Australia’s Ali Barter Answers Our Questions
It’s been over a year since I fell in love with the voice singing over a feel good tune for an Australian tourism commercial airing during the Australian Open. That song was ‘New Night’ and that voice, Ali Barter.
After getting in touch I was told Ali was in Australia and working on her then-upcoming EP. Even so, I was able to send her along song questions on email and she was nice enough to give some real responses. I use real specifically, it’s an adjective with heightened meaning within the rap game, and in her world, she’s got it, an authenticity and likability. Check them out below and make sure to check out her new ‘Community EP’ or read more about the project on Rolling Stone.
The following Q&A is from February 2014
At what age did you get involved in music? When did you start singing/songwriting?
I sang as a kid and was in an choir for a while but didn’t start playing guitar and writing songs till I was about 23. I feel like that is a ‘late start’ but I come to my songwriting with some life experiences. I have a few things to write about.
When/where was your first live performance? What was that like? Nerve wracking or did you “catch the live performance bug”?
My first solo gig was pretty bad, haha. It was at an open-mic night in Elwood, Melbourne. A man got up and started playing bongos with me. I was shitting myself and afterwards sat down and felt embarrassed. But I made a promise to myself to come again the next week and from there I spent a good couple of years at open mic nights in Melbourne. Slowly it started to come together but I really didn’t feel confident until about a year ago. I still feel nervous but in a different way. I’m not scared that I’m going to wet my pants on stage anymore but it’s more that I’m worried that my pedals won’t work, my amp will explode. I am constantly tuning my guitar, worried it will go out of tune. Things like that. But I love playing live. It’s a release.
What is music for you? (e.g. self-expression, liberation, a way to connect with people, a way to help/entertain people, cathartic, etc)
I guess it’s self expression and a release. I get to apologise and confess when I play music. I get to express the things I find difficult to do in real life. Sometimes I feel high, I feel low, I feel excited, I feel disappointed after playing music. It’s a living breathing thing and that’s the beauty.
Do you actively practice any of the other arts or is music your sole artistic passion?
To be honest I don’t really practice many other arts. I dabbled in acting for a while but I was too aware of myself. In music, I lose awareness. I do write stories and would love to write a book one day. All things to come.
How was your experience with Bob Evans at NSC in November? Any notable musings on the experience? Any other great experiences from artists you’ve supported or play with?
Loved playing with Bob Evans! He was the lead singer of a band I loved in high school so it was very cool to support him, kind of a teenage dream. It was my birthday too and he sang happy birthday from the stage. I used to listen to his music when I was angsty teenager and now he’s singing me happy birthday… Stupid! I also played with Cloud Control last year which was awesome, a band I have a huge amount of love for.
Your music style encompasses electronic, folk, pop, blues, indie, etc. to ultimately create a sound “greater than the sum of it’s parts”.
Did you grow up listening to these genres? Who were some of your biggest influences sonically, tonally, with writing, etc?
I love the National and Sharon Van Etten. They just write great music and the production is simple and powerful. No bullshit. I love songwriters, Loudon Wainwright III, Bonnie Raitt, Joni Mitchell – lyrics, melody, guitar and voice. Simple. Also Radiohead. They are the best. And I have a secret obsession with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters…
It sounds like your slot at Melbourne Laneway Festival was one of the breakthrough moments thus far in your career, what was that experience like for you?
I received that gig offer at a time that I didn’t have a band. Up until then it had just been me and my guitar and I didn’t feel as though that would cut it. So I asked Steve Mowat (AKA Matik), who produced my EP, and Oscar Dawson, who played guitar on the EP, to play with me on the day. Again, it was scary. It was also really hot. At first there was no one there because I opened the festival. Two of the sound guys went out and watched so I’d have someone to sing to. And half way through the second song a whole bunch of my friends came running toward the stage. By the end of the set things had filled out. I think I actually blacked out for most of it, I don’t even know what happened. As a result though I got a booking agent and met a few people who gave me great advice. And I also saw some awesome bands, Polica in particular!
Being from The States, I was first exposed to your music via your song featured in the Melbourne commercial played heavily during the Australian Open broadcasting here—how did that feature come about? Is ‘New Night’ a single off the upcoming album?
We wrote that song especially for the ad. It was a collaboration with myself and Oscar and came about through a mutual friend. To be honest the album sounds fairly different to that song – the album is more electric, more of a band feel. But sometimes it’s fun to write for a specific purpose, and things that are outside of your normal sphere. It’s almost as though it is a job, like those old Tin Pan Alley songwriters. I like that idea.
I discovered Holly Throsby in the same manner, is she an artist you come across in the industry or would ever tour with?
I actually don’t know much about Holly Throsby! Of course I’ve heard her name. There is a really cool collaboration album she did with Sarah Blasko and Sally Seltmann that I’ve listened to a bit. As far as touring goes, sure, with the right project and at the right time!
Will the new album be an extension of the EP or should we prep for a different sound?
The upcoming album is a collaboration between myself and Oscar, so it will be quite different to the EP. We recorded to tape so a lot of it is played live, lots of guitars. We went for a bigger sound. It will also be released under a band name which has yet to be announced.
Do you have a name for the new album yet?
No name for the album yet. I’m sure one will reveal itself when the time is right though.
You raised money to fund your debut album via Pozible.com, was that your first time crowd-sourcing funds online? Where you surprised by the positive results?
So surprised! It was amazing to have so much support! It can be difficult as independent artists to find the money to record. We’re very grateful that this opportunity exists and that it worked out. Pozible is a fantastic way to communicate with fans and make them a part of the process. It also helps us to keep our integrity without giving away our rights to a label. It also focusses the process, puts some accountability on the artist. We have a lot of rewards to deliver to some generous supporters.
You successfully closed funding in September 2013 and, as I understand, had already started recording in Brisbane. Where is the album at and when are you shooting for a target launch?
The album is almost done. Oscar and I spent 6 weeks recording the bulk of it last year with our very wonderful producer Matt Redlich. We still have a few things to finish off, maybe a new song or two to add, then it will be ready for release later this year.
Are there particular artists or producers you would love to work with in the future, even if just in a dream-world?
I’d like to make some pop music with Blood Orange. I love the work he’s done with Sky Ferreira and Solange. I love pop. I’d also love to sing some country songs with Father John Misty.
As in independent artist, what do you feel about streaming services like Spotify, SoundCloud, etc. are they viewed as positive promotional vehicles?
I think they are a great way to get music out into the world. So far they have been positive tools for me. It seems to me to be generally understood that artists don’t really make much money from sales anymore, but that you can do from syncs, live shows, and so on. But at this stage I don’t really think about it. I try not to get hung up on all the business models.
What artists are you currently listening to?
I love Jack Ladder. His album Hurtsville blows my mind. Land Of Talk, a band from Canada who are awesome. Beach House are great too. And ELO.
If a hip-hop artist ever approached you for a sample (e.g. Eminem w/ Dido on Stan) would that be something you would be open to? (I ask for fun, as I am a also rap fan and enjoy songs with a marked vocal difference between rapper and singer)
I’d love to collaborate with a hip-hop artist. I have done a bit of that already back home with a guy called Seth Sentry. I sang on his track ‘Ten Paces’ – it was fun. I got to sing it with him at one of his big crazy hip hop show too which was ridiculous. I’m a hip hop fan and a pop fan. I was listening to TLC last night. I like those sorts of collaborations – like what Q-Tip did with Norah Jones. It’s fun.