When Vancouver singer-songwriter Jill Barber comes to Nanaimo next week she’ll have the stage all to herself.
On Nov. 6 Barber kicks off a trio of Island shows with a performance at the Port Theatre. The concert will feature Barber onstage alone with her guitar. She said due to COVID-19 restrictions she’s been playing solo shows for the first time in more than a decade.
“This has forced me to pick up my guitar and just bring it right back to basics, and that was a really scary thing for me at first,” Barber said. “But the more shows that I do the more I’m like, ‘This is amazing.’ I love doing it. I love having it just be me and the audience. No distractions.”
Barber said most of her songs were written on the guitar in the first place, and while her albums feature more production and instrumentation, in her solo performances she gets to share those songs in their “rawest, purest form.”
In her upcoming show Barber said she’ll be dipping into her latest release and second French album, Entre Nous. She was first compelled to learn the language around 10 years ago after performing a French rendition of one of her songs at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
The positive response prompted her to study the language in France and in 2013 she released the record Chansons as a kind of “self-assigned homework.”
“I just really enjoyed the experience of singing en français,” Barber said. “I feel like I use my body in a different way and my voice is my main instrument so it’s just like a whole other way to use my voice and another way to communicate.”
Barber said performing is her “lifeblood” and that being able to play for both in-person and online audiences is what’s been getting her through the pandemic.
She said she’s played some novel venues this year, including a backyard, a dairy farm and a brewery patio, and later in November she’s performing a virtual show from the stage of a computer-generated recreation of Vancouver’s long-gone Palomar Supper Club.
“I’ve always written songs. It’s been my way to connect with other people, through my music, and the thought that that experience would be taken away from me was really devastating in the beginning of all of this,” Barber said, “But we’ve been able to find creative solutions and it’s been almost even more meaningful, the connections that I have been making with my audience during this time, because I think nobody’s taking it for granted right now.”
WHAT’S ON … Jill Barber performs at the Port Theatre on Friday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. In-person tickets are sold out. Live-stream tickets $12, available here.