Ali Barter is definitely a breath of fresh of air in my town! Though I have to admit I didn’t know much about Ali at first, except for the fact that her debut album A Suitable Girl – taken from Vikram Seth’s novel A Suitable Boy – is one of those pinch yourself moments, when you can’t believe how good an album can be. I won’t say it’s a throwback to the sounds of 90’s rock, but it bares all the hallmark sounds of blistering guitars that I love about alternative and indie rock from that era. Inundated with an authenticity of lyrics that capture real emotions, Ali Barter has also it seems succeeded, like many great female artists before her, to make us sit up straight and listen to what she has to say.
That said I decided to investigate a little further and discovered that not only does Barter use her vehicle (music) to express equally her frustrations and passions, but she also believes strongly in her own message. What I also love about Barter musically is her guitar playing. She seems to effortlessly strum cords and write straight forward melodies that give rise to songs with real feeling. (Check out her song Community from an earlier EP release below to appreciate her eloquent brilliance.) Refreshing is also her cause to bring our attention to the underrepresentation of women in music. On a personal level, it is one of the reasons why I have focused more recently here on Women in Music. In truth, I’d stand alongside Ali Barter any time to help her celebrate the long list of amazing female artists.
I decided recently to reach out to Ali in the hope that we could share a brief conversation about some of the things I have mentioned above. So imagine my surprise when Melbourne-based Barter replied to my email! Anyway, without any further ado, I’d like to introduce to my wider audience, musician, singer and performer Ali Barter.
I love that you celebrate the stories of women in music on your Facebook page. Something that I have in common with you is that I too celebrate women’s history, and more recently ‘Women in Music’ here. If I could ask you Ali, who are your role models? What about them do you admire?
“I love the actress, director and writer Julie Delpy. She starred in the Before Trilogy and wrote, directed, edited and starred in 2 days In Paris. She is also a musician. I love writer Arundhati Roy, who wrote The God Of Small Things. She also writes about corruption and injustices in her country of origin, India. I also love the musician Jenny Lewis for her honest and prolific songwriting. These women are strong and opinionated and are actually saying something through their art. Jenny Lewis writes about getting to 40 and not having a baby, Julie Delpy writes about awkward moments in relationships – insecurity, vulnerability; and Arundhati Roy exposes horrible things being done by corporations, governments and debunking myths history has presented us with.”
While a majority of female artists I listen to come from oversea, I always have an ear out for what is happening here. My favourite Australian artists include Kate Miller-Heidke, and Lisa Mitchell, and more recently I discovered the amazing Olivia Bartley (aka Olympia). Who would you recommend that I should also be listening to?
“You should listen to Alex Lahey, Gretta Ray, Jack River and Bec Sandridge!”
What in your music career (thus far) has brought you or given you the greatest fulfillment or satisfaction?
“Putting out a record is pretty satisfying. I feel like a grown up, that I’ve committed to something and seen it through to the end. It feels like it a step in establishing myself and putting something fully formed out into the world as a representation of me as an artist.”
I have always been a Madonna fan (from way back). What It Feels Like For A Girl is one of my favourite songs that addresses issues about double standards facing women. I believe you have faced your own drama about what is expected from you as a female performer? How do you manage to rise above the double standards?
“I think just by being true to yourself is the best way. Know who you want to be, what you want to say and then just have conviction. People are always going to tell you it should be this way or that way, just don’t listen.”
In a life enriched by the women in my own life, I had come to embrace all things beyond a male point of view. That said, your song Girlie Bits is definitely something that I can identify with. Was it always your intention to make the song so inclusive to both sexes?
“When I wrote Girlie Bits, it came from my perspective so, I’m a woman and I was frustrated at the shackles which confine me in the perception of society. However, men face shackles of their own. The idea of ‘being a man’ is a complicated one and I believe that feminism needs to include men to make any significant change. We can’t do it without men. Everyone wants to be understood and Girlie Bits is more about being understood than accusing one sex for hold back another.”
Ali, we both share something in common. It seems we both love Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill. I still marvel at how incredible that album was and the legacy Alanis left for female performers in general. As an advocate of female empowerment, she is unapologetic and a proud feminist and that’s what I STILL love about her. Is there a little bit of Alanis that has rubbed off on you in terms of your own advocacy work?
“Yeah I love Alanis because she was an angry female voice when I needed one. I listened to that record endlessly when I was in primary school and it still resonates and moves me today.”
I can honestly say that I can’t decide which is my favourite track on your album. Though if I had to pick a few standouts – Girlie Bits, Toyko and Far Away – are pretty damn good. But the album as a whole is really quite solid and I think that is a reflection of a new maturity you have found as a singer songwriter. Does that come with experience or are there other factors that come into play?
“I have written a lot of songs over the past 5 years. I have released 3 EPs and now an album so I have been refining my art and sorting through these feelings pretty solidly. The album is an exorcism of the negative feelings I was having in my late 20s. Feelings towards other people, society and about myself. It’s about self acceptance. It’s also a lot of fun, so I would mention that.”
I read somewhere that you have been compared to the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Liz Phair and a promising P.J. Harvey. How do compliments like that sit with you?
“Comparisons are fine. People like to categorise things, I do it when I hear something new. I’m pretty honoured to be compared to those ladies. I am a huge fan of all of them.”
Finally, what do you love most about touring, especially this time around promoting A Suitable Girl? Do you get nervous about what’s coming next?
“I love playing a show each night with my band. We have a lot of fun on tour. I’m lucky to be great friends with the boys in my band. They are very supportive and easy going. Playing shows for a new audience each night is pretty special. I’m excited to get to some new towns and play headline shows.”
Ali Barter’s debut album, A Suitable Girl, is out now through Inertia Music. Ali Barter is also about to embark on a national tour. Check out her tour dates below:
Thursday April 13 – Star Bar, Bendigo, VIC
Friday April 28 – Workers Club, Geelong, VIC
Wednesday May 3 – Karova Lounge, Geelong, VIC
Thursday May 4 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC
Friday May 5 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC (sold out)
Saturday May 6 – Jive Bar, Adelaide, SA
Friday May 12 – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth
Thursday May 18 – The Foundry, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday May 25 – Hudson Ballroom, Sydney, NSW
Friday May 26 – Rad Bar, Wollongong, NSW
Saturday May 27 – Live On The Lawn, Newcastle, NSW