As a project titled after her legal name, the musician promises it to be "diaristic" and "intensely personal," written in the wake of her father's passing and falling in love with her now wife, Gabby.
This intersection of extreme emotions collided while in lockdown, where Barrie found herself writing, performing and producing all of Barbara from within isolation — a process she says resulted in both "rawness and a measure of control" across the album.
She's previously shared "Dig" and "Frankie" off the forthcoming effort, and today Barrie drops "Quarry," a surreal single about falling in love that intentionally brims with "explosive joy." Between its "disjointed drums" and "syncopated bass," Barrie says "the ground of the song shifts constantly," much like romance itself.
"It's uplifting, but also a little wary," she explains, underscoring lyrics that narrate a moment of intense risk and reward: "Dripping blood from your foot at the quarry/ Hit bottom and you stay just to scare me," she sings. "Shouting naked at the rock up above you/ Baby, I love you"
For the "Quarry" music video, premiering today, Barrie enlisted Emmy-award winning director Robert Kolodny to help visualize her queer love story, as she and Gabby meet one another and mutually shave their heads. Watch it all, below, as PAPER talks to Barrie about "discovering the sweetness in sharing vulnerabilities publicly."
How does creating and writing for a solo project differ from your previous experience? Is it more liberating? More Intimidating?
Writing in a group setting, you want to make sure that everyone will be comfortable and willing to stand behind the songs. You’re writing with other people’s taste in mind. It’s helpful to be out of your own head and try to hear it from everyone else’s perspective. When it’s solo, it’s a free-for-all, for better and for worse.
What are some of the core themes or ideas you found yourself exploring the most on this album?
Like everyone else, I had a poignant couple of years. My dad died of cancer and I also fell in love and got married. Those two things were at forefront for me, along with the conversations and protests that were going on nationally. Those thoughts found their way into the songs, whether consciously or not. I thought a lot about the purpose of lyrics and of music in general. I want people to be able to relate, but I also want people to be able to not relate. Some people want art to change the world and some people want art so they can get a break. I feel both sides. Whatever meaning you need to find, meet this album on whatever level you’re at.
This is arriving in the wake of significant loss and newfound love. Through all this, what have you discovered about those two things?
On one hand, I’m private and tend to keep a certain distance between my life and music, like anyone at any other job. On the other hand, giving of yourself and in particular, your personal tragedies, are currency in music. And for good reason; it’s powerful to be able to connect with artists on a deeper level by knowing where they’re coming from. I’ve been discovering the sweetness in sharing vulnerabilities publicly, and learning where the line is between connection and oversharing.
Does this easy, blissful pop sound happen naturally for you or is it something you’ve intentionally perfected over time?
I love pop music, and I listen to and create music as an escapist activity. So I’ve worked really hard to find the exact sounds I like, and I’ve honed the skill of writing melodies to my taste and standard. At the same time, these types of sounds and melodies are what I’ve always gravitated toward, so on some level it comes naturally, but it’s something I’ve been working on for a long time.
"I’ve been discovering the sweetness in sharing vulnerabilities publicly."
There’s a lot of different instrumentation on this project. Talk about the different instruments you picked up and recorded for this, and how you’ve managed to learn so many.
I have all these instruments from totally different places. I’m very lucky to have them. Someone in college gave me their childhood cello that they were getting rid of; I bought a flute and clarinet at a yard sale; got an autoharp on Craigslist; impulse bought a dulcimer from Guitar Center; Fender gifted me a bass; a Rhodes I’ve been babysitting for a friend who moved to California; I inherited a harp from my grandmother; the trumpet I played in elementary and middle school. I wouldn’t say I’m very good at any of them, but I love making whatever sound I can get out of them. It’s more interesting when they don’t sound exactly like they’re supposed to.
Do you find it easy or difficult to write love songs like “Quarry”? What is that process like for you?
The music part is fun and relatively easy. The lyric part is more challenging; lyrics take thought in general, but you especially want to get it right when you’re talking about someone you really care about. I started writing "Quarry" by recording a synth loop and then layering and layering sounds. Once the production feels full, I listen and try to sense what lyrics feel right. I didn’t consciously set out to write a love song; it just ended up there naturally. It’s a little bit like ouija; it’s probably more predetermined than I realize.
"It’s a little bit like ouija; it’s probably more predetermined than I realize."
There’s an intimacy to the “Quarry” video. How did you want the visuals to complement the track?
All I knew to start was that I wanted to shave my head and thought it would make for a cool music video. I came up with the concept of randomly cutting chunks of hair off and have no one around me react. Cutting your hair is the most normal thing in the world, but it feels so dramatic when it’s happening to you. Feels right for a love song. Our friend Rob Kolodny is an incredible filmmaker and good friend, so it was really fun and comfortable with him and Gabby (my wife) running around Brooklyn cutting our hair. We asked him to take the concept and have total freedom to execute it how he wanted.
What is the significance of the matching hair cuts? What statement did you intend for that to make? Were you nervous to do that?
I was nervous, yeah. It was partly practical because Gabby and I both wanted to buzz our heads because fuck hair, especially in New York in the summer. We didn’t want to be too on the nose or twee with the matching hair cutting, but there was a purity to it that felt right. I think because we both genuinely wanted to buzz our heads, regardless of art or videos or whatever. Two people who just genuinely match.
How has married life impacted the way you approach making music?
That’s an interesting question. I think it makes me take music both more and less seriously. I take it more seriously because I want to make music and lyrics more thoughtfully and carefully than I have in the past, and less seriously because my priorities have shifted from when music felt like the best and most important thing in my life.
Why does the title, Barbara, capture and sum up the sounds and lyrics of this entire new album?
This album felt like a self-titled album. I made it in such an insular and personal way. Barbara is my legal name, but no one ever called me that; I’ve always just been Barrie my whole life. Giving the self-titled album its own sort of moniker creates some space between myself, my musical project, and this time capsule from this period of my life.
Photography: Carolyne Loreé Teston
Styling: Isabel Rosen-Hamilton
Hair and makeup: Shaina Ehrlich