Arts & Culture

What are the Chances

Jill Barber has an interesting relationship with fate. She’s not sure it exists, or how it works, but it’s a big influence on her music.

Jill Barber has an interesting relationship with fate.
She’s not sure it exists, or how it works, but it’s a big influence on her music.
“Well, I wrestle with that question. I don’t know if I believe in fate, but I am fascinated by the concept.”
Her last album Chances and its title song are a product of this fascination.
“The song ‘Chances’, on one level, is a romantic love song but on a slightly deeper level, I am bewildered by how that universe works, with chance encounters. Are they destiny, and were they meant to be, or is it all just random?”
It’s a question that many have asked over the years, including many philosophers. This may be why Barber chose to embark on a different path than a music career after finishing high school.
“I knew I was searching for something, but I didn’t know what it was, so I went and got a degree in philosophy.”
Although this degree didn’t help her solve the complexities of fate and the universe, it did put her on the right path. It was there that she first started playing live music, in coffee houses, open mic nights, and gigs in local bars.
Just another chance event.
“In some ways, I am really sensible and rational, but in other ways I would say I am bit of a free spirit in the sense that I have really followed my heart,” she says. “My heart has led me different places that didn’t really make sense on a practical level, and I just felt for whatever reason that I had to do it.”
Halifax was one of her heart’s many stops. Here, she became a staple, producing two East Coast Music Award-winning albums and developing her smoky folk croon into a voice that owned the stage earlier this month with Symphony Nova Scotia.
“It was in Halifax that I felt I really grew as an artist and had a musical community to support me. It’s what allowed me to turn my passion into a career.”
Then her heart took her to touring, recording, and writing, producing Chances in Banff. And it was on tour that her heart finally settled on its destination.
“I was in Toronto at a music festival, and happened to be invited last minute to a dinner where I met who is now my husband,” she says. “So that was a pretty chance encounter as well, and has really changed my life.”
The man she met was CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence. They tied the knot in May and now live together on West Coast.
Though her heart is settled, she is not. The couple are in the middle of a national book tour. Lawrence promoting his first novel Adventures in Solitude and Barber boosting her children’s book of lullabies.
“This baby book has been a project that has come up for me, kind of fell into my lap. It has been a fun distraction and I have enjoyed that.”
She is also performing songs from her new album, Mischievous Moon, which will come out in March. It’s an album that she says reflects how her fascination with fate has grown.
“I think that it is a much more grown-up record. It’s very orchestrated, much more horns. It’s… moodier than Chances. And perhaps it deals even further with existential ideas and matters of the heart and matters of the mind.”
So a philosophy degree and three albums later, she’s still trying to work out her relationship with fate. But at least she’s sure of one thing.
“My whole life has been a series of chances and encounters.”

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