We call a lot of our faves our “sunshine,” but BARBARA’s rays are infectious! Known to “spread sunshine” and killer beats, BARBARA rode into our hearts with her most recent single, ‘Ride the Wave,’ and we have been blasting it to feel the good vibes since its release!
As y’all know, here at THP we thrive when around positivity. So when we heard BARBARA’s new song, ‘Ride the Wave,’ we just had to talk to her about it! Swim through BARBARA’s start on her musical journey all the way to what we can expect from her later this year! So grab those surfboards and prepare to ‘Ride the Wave’ right into this exclusive interview!
Can you tell us how you ended up on this musical career path? How did you know this was what you wanted to do?
It’s really been an incredible journey and a real example of how when something is meant for you, it won’t pass you. I think like most musicians, I grew up in a very music-filled home. My mom and I lived with my grandparents in Medford (a small town outside of Boston, MA) and there was always 50s playing or my mom jamming to Tavares or singing to me. My grandfather, Dominic, aka Grampy, is also a professional saxophone player and owned a music shop for some time, so I was always wanting to try different instruments like piano and the flute but nothing stuck, I couldn’t get the hang of music theory or reading sheet music. But I realized I could sing early on. My mom would bring me to sing at local parties, put me in church choir and I ended up trying out for Handel and Haydn Society, Boston’s GRAMMY-winning performing arts organization and I got in. I really enjoyed singing with them but still couldn’t grasp music theory, so my ears became my best friends. Naturally, I wanted to pursue music in college, but I couldn’t read music nor sight read – a requirement for every reputable conservatory in the U.S, so I ended up letting go of it all, leaving my passions behind to major in business and art history at Suffolk University. At this point too, I really didn’t see anyone close to me make a path in music so I didn’t feel like I could keep following my dream which really sucked. But here we are 🙂
I had finished college, I was working in tech in Boston and I was really ready to move to New York. It had always been my dream, I was going on the bus all the time on weekends, there was something about the energy that was pulling me to go so in 2017, I finally moved to New York City and the energy of the city reignited my love for music. I couldn’t help but to explore every music store and underground club I could find and learn more. I became so enchanted by how the DJs were creating this vibe and world on the dancefloor and I decided that I wanted to learn. Thankfully, I had a cousin who lived in New York City, too, and was a music producer with an old set of DJ equipment lying around. He was so kind to come over to set up the turntables in my 300-square-foot apartment (on top of my dog’s crate) and that was the start of my DJ career.
The story of how I got my first gig is pretty ridiculous, talk about being at the right place at the right time. One day I was going to pick up my Allen & Heath mixer, the manager of Black Flamingo, a really well-known music spot in Williamsburg, saw me, assumed I knew what I was doing and offered me a gig on the spot. At that point, I never played for anyone besides my party of one in my apartment (plus my dog), but I accepted it anyway because I felt like the universe was opening a giant window for me. I practiced beat-matching and building my set every night before my first gig and I killed it. I played from open to close and everyone loved it – even the manager asked for the names of a few tracks in my set! After that gig, I began to think how amazing it would feel to spin my own music one day.
Eventually, I moved to San Francisco and took a few classes through Pyramind & IO Music Academy to learn how to produce my own music with Ableton, software and hardware for music creation and performance. I was in flow, spinning regularly, making beats and starting to get booked for bigger DJ gigs, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. My good friends saw that I was really down (along with most folks) and insisted that I should continue to spread joy through my music – that’s when Digi Disco, a virtual quarantine dance party, was created. And it was amazing, I reached 1000s of people through the weekly stream and it felt so good to spread my joy.
Fast forward to 2022 and I began vocal coaching again to get my voice ready to sing. I started to have all these ideas pour out and knew it was time to make my own music with my vocals. I got connected to a talented musician/engineer/producer through my vocal coach in Berkeley, CA (his name is Jim Greer and is a member of the Cardboard People band). We met in July 2022 and hit it off immediately. I wanted to make an album and he wanted to work with someone with my level of passion and personality in the dance/electronic world. So we made Palm City Dreams, a 15-track album over 12+ hour days for 2 intense weeks (having never worked together before & never in a studio LOL). I made all the drum beats prior to our demo days in the studio and sent him 100s of voice memos that I thought would form the tracks but it was incredible to create everything new on the fly. We’d open the session with my drum beat, he’d get a bass or guitar going and I’d riff lyrics/get a sense of the vibe. It was an incredible collaboration and I’m really proud of the music.
So to answer your original question, it’s been quite the journey knowing this was really wanted I want to do as a kid, pushing aside my dreams to pursue the “safe route” only for it to come back in full force and show me this is exactly what I should be doing and where I am meant to be. I know deep down that I am here to move people with my music whether it’s healing, self-love, joy, happiness, discovery, silliness — whatever it is I have the power to do it. It’s my calling and I’m fully listening and trusting the process now.
You’re a DJ and a singer-songwriter. How do you think being a DJ has helped you as a singer-songwriter and vice versa?
In so many ways and I feel like I’m still discovering new skills from being in both worlds of electronic music as a DJ and producer but a lover of pop, oldies, classic, and soul as a singer-songwriter and fan myself/concertgoer. It’s the best of both worlds because I’m bringing the drum beats, the vibes, the joy, the tension, the quirkiness from what I love to hear in the clubs and what I play at clubs and events to how I’m making my own music but then adding this layer of pop structure for the lyrics, chords, and arrangements. I think being a DJ has helped me understand how to make people move, how to catch a groove, get lost in the music, fall in love on the dancefloor, and how to keep the energy going for a long period of time (think my longest set to date was, like, 10 hours when my bff asked me to DJ her wedding in France, and French weddings end as the sun is coming up and then it’s time to have a nap and meet again for brunch, it was incredible and my feet hurt haha). And as a DJ, I can test out things and experiment with what works or what might need to be adjusted with the mix of a track, which lends itself to my production side. As a singer-songwriter, I love that I can now perform/DJ with live vocals over my tracks to bring a live musical element to my sets.
When DJing, how do you select the songs you play during your sets, and what are three of your favorite songs to play during your sets?’
AHHHH such a great question! My typical process is first thinking about the environment and vibe to start curating the set. Is it a day party? Are we outdoors? Is this a late-night basement vibe? And I then either start building a playlist on Spotify and drop tracks in or make the playlist in Rekordbox (DJ software that I use to load music onto USBs to be able to play on equipment like Pioneer CDJs). I’ll add songs to the playlist based on what comes to mind and ideas for what could mix well together i.e. start building the journey. I have 10000s of tracks in my Rekordbox library and download i.e. purchase, like, 20-50 tracks per week so there’s a lot to go through. Then I’ll sometimes drop those tracks in the playlist into Mixed in Key which is really helpful to plan out the set because it has an energy score for each song and the camelot wheel (music theory/harmonic mixing guide). Then I export the playlist onto my USBs with 100s of songs for my gig so if I want to go in a different direction or the energy feels different I can be flexible. And I love the adrenaline of mixing live and sometimes not knowing where I’ll go next. It’s incredibly freeing and liberating.
Ooohhh top 3 only?! So hard. Right now I’m really loving ‘Geekin’ by Dateless (first heard during the Jamie Jones party at Miami Music Week and I’ve been obsessed), ‘Coma Cat’ by Tensnake – Chloe Caillet Remix and it’s probably a tie with ‘Mama,’ ‘Dame 100 Pesetas’ – Jack Priest Edit, ‘No Hay Ritmo’ by T. Keeler, or ‘Thank you Baby’ by Things you Say,
With so many genre variations and new artists popping up almost daily with the help of the internet, how do you stay up-to-date with new music trends and releases?
Yes, there’s a lot! I think someone said there’s, like, 50,000 songs uploaded to Spotify daily? And that’s only 1 platform! I would say I don’t really pay attention to trends. I know what I like and what I don’t and some days I just want to listen to the greats or oldies or Italian reggaeton haha and I’m not creating based on what I think people will want to hear or what’s hot right now – I create what I want to hear and what makes me happy. To stay up to date, I follow my favorite artists (and record labels) and up-and-coming artists on Instagram, TikTok, and Spotify – I see what music has been tagged in people’s stories or if I hear something I like on Spotify (or shazam) then I’ll follow them on Instagram to keep up to date on new music. I also message artists asking if they have anything new coming out and that’s a great way to amplify other artist’s work! I also follow artists and record labels on Bandcamp and sign up for their newsletters to stay in the now. I even set reminders on my Google calendar when songs are coming out on Beatport that I really want to include in a set.
What’s a piece of equipment you can’t live without during your sets?
Great question! I can play vinyls on turntables, on a controller with a laptop or CDJs (my usual equipment) so I just need to bring my USBs, my mic, and good mixing headphones. But the 1 thing I must have is my earplugs. Going to so many concerts and spinning at really loud events has really impacted my ears (bad tinnitus) so I can’t go to any live music venues or spin without my earplugs to protect my hearing. Super important!
You’ve played at some iconic venues and festivals, like Burning Man! Can you talk about your experience performing at Burning Man, and did any special preparation happen for that set?
If you have ever had a desire to go to Burning Man, you absolutely MUST!!! And btw, it’s not a festival in the best way – it’s a global movement and community of art, music, self-reliance, healing, and the craziest expression and kindness you’ve ever experienced. It’s a week-long event (even longer for the builders and tear-down crews) in Black Rock City where everyone comes together to build a world out of nothing in the desert. It’s insane. I’ll keep going (even bring my future kids) because it’s inspiring, challenging, and like nothing I’ve experienced before. Getting to perform at Burning Man has been and is a total dream. It’s not just the music but the costumes, the vibes, trying new things, and taking more risks with my selection. I love seeing everyone dancing, all ages from all over the world. I typically prepare like any other set – curating the music, downloading it all, loading it up to Rekordbox and Mixed in Key, playing around with which songs would sound good together and testing out the flow of the set, making playlists with hours worth of tracks and then packing up my USBs and headphones. Then when I get to my gig, I’m mixing live which I always do, and it’s really neat because I may have prepared how I thought the set would go and then I’m feeling a totally different direction and just roll with it. This year, I’m excited for more morning sunrise sets, playing on some art cars, and more camp parties. The one thing that’s a little different is really anything goes for the music, so you’re able to be super playful, have fun, and take more risks!
Where do you usually find yourself gaining inspiration when writing your own music?
Great question. Everywhere and all the time. The ideas for songs come constantly. I think I have over 500 voice memos at this point and 1000s of notes for songs I want to try mixing, remix ideas, lyrics, new songs, etc. I feel like my faucet has been turned on and my job is just to be open to my muse and creativity. I’m always listening (I shazam at the gym, in the grocery store, Instagram stories, at clubs, the best place I SWEAR is when I’m out to dinner and go to the restroom and people wonder what’s taking so long haha). I will say it usually hits in the morning as soon as I wake up or right before I go to sleep and it’s always the nights I’m trying to go to bed early. I feel like I’ve sharpened my skills of being with a group of people physically but being in my mind creating something. And people usually ask how I get my ideas or what’s working with my creative process and I truly believe it’s because I’ve lowered all my barriers. I don’t judge any idea that comes, I just make note of it and if I find myself humming it or thinking about it a lot then it’s the next thing I work on. It’s an incredible gift. Just being open and curious has been really powerful. I think it’s also a trust I’ve built with myself and appreciation? That is enabling the creative magic to flow.
Who would you say are some of your musical influences?
Wow I feel like my response here will make no sense at all lol (like if you were at a buffet with cereal, sushi, pizza, ice cream, cookies and a taco station). I am ALL OVER the map from absolutely loving (and growing up with) Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Dionne Warwick, Chic, Giorgio Moroder, Pointer Sisters, Madonna, Tavares, Sam & Dave, Elvis, Fleetwood Mac, Prince, Queen, Britney, Christina, Bruce Springsteen, 3LW, Jennifer Lopez… to moving into my rock/Warped tour phase of Blink 182, Black Keys, Say Anything, the Academy Is, Cobra Starship, Katy Perry (who I actually saw at Warped Tour), Paramore, Fleet Foxes, Coldplay, Miley Cyrus… tons of Euro dance like French Affair, Cerrone, Kreo, Daft Punk… into more electronic artists like Chet Faker, Baynk, Nicolas Jaar, FKJ, FKA Twigs, Yuksek, Rufus du sol… and DJs like Purple Disco Machine, Maceo Plex, Guy Gerber, Adriatique, Jaguar, DJ Florentino, Rkomi Damian Lazarus, Diplo, Tensnake, Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler, Chloe Caillet, Peggy Guo, LP Giobbi, Sofi Tukker, Kino Todo, Omri Smadar, Red Axes, Keinemusik, Jamie xx, Fred Again, Glowal, ANOTR, Fargo Devianti, SG Lewis, the Blaze, Jungle, Parcels, Francis Mercier, MK, Mother Mary, Remi Wolf, Bad Bunny, Rosalia, Bee Gees, ABBA – the list goes on. I really am all over the place. It all depends on my mood and the day and where I am. I usually wake up with a few songs playing in my head and my playlists for the day starts there.
And congrats on your new single! We already know that ‘Ride The Wave’ will soundtrack our summer nights! What inspired the song?
You’re so sweet!!! Isn’t it perfect for summer?! Especially yummy summer love, sunkissed skin, ahh I think folks will really enjoy it. I talk about it a little below but I really wanted to include a beautiful love song on my album (this might be the only one) to balance out all my songs about being ghosted, lame men, heartbreak, going out for a girls night etc. And this idea came the 2nd or maybe 3rd day when I was in the studio with my co–producer. He was jamming on the piano with these incredible chords and the lyrics started pouring out. If you ask any of my family or friends they know Ride the Wave is Colin’s song (my husband). I met him after dating heartbreak 1 after the other when I was living in NY and I was really starting to think something was wrong with me. I was really down and feeling hopeless. And then I meet this really handsome, kind and loving man, who wants me. Who is honest about what he wants, open about his feelings and treated me like a queen. Angela at MP Co (my publicist) has the whole story about how we met which is kind of nuts. Short version is we matched on Bumble, he flew me to San Francisco for our first date and we knew we wanted to be with each other at the end of the weekend. Got married in Dec 2021, met in Sept 2018. So this song makes me so happy to sing, sort of a tribute to my husband, and how he makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
The ocean noises, in the beginning, are so soothing. What made you add that natural sound, or was it something you knew you wanted to do as soon as you started the creative process?
Aren’t they just dreamy? Every time it starts I feel like I’m on a beach in paradise. So I guess I wasn’t 100% original on that intro because I was really inspired to create ‘Ride the Wave’ after my honeymoon last May in Mexico and it was the same time that ‘Moscow Mule’ came out by Bad Bunny. I was playing that song on repeat, while sitting on the beach and loved how it felt like he was creating a world (a vibe, an atmosphere) with all those ocean sounds. I closed my eyes and felt like the song was speaking to my soul. So I knew for the 1 love song on the album that I wanted to transport listeners to that special place. We had to play with that intro to get the right level of seagulls so it was still romantic and didn’t sound like seagulls fighting haha.
@barbsmusic Might be your new favorite neighbor 😂 #fyp #dj #beats #musicproducer ♬ Rhyme Dust – MK & Dom Dolla
Your Spotify bio mentioned you had the superpower of “spreading sunshine.” How do you keep that positive energy, especially in the ongoings of the world today?
Love this question! I can’t tell you the number of times total strangers have said how they can feel me radiate joy. How my energy is infectious! And I’ve never really talked about how I can tap into it and do it. I will say it’s definitely work. It’s a total mindset shift, like how they say people either see the glass half empty or half full. I decided to choose happiness. When bad things happen, and they do and have happened, I really dig deep to tell myself to keep going. I let myself feel however I want in that moment, whether I scream or cry, but then you gotta pick your head up and keep going. I have a coach who says we should aim to see what the universe is doing for us, not doing to us. And how when 1 terrible thing happens how it could be making the way for something better to come and help us build resilience or learn something about ourselves. So I feel like it’s my calling, my superpower, and a treat to be able to spread positivity, sunshine, and this outlook on life that I have with others through my music. Life is so hard and I want to make people feel good when they listen to my music or come to a show.
What can fans look forward to for the rest of 2023?
A lot more music 🙂I’ll have my album coming out in the fall, a remix/dance-only EP, some remixes I’ve done for other artists, and more originals with a close friend of mine in San Francisco. Really good, funky, and fun music! Get ready for more live shows, my new radio show, more behind-the-scenes, more milestones to celebrate, etc. I want folks to enjoy this ride with me!
We hope you’re ready to dance for the rest of 2023! You can start the party and listen to ‘Ride the Wave’ right here, until we get more music from BARBARA!
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