It’s not often that I find myself without words or a clear plan for writing, but at this moment, Erin Barra is the cat in control of my tongue. Hands down, Barra is the most talented woman I’ve chatted up yet.
Classically schooled in the art of playing piano, Barra comes from a rich musical background that she attributes to her parents inexplicable foresight, but labeling her as just a pianist would be an insult to the skill she brings to the world of music. During any given show, Barra not only owns her keyboard, she also plays bass, controls digital additions to her pieces and, best of all, she lends her voice to accompany the amazing tracks she thinks up. Dabbling in all these instruments undoubtedly gives Barra a different on-stage experience.
“I totally black out for shows for the most part,” she explains. “I’m not a willing participant. I turn into the worst version of myself before and after shows.”
Whether or not Barra is willing, her fans certainly are, and if you’ve listened to even a few of her tunes, it’s no surprise why. Dear John, the feature song on her next album, due to release around March, is a perfect example of the soul-penetrating lyricist that is Erin Barra. Inspired by an ex-boyfriend and the discovery of a real Dear John letter in her grandfather’s belongings, Barra wrote Dear John in no more than an hour, and in that hour she captured the feelings of women around the world, this girl included. When I accused Barra of reading my mind, her response was simple.
“At least one or two people say that to me about Dear John after every show,” she admits with a laugh. “The first time I played the song live I saw John in the crowd and had no idea how it would go, but after the song everyone was chanting my name.”
Despite her undeniable plethora of skills with musical instruments, Barra maintains that her writing is her strongest suit.
“I think my largest value is as a writer,” she explains. “I have a knack for being versatile as a writer.”
This recognition of her talent and passion may be what saves Barra from burning out as a musician.
“I concern myself less with who, where and when I’m performing and focus on what I do best,” she says. “The more I worry about it, the less I enjoy what I do.”
What she does knows no boundaries. On her mixtape, Comma, to be released in the first week of December, Barra shows off a set of remixed songs that branch out from her usual recorded style but do not fail to…well, quite frankly, kick ass. This sort of musical range can sometimes be a nightmare for publicists and managers, but Barra is confident that her multi-faceted musical style will prevail.
“The digital release is a lot of material that I’ve created over the past years that didn’t necessarily fall under the umbrella of me as an artist,” Barra explains. “I’m unapologetically myself. As long as I can continue to make music and reach people, I think the scales will tip.”
When audiences hear her music, there is no doubt that scales will tip in her favor. For those of you who haven’t experienced Barra yet, she’s giving you an early Christmas gift this year. Check her out at Paper Box in “East Williamsburg” (a.k.a. Bushwick) on December 7. Doors open at 7 pm. Your only excuses for not going are deafness or just plain stupidity, and with Barra’s vibrations, deafness isn’t really valid.
Where: Paper Box, 17 Meadow St.
When: December 7 @ 7 p.m.