In recent years, 2013 Triple J Unearthed winner Ali Barter has supported The War on Drugs, Phosphorescent and Cloud Control. And she’s about to tour Australia with City Calm Down. Not bad credentials for a classically trained singer who performed with the Australian Girls Choir for 10 years. Barter writes songs with the kind of big chorus made for singing out loud when driving. It’s no surprise one of her songwriting heroes is Alanis Morissette – but in recent singles Girlie Bits and Far Away (the first teasers from her forthcoming debut album), Barter sounds more Metric than Morissette.
Broadsheet: You’ve described your relationship with music as love-hate. How so?
Ali Barter: Music was the first thing I remember being drawn to as a kid, but it took a long time to stick. I started to resent it as a teenager when I didn’t want to learn German folksong and preferred to get drunk with my friends! When I came back to music I had to find my own way to play it, which was awkward, but I was very determined to find my sound. I love music, but sometimes it causes me a lot of anxiety – as art does to most creative people, I imagine – and that’s when it gets hard.
BS: Who are your songwriting heroes?
AB: I grew up listening to Frank Sinatra (thanks Dad), so the first songwriters I was introduced to were Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin. I love all those old songs and am influenced by the simplicity of them: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus, a great melody and a “tag line”. It’s a winning formula. Later on I discovered Johnny Cash who was very important when I started writing songs on the guitar. He used chords I understood, being a self-taught guitarist myself, and I loved his words. Then there was Alanis Morissette, who made me feel that it is okay to be a girl and be angry. And I love, love, love Sia.
BS: Apart from music, what else inspires you?
AB: Movies and books are a huge inspiration for me. Some of my favourite movies are Labyrinth, Stealing Beauty and High Fidelity. Not only do they have fantastic soundtracks, but they deal with themes of love, insecurity, obsession, hate and naivety. Real stuff! I also love Françoise Sagan’s book Bonjour Tristesse and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy. They explore the journey of young female characters finding their place in the world, testing the waters, pushing buttons and making mistakes. I love the idea of innocence lost. I identify with the characters: their remorse, their dreams and their struggle to be brave.
BS: Fantasy support slot – any artist/any era/anywhere?
AB: Foo Fighters. In the ’90s at some dirty club in Seattle.
BS: What can we expect from a live show?
AB: We play really loud so expect lots of fuzzy guitars, big drums, screaming synths and sometimes a screaming Ali. My band is incredible and we have a lot of fun playing live.
Ali Barter Tour Dates (supporting City Calm Down)
Friday September 16 – Capitol, Perth
Saturday September 17 – Max Watts, Brisbane
Friday September 23 – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Friday September 30 – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets are available at citycalmdown.com.