Jill Barber has earned awards and acclaim as a jazz vocalist, yet the versatile Canadian artist envisioned a couple of country music legends — Patsy Cline and Hank Williams — for her new song, “The Careless One.”
A few years ago, Barber was asked by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to perform a concert of classic country music to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Williams’ death. Inspired by the emotion in the music, she says she dreamed up a song “full of resignation and sorrow, but not bitterness” when she wrote “The Careless One.”
“I was listening to a lot of Patsy Cline when I wrote it. In fact, I had her in mind to sing it,” Barber tells CMT Edge. “Sometimes I like to work like that. I channel the spirit of my favourite artists and try my hand at writing in that tradition. For this song I had in mind a woman who is being left by the man she loves, and instead of fighting another losing battle, she decides to cut her losses with one simple parting wish: that her lover remember her not as some shadow of her former self, but as the vibrant and beautiful one that he initially fell for, the careless one.”
Asked why classic country music draws her in, Barber replies, “To me a good country song is a lot like bowling. It sets you up to knock you down. Each line is like a bowling pin, meticulously set up, one after the next, and then the tag line is your bowling ball. When it strikes, it bowls you over and is so satisfying.”
Barber recorded the demos for her upcoming album in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and newborn baby. Meanwhile, the music was produced in Toronto by bandmates Les Cooper and Drew Jurecka. That distance didn’t seem to matter, though.
“The amazing thing about the studio is that you can do take after take, and what makes one take different from another is not the way it’s sung, but the way it’s delivered. We’re not going for perfection, we’re going for feel,” she says.
“Especially in country music, it’s not about getting a perfect take. It’s about getting that take that … takes you away, gives you goose bumps. Transports you somewhere else,” she continues. “And in my experience, the more locked in you are with the band, the easier it is to float away. That’s why I play with great musicians.”
Look for Barber’s latest album, Fool’s Gold, on Aug. 26. Hear “The Careless One.”