By BRUCE DENNILL
Western-Australian raised with Burmese-Italian heritage, actor, pop star, and voiceover artist Chantelle Barry released a COVID-19-inspired single, Connect, in 2020. She first gained recognition when she won Popstars Australia in 2000 and earning a coveted spot in the all-girl group Bardot.
Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
Great question. Honestly, I’m not sure I could pin it to one particular artist, album, song or era. My dad was a musician and he really emphasised the importance of exploring all genres and essentially all types of music. Growing up, it would be rare for our house not to have a record or radio playing. The music that stands out for me as most memorable or being high on the influence chain includes the Beatles, Hall & Oates, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, John Farnham, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Whitney Houston, Crowded House, Bachelor Girl, Chicago, Cole Porter, Doris Day, Cyndi Lauper… I could keep going!
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I still listen to and get inspired by a wide range of music. Nowadays I find myself more influenced by films and TV shows that I watch. But I find it’s always great inspiration listening to other artists.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
This Woman’s Work by Kate Bush. The Maxwell version is the first time I actually heard the song. This song is so beautifully crafted, written from a real perspective of life, love and regret. It brings me to tears every time I hear it.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
Simplicity is always the key. For me, it comes down to the vocal performance – how visceral it feels, coupled with a production that supports the storytelling. Less is more.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritize? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
It’s all of equal importance. A good song is a good song in whatever form it’s presented, and the lyrics, melodies, vocals and instrumentation each play a part in making the big picture.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
Ooh, favorites are tough for me. There’s so much good stuff. Right now, though, I’m in love with my Blue Mix-Fi headphones!
What is the story behind Connect – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
The crux of Connect is really a call to action during a time in our society where conversation and change needs to take place. It’s a “C’mon, let’s do better! Let’s be better!” My husband Scott, with whom I’ve made a lot of music, had been playing the main riff of the song for days and it felt so open and hopeful. Given that it was the first month of lockdown, I was spending a lot more time on social media, and a few things became really apparent – the level of hatred, cyber-bullying, competition and playing the ‘comparing’ game. It occurred to me that many people aren’t truly connecting with others or themselves. It made me angry and sad at humanity, then that fuelled inspiration, and the lyrics started to flow.
“Now’s not the time to be turning our backs on each other; reach out and show that you care to your sisters and brothers; to love and be loved is truly what we all desire; grudges aside, we could lead with our hearts and go higher.”
Once these words escaped me the rest of the lyrics and melody spilled out and we finished the song within the week. We kept the production simple but grooving. My dear friend Bakithi Kumalo, Paul Simon’s bassist, played bass on the track and then Scott and I did the rest. It doesn’t suck living with an incredible guitarist either. It certainly makes the creative process flow more easily. As for the music video, that was more of an experiment to see what we could achieve – just the two of us, with limited resources. Scott is so technically savvy, so it turned out pretty well thanks to him!