BEAUTY AND THE BLUES
Breanna Barbara is a new voice on the downtown New York City music scene. The Ridgewood, Queens resident is sure to make her sound known all over the world, touring to promote her recent release, Mirage Dreams. Her killer looks cannot stear you away from a very haunting voice with powerful bursts of energy and twisted lyrics. It’s somewhat unsettling, yes, unsettling. Perhaps it’s a balance of good and evil? Who knows. We just love what she’s doing. And we’ll be sure to keep an eye and ear on this beauty, and watch her take over the music world. Photography Alexander Thompson. Hair/makeup Kate Carretta. https://soundcloud.com/breanna-barbara
PONYBOY: You’re a girl from Minnesota. How did you get those Southern roots that we hear coming out of your music?
BREANNA BARBARA: I am! Well, I was born there and then started moving around a lot with my mother – first Wisconsin, Washington D.C., West Virginia, and then finally Florida. I was able to travel to a lot of the southern gems while growing up there. Eventually, I landed in New Orleans and fell in love. The southeast is definitely where I began my journey in music.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your recent LP release this summer, Mirage Dreams.
BREANNA BARBARA: Mirage Dreams is a collection of songs I had written as far back to when I was 18, all the way up to 26. I had been hanging on to some demos and eventually sent them to a producer I had really admired named Andrija Tokic. He invited me down to Nashville and we made the record in about two weeks in December 2014. The release has been amazing with so much support and love. It feels so good to finally have it out into the universe.
PONYBOY: Tell us about the recording process with Andrija Tokic.
BREANNA BARBARA: It was a dream. I had never been to Nashville before, so I had no idea what to expect. I packed up my van and drove down by myself; I think I made it in a day and a half. As soon as I arrived at the studio, we hit it off and I met one of the main musicians on board named Matt Menold. Every morning we’d meet in the studio with the group for the day and go over the demo, give our ideas and visions for the songs and just go for it. I never once was unhappy with the way it came out. Andrija and everyone on board were the best fit for what I had imagined for this album.
PONYBOY: Your songs are dark, with haunting/moody undertones. Where do you find your inspiration?
BREANNA BARBARA: I had been struggling with a deep, deep depression after my father passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. Some of the songs come from after that period. But in all honesty, I think I’ve always written sort of depressing songs (ha,ha), which is why i’m also drawn to write songs that make me want to move and dance because I’ve come to realize that these emotions and this darkness is just a part of who I am. It’s a blessing and a curse all at once; I know I wouldn’t feel things the same without them, but I also know I will be in contact with it for the rest of my life.
PONYBOY: Do you always write all of your own lyrics?
BREANNA BARBARA: Yes, I do.
PONYBOY: Tell us about the first song, Sailin’ Sailin’. It’s our favorite on the record. Those lyrics are probably the darkest of them all.
BREANNA BARBARA: Ha,ha! Yeah, they are pretty dark, huh? That’s actually the most recent song I had written on the record. When I came up with the lyrics for Sailin’ Sailin’ I had the image of streaming through life after a loved one dies, similar to drugs in a system. And although I have seen my Mama cry and my Dad did die, this one is a little less about my experience and more a sonic one. The rhythm is more upbeat and the yodels are pretty relentless. When I sing it, it’s about empowerment. After you’ve been through some shit you feel more powerful because of it. Yes, it’s terrible that these things happened, but if it weren’t for these experiences, you wouldn’t be half the person you are today.
PONYBOY: Mirage Dreams has that angst at the end of the song, with the howling. What’s that single all about?
BREANNA BARBARA: Have you ever been so in love with someone so much that you really deep down sometimes hated them, too? Ha, ha! Maybe it’s just me. But honestly, sometimes in the deepest love you get to know the insides of someone so much that maybe they can disappoint you or hurt you in ways that you’ve never felt before. But they are equal. The only way you can blame someone for giving you that amount of pain is to credit them for giving you that amount of love. The song is about an expulsion of that feeling.
PONYBOY: Another favorite song of ours is the dreamy ballad, Wood Demon. Your voice is mesmerizing. Of all the songs on the LP, which is your favorite and why?
BREANNA BARBARA: Thank you! I’m so happy you made it that far! That’s one of my favorite songs, too. It reminds me of the past. When I sing it, I feel like I’m in a different time or body. It’s weird. Another one of my favorites is Daddy Dear. It’s been a dream to play live with my band because they hit it really hard at the end. For a minute, it feels like I’m in a doom metal band, and I love it.
PONYBOY: You tour with another favorite band of ours, The Mystery Lights, who we recently featured on our site. The lead singer, Mike Brandon, just so happens to be your boyfriend. Do the two of you collaborate on musical projects as well?
BREANNA BARBARA: Yes! The almighty Mystery Lights! Call me bias but they will forever be one of my favorite bands of all time. They’re just so good! And they are some of the sweetest, most genuine guys you will ever meet. I think I’ve danced to their set almost 100 times now and I still have yet to get sick of it. It gets better every single time. And that lead singer, what a dream boat! Mike and I have recorded a couple demos for this side project we started a little while back. It’s really different from my stuff and his stuff, but that’s what’s so fun about it. I think Mike described it as like old Debby Harry stuff. I love it because I get to really play around and the songs are light and sexy. One of them is called Searching for a Unicorn.
PONYBOY: What music or artists have motivated you over the years to make music?
BREANNA BARBARA: Oh man, so, so many over the years. Dating back to my first house show in Saint Augustine, FL where I was exposed to so many amazing traveling musicians like Paleo, Super Famicom, Attica Basement, and then to the greats like Hank Williams Sr., Bessie Smith, Jesse Mae Hemphill, all the way up to women like Holly Gollightly, Angel Olsen, Hurray for the Riff Raff. That’s a mere drop in the ocean of people. Mainly anytime I see or hear someone singing from their soul, I am infected with inspiration.
PONYBOY: How would you describe your personal style of dress? Do you wear vintage? Are there any designers that you favor?
BREANNA BARBARA: Anything vintage. I’m a chameleon based on my mood. I mostly shop at second hand stores and try to find gems, maybe a crazy fabric I’ve never really seen before. Sometimes I want to wear my skintight gold long dress and other days I just want to just put on a t-shirt and jeans. I don’t really favor any designers in particular; but if I’m feeling good in it, I’ll wear it, especially Gucci.
PONYBOY: What’s next for Breanna Barbara?
BREANNA BARBARA: We have a US tour planned this October on the East Coast and one in Scandinavia & UK this upcoming summer of 2017. And this winter I plan on focusing on writing. I am so excited on what I already started. I can feel myself changing musically and it feels really good to know that I’m going to continue to grow in music. I want to keep the music interesting to me.