Jill Barber: Live In Frederick, MD

Jill Barber

I’m sure that most folks can recall recent memories associated with the mention of a particular artist’s name? When it comes to Vancouver, BC bilingual artist Jill Barber, my own recollection is one of almost falling off my office chair during a workday last August when scrolling aimlessly through some social media pages. Seeing Jill’s face on a flyer promoting the 2023-24 performance schedule at New Spire Arts – one of the coolest new venues in Frederick, MD – I stopped dead in my tracks – was Jill Barber coming to our neck of the woods in mid-January? Say it ain’t so…  

Pinching myself to confirm I was not simply daydreaming, a quick hop over to Jill’s own website listed no upcoming US tour dates or information, but clicking on the link from the flyer took me to the venue’s box office, where tickets were just itching to be purchased. How could we turn down an opportunity to catch a show with one of our favorite artists just an hour away from home – even the phrase ‘no-brainer’ became an understatement. News of Jill’s small US northeast tour would later materialize, but long after our tickets had been bought.  

Jill Barber

Touring as a trio with bassist Brian Kobayakawa and flatpicking guitarist Mike T. Kerr, Jill commenced the show with a pair of popular favorites from her music catalogue – delivering an outstanding one-two punch of the French language “Petite Fleur” and the romantic jazz ballad “Chances.” “What are the chances that I’d play a show in Frederick, MD? I never would have guessed it,” Jill stated during her first address. “When I’m not on the road, I’m at home in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with my husband and our two children and our Australian Labradoodle. And that’s my other wonderful, satisfying, but slightly less glamorous gig at home being a family woman. But this is where I’m meant to be, I just kind of moonlight as a mom.” 

Trading her romantic jazz music for a brief foray into popular music with her 2018 “Metaphora” album and pushing her creativity further yet to deliver “Entre Nous” – a stunning retro chanson French language album that earned our GDW 2020 Album of the Year honors – Jill yearned to explore her folk-roots background once again with her equally stunning “Homemaker” album last year (GDW Top 20 Finalist), sharing tales with the audience about how long she has been writing songs and touring as a professional musician.  “My most recent record, which is my tenth studio album – I know, it took ten albums to come visit you in Maryland – but for a long time I was afraid to talk in my music about my life at home, my domestic life,” she shared. “I decided to open up in my music about the joys and struggles of being a woman my age, and all the many roles I play. Other than the international performing star…”  

Jill Barber

With a strong focus on the new material, the trio delighted all with fabulous performances of “Instant Cash for Gold” (previously featured here at GDW) and the album’s title track, before pausing once more for Jill to share the origins of “Beautiful Life.” “I have a relationship that’s kind of toxic that I keep going back to again and again,” she shared. “It’s with social media, and sometimes I really worry what [it] is doing to us. I have a love/hate relationship with it, and I’m a little bit addicted, but that doesn’t do me any favors when I’m scrolling through and instead of feeling grateful for all that I have, I start to look at everybody’s perfectly curated photos and know they only tell half the story. So, I wrote this song as a reminder to myself that what we see on our little screens is not real life and is just a reminder to put it down and maybe just take in what’s around me. Even the messy chaos – that’s where the good stuff is.” 

Performing two more new album tracks, Jill would share a tale of the first being written with her life partner (CBC personality Grant Lawrence) in mind. “I’ve been married for 13 years, and I’m still in love with my husband,” she offered, earning applause. “However,” (pausing to soak up the laughter bouncing around the room), “the love songs I wrote for him 14 or 15 years ago are not the love songs that come out of me when I now sit down with my guitar and think of him.  Love evolves in many ways – if you’re lucky it deepens – but it changes the nature of it. And you’ve got to work to keep the romance alive, which inherently isn’t really a very romantic idea, is it? For me, my love language is laundry…” Laughter erupted once more in response… “Yeah, that’s what turns me on. But writing about that, I set out to try and write a domestic love song, a kind of ode to commitment, and I think even the title is pretty sexy if you ask me. It’s called Joint Account.” If you have not heard the studio version of this song, I highly encourage that you give it a whirl – a beautiful duet with Winnipeg’s Grant Davidson (Slow Leaves). 

Jill Barber

Continuing into “Big Eyes,” this time the focus would shift to Jill’s maternal love for her daughter – and to whom she dedicates this song. “She’s 8 years old. She still really looks up to me [and] thinks I’m pretty great. That’s not going to change, is it?” Jill commenced, earning chuckles once more. “I admit that even since writing this song a couple of years ago, I’ve noticed a difference. I used to be number one. Now Taylor Swift is number one, and I’m number two. Anyway, I’m glad I have this song as a little time capsule of a moment in time where she looked up at me with her big eyes. I was her world. I was just her everything.” 

One of the things we all love about live performances is the connection we feel by simply being there, living in the moment, and sharing a momentary journey with the artists on stage. And, naturally, we share those unexpected, unscripted moments too – and oh boy, were this trio at a brief loss for words following the response to a question posed by Jill to the audience. “You’re really getting to know me tonight. How are you, how are you doing?” Jill asked. “I want to know more about you, Frederick. What do they call you?”  When somebody cried out “Frednecks,” and Jill’s initial reaction was “Oh!” – laughter quickly filled the room, with the three artists enjoying the humor and needing time to compose themselves. “I was thinking, where is the best coffee in Frederick,” Jill eventually retorted. “Really, I’d like to know…” 

Closing the show with a reimagined version of “Girl’s Gotta Do” from “Metaphora,” and unleashing the incredibly popular cut “Oh My My” from the 2008 “Chances” album, the trio took their bows and exited the stage. Returning for an encore, this attendee was more than happy to find Jill dipping into her “Entre nous” material to share her bilingual cover of the Leonard Cohen hit, “Suzanne.”  This performance capped a stunning 75 minutes of music from Jill, Mike, and Brian – who collectively filled the room with musical joy and made many new friends and fans in the process.  Here’s hoping that Jill can make another visit to this part of the US again soon. 

Set List: 

  1. Petite Fleur 
  2. Chances 
  3. Homemaker 
  4. Beautiful Life
  5. Instant Cash For Gold 
  6. Joint Account 
  7. My Mother’s Hand 
  8. Big Eyes 
  9. Girl’s Gotta Do 
  10. Oh My My 


  1. Suzanne (Leonard Cohen cover) 

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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