Jill Barber’s new single has two versions: one in English, one in French. “Tell Me” and “Dis-Moi” both appear on Barber’s new album Mischievous Moon, marking her first attempt at singing in French.
“Like a lot of Anglophone Canadians I just knew a little bit of French, but I couldn’t really have conversations or express myself,” Barber said.
Barber started the year in Southern France to study French and hopes to return next year.
“French is definitely the original language of love,” she said. “I joke that I’m working really hard to learn the language of love and I’m sure it will be a lifelong pursuit.”
Barber said romance isn’t a topic she purposefully chooses, but it has become an overarching theme in her work.
“People ask me, ‘Why so many love songs? Why not write about other things?’ ” she said. “The matters on my brain I can talk out with friends … but matters of the heart come out in a more creative, musical kind of way. It’s a theme that chooses me.”
Barber gained international acclaim with her 2008 record, Chances, an album inspired by the female greats of the 1950s, like Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf.
“In a way I feel like I found my job and my job is to write songs that bring back the romance a little bit,” Barber said, “to write songs today in a tradition of yesteryear where a lot of them were about love and romance and painted a rosy feature of the world.
“In the modern world we need that kind of escape into old records, into beauty and a whimsy kind of world, which is where I go when I write.”
Barber said she can’t access that whimsical world when she’s on tour. The singer-songwriter composed Chances during an artist residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta.
“For me to work in Banff was a creative rehab. It was an opportunity for me to shut myself away for a few weeks and tune out the rest of the world and kind of go inwards,” she said. “I spend so much time on the road in my job, that the way that I work creatively, I don’t do a lot of writing on the road.”
Barber has been on tour in support of her new album since September. She’ll stop in Kingston tonight to play Sydenham Street United Church at 8:30 p.m.