Independent alt-country artist Del Barber sheds his solitary man status on Headwaters. Released in May on Six Shooter Records, the Winnipeg singer-songwriter’s third studio album features seasoned session musicians and Maine-based producer Sam Kassirer.
“Sam produced the last couple Josh Ritter records and I was pretty into the sound of those records,” says Barber, 28.
“I wanted to make a more alternative sounding record and I wanted to work with a producer who would take the reins on the project and have strong opinions about things sonically. My opinions are really strong about songs but not so much about sound.”
Sound-wise, Headwaters is musically moodier than 2010’s Juno-nominated album Love Songs for the Last 20. Despite paying more attention to production, nothing was lost in the storytelling department. The Waitress, for instance, concerns a small town girl who moves to the city and works at an all-night diner. The song is about the server accepting her lot in life.
“I think everyone at a certain point stops being completely idealistic about their dreams or what they thought they wanted from life,” Barber says.
“The subject matter I always write about is the urban/rural divide. A lot of my friends have moved from their small towns and then waxed nostalgic. They try to go back but there’s no work. In this case it was something else that made her stay away from home — she became too good at serving to quit and do anything else. It made her stuck, but at a certain point she got past feeling stuck and is at peace with working the night shift.”
City or country, Barber is preoccupied with place, particularly this province. Love Songs featured Home to Manitoba while Headwaters closes with Soul of the Land That’s Mine. His love for home is so strong that when Barber hits the road, he feels a little guilty.
“I have a feeling of infidelity with Manitoba,” Barber says.
“It’s like I have this beautiful wife but to live I have to cheat on her. My M.O. is to see the good in other places. That being said, I’m just a tourist, I’m not looking for anywhere else to live. Still, it’s hard when you’re always around people who are extending grace and charity. It makes it seem like life is easier everywhere else.”
• Del Barber Plays the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba in Gimli on Sunday. Show time is 6:30 p.m. See icelandicfestival.com for more info.