With With Erica Viegas
Friday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m.
Haven Social Club (15120 Stony Plain Rd.)
$10 at yeglive.ca
Del Barber is a prairie boy through and through. The 29-year-old Manitoban’s deep agricultural roots, mixed with his love of Canadian folk music and philosophy, have resulted in a compilation of narrative songs that explore the beauty of the prairies and the people who live there.
Obsessed with the “cinematic quality of songs,” his distinctive storytelling lyrics have won the attention of the Canadian folk music scene for their ability to capture the essence of prairie life in an authentic and compelling way. And Barber’s continual attachment to southern, rural Manitoba life is expressed through lyrics that reveal a strong love for the prairie esthetic.
“I grew up in a rural-urban split. I definitely feel like I have a split in both, kind of straddling that line,” Barber explains. “Winnipeg was always right there, so I felt attached to the cultural framework of Winnipeg, as well as the agricultural traditions of Manitoba.”
Growing up on his family farm, Barber was introduced to labour-intensive work at a young age, quickly learning what it takes to keep the agricultural tradition alive. His dad was a millwright and worked in a factory, contributing to the way the singer now finds stories of blue collar characters the most compelling to explore.
Barber’s new album Headwaters especially demonstrates these kinds of people, as songs like “The Right Side of the Wrong” tell the story of real-life men Barber has met — like John, a Home Depot paint mixer originally from Carberry, Manitoba, now retired and living in Kelowna. In search of solitude after a bad gig, Barber found it in the aisles of Home Depot and in familiar conversation with John, who used to farm where Barber’s family did back in the day.
“I want to write songs that sound like they’re from the flatlands, but also are about characters that people from the prairies can identify with in some way or another,” Barber explains. “Those are basically the two things that I’m most interested in, its a very prairie esthetic.”
But despite his current love for all things Winnipeg, it wasn’t always home for Barber. Spending much of his 20s bouncing around universities in different towns and cities such as Chicago and Calgary, Barber spent years of his life trying to escape southern Manitoba by running away. But after living in 15 states and eight provinces, Barber now knows southern Manitoba has been, and always will be, home.
“I kind of feel now that I’m married in a very serious way to Manitoba and end up cheating on her with all these other places I have to travel to and only ever going home and asking for forgiveness,” Barber laughs. “It’s everything ... The language and infliction and the Jets — there’s so much romance about it and it’s a deep love. I can’t picture anywhere else.”
However, Barber’s excited to cheat on his hometown and hit the road for an upcoming tour across Canada. Having performed at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival last year, a gig he hails as one of the best of his career, Barber is looking forward to returning to Alberta, hoping for an intimate audience that’s engaged with the layered songs and folk stories he has to share.
“I’m aching to record again, and I’m nowhere close or near ready for that, but I have a whole batch of songs that I really want people to hear,” Barber says. “I just want to keep the electricity and hunger in everybody going.”
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