An Interview With Folk Singer-Songwriter, LESLEY BARTH On Her Newest Music, Growing Up, Biggest Inspirations and A Lot More!
Posted On 16 Jun 2016
Since arriving in New York nearly 5 years ago from her home city of Philadelphia, Lesley Barth has honed in on her signature blend of folk, pop, rock, and soul. Influences from Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, and Motown inform the melodic, piano-driven tunes thick with vocal harmony, and Barth’s wide range and soulful, strong voice frequently draw comparisons to Sharon Van Etten, Christine McVie, and Natalie Merchant.
She independently released her debut EP ‘Good Like This’ to a packed house at New York’s Rockwood Music Hall in 2015, in addition to consistently performing at top singer-songwriter venues including The Living Room and Pianos. Having successfully completed a crowd-funding campaign as part of OvationTV and Rockethub’s first ever Creative Studio, Lesley is returning to Brooklyn’s Mission Sound to record her first full-length album in early 2016.
Learn more about Lesley Barth in the following All Access interview:
Thanks so much for your time today! How’s 2016 been treating you so far? What were some of the highlights of 2015 for you and your music?
Hey there – thanks so much for having me! 2016 has been awesome so far and there’s a lot of good stuff in the pipeline! 2015 was a great year – I released my first EP “Good Like This” in November, and right afterwards dived right into my first crowdfunding project, passing my goal and raising $8000 towards my first full-length album, which we are wrapping up right now.
Growing up, it sounds like you were really surrounded by music? How do you that influenced you to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Do you think that you have always wanted to be a singer?
Surrounded is a good word – my father is an opera singer and my mother was an actress and dancer, so there was always music and it was and continues to be one of the main ways in which my family communicates. Not that we’re singing to each other all the time, but so much time spent together is spent sharing songs and artists that we’ve discovered with each other. I think my earliest musical memory was a dance recital when I was 5 or so and living in Germany. I interrupted the entire performance by telling the teacher I had to use the bathroom. I think she was totally taken aback and found it hilarious – so she just stopped the show and let me run through the audience to the bathroom, and we started back up again when I got back. Clearly before the “other people” awareness came into my development. We have it on tape somewhere and it’s also my earliest comedy performance.
You released your first single, “Desire” back in 2013. How do you think you have grown as an artist since then? What do you think has remained the same?
I think I’ve gotten better at the process – writing, rehearsing, recording – those are all skills you develop over time. I think particularly the latter two have developed a great deal since 2013, as I’ve been writing music for much longer than I’ve been playing with a band and recording it. What you are able to do with recording a full-length album that you can’t do with singles or an EP is really experiment and show some breadth of styles. With an EP, the songs all have to fit together a bit more or it’s really disjointed – especially a debut EP where you want to kind of make an introductory statement about your sound. I feel a lot freer to experiment and just play around in the studio with this project, so I think this album was a lot more fun to make, and I think you can hear that in the tunes.
How’s it been going in the recording studio lately? How’s the new music sounding? When do you hope to release it?
I’m SO EXCITED about this music! I just got the first rough mix of one of the tunes, and I’m giddy with excitement. I’ll be releasing it mid/late summer – should have a date coming very soon!
Can you talk about making your newest music video for “Oh, Andy!”? What was that experience like for you? How creatively involved were you with it all?
Making “Oh, Andy!” was a lot of fun – very DIY. Shot it during the January blizzard in Philadelphia this year with a good friend of mine. He had just moved into a new apartment and stores were closing because of the storm, so the storyline/props/setting were purely out of necessity. Coming up with the story was definitely a joint project – we kind of thought about our criteria (can’t have other actors, set in the snow, related to the story of the song) and just plotted it out over Thai food the night before we shot it. I think there’s a lot of heart in it – I always try to make up for what I lack in budget with a whole lot of heart! Because heart is free. And heart is fun.
Generally, where do you get the inspiration for your music? Is that constantly changing?
I pull inspiration from things I live and things I observe other people live, so it is constantly changing in that sense. Process-wise, I usually collect some ideas that intrigue me and then just take a lot of walks and work through melodies or lines that really grab me, recording snippets on my phone. Then I go back to my keyboard or guitar and start to build out the songs that seem really promising. There is something about walking that really frees my mind and allows me to experiment more in styles. If I’m at my keyboard, my hands tends to fall in similar chord patterns and rhythms, which is good to a point because I do think my songs all sound like me, but you don’t want everything to sound the same. So walking and being unfettered by instruments is working for me now.
What’s been the most surprising thing to you about the music industry?
I love this question. I suppose the most surprising thing is the degree of control artists actually have today. And I know that might be a contentious thing to say, but with the internet and social media, you can really control how you are perceived to an amazing degree if you learn the skills and have the time. That’s not to say I care AT ALL about things like branding. I’m an artist – not a brand – and my guiding principle is to be as honest and as authentic as possible, because 1) it’s free (sense a theme?) and 2)otherwise I’d be stuck having to be some artificial brand and nothing sounds more boring or tiresome or antithetical to music and what I want my life to be than that does. So it’s not controlling your image that I’m talking about really – it’s more about how many people you can reach with free tools – that is a kind of control that artists did not have before. I always try to focus on what I can do, and not on what I can’t do, so I’m trying to learn as much as possible about that side of things.
Who are some of your favorite artists? What musicians continue to inspire you year after year? Who would you love to work with in the future?
I grew up on the Beatles, Carole King, the Temptations, Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen – a lot of the 60s/ 70s pop/singer-songwriter stuff. I always go back to that stuff for inspiration. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenny Lewis and Kishi Bashi lately – would be totally overwhelmed to have the opportunity to work with either of them.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners are taking away from your songs?
Ultimately, I want people to be able to use my music as a way to get honest with themselves about what they are feeling. I find that is a really hard thing to do, and I don’t think I’m alone there. I’ve always used music as a conduit to feel emotions that maybe are too hard to feel directly (CONFESSION!), and I’ve found a lot of healing and comfort in it – even (or, maybe, especially) the really sad stuff.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
Just stay tuned for the album release date and more exciting stuff like music videos, some behind-the-scenes stuff, tour dates, etc., by following me on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter! A lot of fun stuff ahead!