TheAussieWord catches up with Barb Jungr for a one on one interview.
What can you tell us Aussies about you. How and where did it all begin?
Hi Brian. I always sang, from being a tiny little girl. My dad – who was Czech and came to the UK just after the second world war ended, used to say that he’d sit me on his knee on the bus and I’d sing and sing and sing and he’s say “shut up” and I just sang and sang. From being a little tidgy girlie I could remember things from the radio and sing whole songs. It was always there. I used to make our front step into a stage and do little shows with my dolls.
What first got you interested in music?
Music was always playing, everywhere you went. People sang at church, my parents had the radio on and we went to the theatre and the opera because my parents were European so they didn’t think twice about carting their little tiny girl everywhere with them, they took me to everything. I was surrounded by music all the time. The lady who looked after me. whom I called my Autny Nora, she had a son, Barry, and he would have been a teenager then, and at his 21st birthday party I went and danced (I would have been 5 or 6) and they let me play the drums – they loved me, so I just always had music all around me. When I was about 7 my dad gave me a violin that had been in the family and I started with lessons and learned to read and play. There was talk of my becoming a violinist, I was entered for all kinds of competitions and so on, and I played in the school orchestra and all of that. I can’t think back to a time when I wasn’t humming or music was playing. The world was sung into being.
Who inspires or influences your quest to make great music?
I’m inspired by all kinds of things. recently I saw the 70 year old pianist, Maurizio Pollini, and was sent to heaven on a bike by his playing. Walking by the sea does it. I’ve been working on a big commission for Corby for the theatre there’s second birthday in November and I’m being inspired by all the musicians I’m meeting there and all the wonderful poetry and playing. Listening wise, currently I’m going back over great singles I’ve loved for years, so I’m replaying alot of early Chess, Stax and Motown, alot of early Northern Soul, and alot of superb soul singers – Candi Staton and so on. I never tire of instrumental jazz, and I’m loving alot of sacred music – Taverner and Buddhist chanting. I’m loving some of the new folk music and roots music thats coming out of Britain and America. There are some fabulous new younger players around. I’m generally feeling inspired – then again – it is spring here! I’m inspired by art and books, conversations and nature. I’m a big walker. I love the Devon and Cornwall Coastal Path. I love the moors, Dartmoor and the Pennines and the Lancashire Moors – where I was born – I love them. I love Scotland. I’m insane about the Isle of Skye. All of that.
Are there any tours or gigs planned for the future?
Oh loads. I’m in London next weekend and then I’m off to New York for a month with a 3 week run at The Metropolitan Room which is kind of my New York home base,. May through the sumer is full on in the UK and I release a new CD in September m called Stockport To Memphis. I come from Stockport originally. The album is half my own songs and half my reinterpretations so I’m really excited about it. We begin recording – as it happens – tomorrow. There are still alot of the Dylan collection shows throughout the year. I’m writing this song cycle for Corby – as I mentioned – so its a busy and wonderful year for me.
What are some of the biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist?
I would love to play Carnegie Hall. (You know that joke? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice) I’ve been lucky enough to play in some amazing venues, including the legendary New York Town Hall. But yes, there are places I’ve never been and would love to play. I’d like my musical The Ballad Of Norah’s Ark, to get a full production, and I’d love to play with a couple of people I’ve yet to meet but if you know the songs I sing you’ll be able to ake a pertty good guess as to who they might be. . But on the whole I just work in the here and now – because you can spend too much time in your head in the future or the past and whats the point of that – and I’d rather enjoy what I’m doing and what I’ve got. I’ve been really lucky and I spend alot of my time being bathed in music – what could be better?
What can fans expect from you in the coming months?
New album, more touring, a new show I’m co-writing and writing the songs for at the legendary Little Angel Theatre in Islington in London. All of that and more. The performance and song cycle in Cprby, which is called Deep Roots Tall Trees. There’s a fair bit going on.
Success, what is the secret to success and what has been your biggest career highlight so far?
I’ve no idea what the secret to success is though I like that saying “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything, they just make the best of everything they have.” I think if you can spend your life with music, its not going to get much better than that. My career highlights…..playing under the stars in Mombassa in an open air theatre with people there with all their chickens and goats; opening at The Cafe Carlyle in New York and singing an Iggy Pop song – never done before, there! Singing Dylan songs at The Barbican in London with Odetta and Liam Clancy and Billy Bragg and Martin Carthy. I had a great tour of the USA last year and played in Hollywood and Austin – they were fabulous places and audiences. I’ve always loved New York and I’m lucky to go back there alot. Singing at The Town Hall in New York where Paul Robeson stood……there’ve been alot. There are alot more to come.
Which current stars in the industry do you highly rate?
I love Gabby Young and Other Animals, Eliza Carthy I like alot. I love June Tabor. I love my friends Gwyneth Herbert, Claire Martin, Ian Shaw and Mari Wilson.
How would people best describe you and your music?
Singer. Chanson. Song stylist. Reinterpreter. Maybe those things. I’m a singer. I’m a singer who works with excellent arrangers and great musicians. I don’t mind calling it Jazz since there is some improvisation in it and its inside the very wide church of jazz, no question.
Tell us a bit about your first EP or album?
Lordi Lord I dunno if I can remember what that was! I think its an album I made that never came out for CBS in ye olden days. I made it with my then husband. There was some good stuff on that album. I think I have a cassette copy of it somewhere.
Do you have any exciting projects in the works?
Corby song cycle, the show at The Little Angel, the new album Stockport To Memphis – alot.
The industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now?
I shall be singing and performing and making albums and writing theatre shows as usual. Business as usual. More and better business. In sunshine, with luck.
Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists.
Robyn Archer. Paul Grabowsky. Ruby Hunter. Arcie Roach. Yothu Yindi. My great friend Ernest Hecht used to put Robyn on in Europe. I luckily played at the Adelaide Cabaret festival with Paul. And a few years ago when Russell Churney was touring with Julian Clary – with whom I worked for years – in Australia I asked him to bring me some music back and Russell brought me Ruby, Archie and Yothu Yindi.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what it means to you in getting your records out into the public eye?
I don’t think about that at all. I have my labels who put out my work and I get on with it. I haven’t had alot to do with the very mainstream industry for a while . I’m a Schumacher “small is beautiful” kinda gal. I have a suspicion that the industry is , in Elvis Costello’s words, “last year’s model”, and I’m thrilled that with the internet and the social networks people can find their ‘tribes’ and get to their audiences in other ways.
Thanks for the interview! What can you leave fans with here on TheAussieWord blog today?
Have a great day! One of my favourite places in the world, Aussie blog lovers, is the Blue Mountains. I love playing at The Clarendon and the Blue Mountains are in my total heart and soul. I hope to be back in Australia in the next 12 months, and I’ll keep you posted. The last tour I did of Australia a couple of years ago, was absolutely beautiful. I loved it. I love it. keep On Truckin’ – Peace and Love barb xxx
Facebook: Barb Jungr