There comes a time when every successful musician or band is faced with the question: Has the shine worn off my career? When is it time to cash out? How desperate do things have to get before I trade it all in for something else?
These are the questions that have been troubling the Canadian singer songwriter Jill Barber in recent years.
Famous for a repertoire that spans folk to vocal jazz to pop, and includes songs in both French and English, the first taste of her forthcoming album takes a step back and a long hard look inwards at motherhood, fame and self-identity.
"In a broken music industry that makes records disposable, values metrics over meaning, and loves all that is shiny and new, I wrote this song about what a dream is worth to me”, she says.
The pawn shop has been the setting for some of country and folk music’s greatest big weepers: ‘Golden Ring’ by Tammy and George, ‘Pawn Shop’ by Brandy Clark and ‘Saturday Night Special’ by Conway Twitty have all proved the pawnbrokers a fitting backdrop for songwriters looking to let go of something they once could never have lived without.
In Jill Barber’s beautiful new single, ‘Instant Cash For Gold’, she goes into her neighbourhood pawn shop and sees all the guitars and wedding rings lined up in the window, while a “devil with a gap-toothed grin” senses her insecurity and tries to convince her to trade in her soul for fame.
“I’ve been singing my songs from town to town in a party dress and a rusty crown”, she sings, her unmistakeable voice gently yanking at every heartstring in your body. “One of these days I’ll quit the road and trade these old songs in / Like instant cash for gold”
“It’s a reflection on the chasm that exists between the personal value that music holds for people, relative to its commercial value. Sadly, the persistent undervaluing of music forces so many of us musicians to trade it all in- often in a defeated way, much like those willing to trade in their most valued possession out of pure desperation to have cash in hand. The never-ending hustle to make ends meet can really wear the shine off a career in music”.
Taken from her forthcoming album, Homemaker, the video for ‘Instant Cash For Gold’ is premiering exclusively at Holler below.
Having spent the last 20 years playing nearly every folk and jazz festival in Canada and captivating audiences across the globe in Japan, Europe, Australia, Mexico, South America, the USA and the Middle East, Barber's Homemaker is a return to her stripped-down folk roots. It's a quietly introspective record that picks at the complexities of motherhood, marriage and the struggle to feel at home in one’s own identity.
Written and recorded in her adopted hometown of Vancouver where she lives with her husband and two children, Homemaker has the sort of bare bones production she became known for on her acclaimed debut Oh Heart and the double Juno Award nominated follow-up For All Time. It’s the first record that sees her in the role of a producer, co-producing with Erik Neilsen.
“'Homemaker' is an intentional pushback against the worn-out notion of what it means to be ‘just a homemaker’”, Jill explains. “I was afraid to break the spell of the more romantic version of myself that I put out there in the world and which helped define my career, but I eventually reached a breaking point where I needed to write this album in order to reconcile these two versions of myself, and feel okay about all aspects of who I am.”
'Instant Cash For Gold' is available everywhere from September 28th and the album Homemaker is released on February 10th