Australian Musician’s Greg Phillips catches up with expatriate Australian singer, songwriter Chantelle Barry via Skype to chat about her new self-penned, self-produced music and the importance of self-belief.
For LA-based, expatriate Australian singer, songwriter Chantelle Barry, pursuing a life outside of the arts was never going to be an option. “I come from a really musical family,” she tells me. “My mum met my dad because she was a big fan of his band.” Her musician father began teaching Chantelle and her two sisters to sing at an early age, introducing them to vocal legends such as Vikki Carr, Tammy Wynette, and Connie Francis. Also credited as a major influence in nurturing Chantelle’s musical talent was a school music teacher, Mike Leadabrand. Eventually things began to get serious and she formed a vocal group in Perth with her siblings, The Barry Sisters.
It was through another vocal group however that Chantelle Barry first came to the mainstream public’s attention. In 2000, as a winner of Australia’s first ever reality style TV talent show Popstars, she became a member of chart-topping act Bardot. Despite the scrutiny of being involved in a reality TV talent show, Chantelle mostly views the involvement in Popstars as a positive experience.
“Honestly, because it was the first one in Australia, it really felt like there weren’t too many cons,” she says on reflection. “I would say it was mostly a positive experience except for the fact that I didn’t really know what reality TV was. I was very naive in the fact that I thought reality was just that … exactly whatever happens gets captured. But you learn pretty quickly that it is not … when you are asked to wake up again so they can get a different camera angle and that sort of thing. Also seeing how easy things can be manipulated to tell a certain narrative through editing … that was something that was a huge learning curve as well. Overall though, a very positive experience.”
After relocating to LA twelve years ago and becoming an independent singer, songwriter, Chantelle Barry is now totally in control of her life and music. Barry has also made inroads in the world of American TV and film, having featured in shows such as Entourage, How I Met Your Mother and The Paul Reiser Show. “There is nothing manufactured with what I am doing now, which is really nice,” she says. “It is also nice having that background of being part of a pop group and knowing what it is like to have other writers involved and other songs that you have to do, but I love the creative freedom I have now. I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
For Chantelle, the world of Popstars seems another lifetime away. She has since released two full-length albums, ‘Simple Things’ and ‘Songbird’ which have combined to attract an ever-increasing international fanbase. But it is the newer, self-produced music which Chantelle has been working on in the last twelve months, such as the single ‘One Step Closer’, which she is most proud of. “I produced it myself,” says Chantelle enthusiastically about that track. “I did the recording right here in my little home studio in my dining room corner. I have some fantastic gear. Sennheiser sponsors me so I have some fantastic microphones. It was my first real shot at producing and going with my gut. Scott Whyte played on it and Zac Savage played on it and then I got it mixed over at Red Bull studios. Producing came about out of necessity for me. I needed a job and a friend of mine from Australia, Dinesh Wicks moved over here and he said come work for me and I’ll teach you how to compose. So I got all the programs and learned and he was a great teacher and mentor and I will be forever grateful to Dinesh for that. Now that’s what I do. I am not a proficient player but I have my keyboard and I know what sounds I need and I have a bevy of musicians around who can always help out if I need.” Since speaking with Chantelle, a brand new single, ‘Into Paradise’ has also just been released.
Chantelle chooses to compose on on her laptop with Logic, the digital audio workstation and MIDI sequencer software application. She’s been using Logic for a year now finds it hard to escape the attraction of recording and layering sounds. A great example of her production skills can be found in a video of Chantelle performing an a capella version of the Sam Smith tune ‘Stay With Me’ (See below).
While Chantelle doesn’t assign herself specific songwriting hours, she does find herself regularly awake in the wee hours of the morning composing tunes. “I have tried to allocate songwriting time in the past but it doesn’t work well for me,” she explains. “I only do it now when I feel inspired and that often happens late at night. I can be up until 3am in the morning, it’s just when it happens for me. That being said, recently I have found a way to channel my emotions when I am upset or feeling flat into a song. I feel that when I’m feeling negative, my creativity is not being fulfilled, so I will force myself to write on those occasions and I am surprised sometimes by the outcome. It’s very cathartic for me.”
In fact, Chantelle now documents those kinds of thoughts and philosophies and discusses them in weekly updates on her YouTube channel, which she dubs ‘Dream, Empower, Create’. Apart from showcasing her own songwriting sessions and music videos, she feels that she can also offer advice to other artists who are chasing their musical dreams. (See below. Check out the other clips on her YouTube channel too)
While living in LA, Barry has been fortunate to have picked up a couple of product endorsements and consequently finds herself visiting the annual NAMM music trade show in Anaheim on a regular basis.
“I love the NAMM convention,” she says. “I get there and geek out. I am endorsed by Sennheiser microphones and also Kamaka ukuleles, so I am asked to perform at their booths, which I happily do. I love the ukulele. The endorsement is with a beautiful ukulele company out of Hawaii called Kamaka. I write a lot on the ukulele. It’s a lot more manageable for me than the guitar. It’s kind of hard for me to get my hands to reach around a guitar.”
Chantelle informs me that she currently has enough material prepared to record another full-length album, however she is opting instead to deliver an EP, which will give her more time to work on the album throughout the year. The EP has been recorded and is awaiting the final mix with a release planned for the end of June. The new single, ‘Into Paradise’ is now available via iTunes. She is also about enter into a songwriting collaboration with respected producer Mikal Blue (Colbie Caillat, OneRepublic, Jason Mraz, James Blunt, Toad The Wet Sprocket) and hopes that some genuine musical chemistry emerges out of that. There are video shoots to be done for the next singles and then Barry will put her band back together and seek out some dates around LA with the view to acquiring a residency. On top of that, she may also have an acting job, working on a motion picture in Seattle with producer Eric Chambers. Additionally there are possible dates in London and Paris while she is in Europe for her sister’s wedding. Needless to say, things are looking particularly busy for the remainder of Chantelle’s 2015 … but will she also consider performances in Australia?
“I would love to tour Australia again,” she says. “It just feels right. For a long time it didn’t but I love my roots. I love that I am Australian. I am very proud of that, so doing music back there and getting to tour and getting to collaborate with other Australian artists, I am all for it.”
Chantelle’s brand new single Into Paradise can be purchased via iTunes
Kamaka ukuleles distributed in Australia by Zenith Music
We fire six more quick questions at Chantelle Barry below.