometime.
You played at the Americana festival this September and I think at Music City Roots just recently, both events in Nashville. Have you made a base there or do you still work out of Canada?
No, if I don’t spend time around blue collar working-class people I don’t think I’d have anything to write about. If I lived (even part time) in Nashville, I’d start writing songs about songs and songs about a musicians lifestyle. I have started to enjoy my time in Nashville though, but I couldn’t imagine living there.
Your Australian tour is your first and looks pretty busy – one show in Melbourne and Sydney, two festival sets and then joining the Festival of Small Halls Tour, largely through Queensland. You’ll get to see a lot of the country which should be a great experience.
Frankly I’m intimidated by the length and scope of the tour, but it will no doubt be a grand adventure for me. I just hope my music makes sense and that I can entertain some Aussies.
DEL BARBER TOUR DATES
Wednesday November 19
The Melbourne Folk Club
With C.R. Avery
Bella Union, Level 1 Trades Hall
Corner Lygon + Victoria Sts, Carlton
$18 + bf members / $20 + bf non-members
$23 / $25 door sales
Thursday November 20
Brighton Up Bar
With Fanny Lumsden
1/77 Oxford St Darlinghurst
Ph: 02 9361 3379
Tickets $15 /$20 door sales
November 22 – 23
Mullum Music Festival QLD
November 28 – December 21
Festival of Small Halls
December 27 – January 01
Woodford Folk Festival QLD