Interview with Jeannine Barry, Singer/Songwriter

Shininglights has been talking to artists about the interaction between music and money. The aim is to understand how different artists approach this and how individuals can apply this to their own circumstances (whether as a musician or any other profession).

In this interview we talk to Jeannine Barry. Jeannine is a London based artist releasing two appears and performing at the prestigious C2C festival.

We caught up with Jeannine to understand more about how she has approached her music career.



SL: Can you start by giving us a potted history of your career to date?

JB: I took my very successful bathroom singing career to the next level about 9 years ago when I decided to sing in front of real people and started studying vocals & performance with David Lee Brewer (former Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child’s vocal coach). My sister and I heard he was in town and we just had to go and audition! It was a big moment for me and one of the best decisions I have ever made.

David took both my sister and I on as students as part of his Masterclass and he was the first to point out that I was a country singer. I hadn’t realised that before that moment. I always knew I was different than all the pop, soul and RnB singers that surrounded me but I didn’t know what it was. Looking back, it all made so much sense. Anyway, I went on to study with David which is when I realised that it involves a lot of soul searching and personal development on top of the vocal & performance training.

After about 5 years I went to figure things out on my own for a bit and started writing and recording my own material in London and released my debut EP ‘Give me something’. That is when I made the choice to be who I really am and go down the country music route. I started playing open mic’s and little gigs with my sister and we helped each other out with backing vocals. It was a great time and eventually we both went our separate ways and I started building a fan base of my own, put a band together and started playing bigger gigs such as my own headline gigs and great support slots.

I headlined the Garage, The Barfly, Camden Rock, supported Nashville duo Jill & Kate (former backing singers for Kelly Clarkson) at the Borderline, supported Katie Armiger at the Islington Assembly Hall, played great festivals such as C2C festival twice now, supported James Taylor’s son Ben at The Garage and many more.

I kept doing that for a while until last year when one of my absolute biggest dreams have come true and I had the chance to fly to Nashville and record my second EP ‘Off The Hook’. I’m out and playing the new EP as well as new songs I write along the way. I am always working on new material and I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing. I’m looking forward to what else this amazing journey has in store for me. I believe in just following your bliss, be who you really are and you can’t go wrong.

SL: Describe your musical style and how this has developed over time?

JB: My latest EP ‘Off The Hook’ has a Country/Pop/Rock edge to it. I am always growing as an artist and I want to explore my Country side even more and am therefore working on material.

SL: I’d be interested to know who inspires you musically?

JB: I’m inspired by all kinds of music. I grew up to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, always loved LeAnn Rimes, Christina Aguilera and very inspired by Pink. Bonnie Raitt, Prince, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and more recently it’s definitely Chris Stapelton. Other than that it’s often just songs here and there that grab my attention.

SL: Does the music scene in the UK differ from the US, and vice versa? What is good/challenging?

JB: As far as I can see when it comes to Country Music it is very different. I wouldn’t be able to say much about the Pop world or other genres but when I was in Nashville it was a way of life and just so normal whereas here it is a rarity. Which is wonderful too though because we all get to experience it as something new and get to have the fun of building it up over here.

SL: How difficult is it to build a career in the UK and is there a temptation to move to the US and then come back to the UK?

JB: I really don’t think it makes that much of a difference where you are and if you are part of a genre that has a big or small market in the country you are based. I really believe it comes down to staying focused, believing and being passionate about what you do. I have considered the option of moving to the US and building a career there and then coming back and it is still something I’d like to do.

I think there are many ways of being ‘successful’. I understand the general perception of it is that you are well known and have a lot of money. I think there is so much in between and also not everyone has the same goal. It sounds cliché but at the end of the day making music shouldn’t just be about how many people approving of it or how much money you make with it but it should be about the WHY you’re doing it. The passion and love for it.

I consider myself successful because I get to do what I love and I keep reaching for more which is fun. I have fulfilled many of my desires already and don’t get me wrong I want to be able to make a living of my passion but in what way, shape or form that comes about I leave open.

I’m sorry this is not the usual reply you would expect and might sound airy fairy to you but I truly believe it’s not about what you do but about how much you love and appreciate what you do that gets you to wherever you want to go. What I can say though is that I enjoy being part of the UK Country Scene and help make it grow.

SL: Do you making a living from your music, and if not how do you fund it?

JB: I don’t yet make a living from it and work as an Administration Manager in an office to fund my music career.

At the moment it still costs me money however there was never a doubt in my mind that this is what I want to do with my life so I’m doing it. Having fun with it, believing in yourself and your vision is key. That’s what I am trying to do.

SL: What are the biggest challenges financially from making a career in music?

JB: Well, as just mentioned it costs more than you make if you are not a big artist yet. I’m sure a lot of my fellow artists can confirm this but we are all in this because we love making music and believe we can make our dreams come true so we take the journey. A lot of gigs are unpaid or don’t even cover expenses and so it’s hard to make any money from it at this point. To be honest though, I am happy with where I stand and the most important thing to me is that I get to write and play music with amazing people such as my guitarists Gab and Adam. It is very fulfilling and that’s the reason why I’m doing it.

SL: What is good/challenging for an artist who is not signed to a major record label?

JB: Well I guess reaching the audience. There are amazing acts out there who just need to be heard.

Having a bigger label backing you would make things a lot easier if they are able to give you the exposure such as The Shires got from their label. If they give you the freedom to be the artist you want to be though.

I would not be happy playing music that someone is making me play if it is not who I am. So it would have to be the right label. In terms of funding and exposure though, of course it would be much easier.

SL: You have released two EPs and one single; how have you funded the making of your music and do you have a preference for download over physical?

JB: I have physical CD’s for both EP’s and my single ‘All Night’. I don’t really have a preference but I like having the physical CD’s and being able to sign them for fans at shows. I funded my first EP with the money I made working all kinds of jobs and went to the studio every time I had some saved up.

My second EP was funded through a private investor who believed in me as an artist and wanted to invest in it. I’m possibly looking into funding my next EP via crowdfunding.

SL: What are you goals over the next 12 months, and over the next 5 years?

JB: My goal is to write and record new music and to continue building my fan base to the point that I can eventually make it a business and make it a full time career, tour in the UK and US and most of all continue to enjoy the ride.

SL: And finally, what are your favourite venues and where would you like to play in the future?

I would love to play at Koko and Union Chapel in London. Great venues.

Interviewer’s comments

Often with any job it is easy to lose sight of what we want to achieve, and that in many cases is to fulfil our dreams. This isn’t all about money but actually being able to do what we enjoy. Personally what I enjoyed about this interview was the honesty with what Jeannine said.

One thing the opening up of the internet has done is that it is easier to discover all genres of music and new artists. We discovered Jeannine after our daughter started listening to the likes of the Shires and Callaghan. Listening to “Give me Something” and “All Night” you really get a sense of that love of music that she has and hopefully her touring will bring her down to Bristol so we can see her live!

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