Folk singer-songwriter Monique Barrett is poised to release her debut EP in early fall.
Originally from Foster, R.I., Barrett (moniquebarrett.com) moved to Maine to attend the University of Maine at Farmington in 1999. She landed in Portland in 2001, and has called it home since. In addition to being a musician, she’s the mother of a 9-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.
GO caught up with Barrett to get the skinny on the forthcoming EP and her evolution as a musician.
When did you first start singing and writing songs?
I don’t remember ever not singing. I was in the Christmas choir at the little church my family attended throughout my childhood, but I didn’t get serious about singing until my late teens. That’s also when I started writing songs.
Oddly enough, the songs I wrote back then were much more political/socially charged. These days, it seems the only subject I’m inspired to write about is heart stuff — love, loss, longing. I would have thought it would be the other way around, considering how much more informed I am now. Occasionally, I catch myself wishing I would get inspired to write more songs about society or nature or things like that, because I am a folk singer after all, but I’m also a fan of just going with what works. For me, heart stuff works.
What can you tell us about the EP?
I’ve probably got about three full-length albums worth of material filed in my brain at this point, but this EP is something special for me. These songs were created over the past few years, a period that for me has been full of transition and heartache and soul searching. I’m using this opportunity to basically set them free, get them out of my heart and into the world, so I can go into my next recording project unencumbered. A musical catharsis, if you will.
I’m recording at Shadow Shine Studios with my good friend Eric Bettencourt. I’ve been a fan of Eric’s music for a long time, and have been in his studio quite a bit already, recording backing tracks for his most recent albums as well as other albums he’s recorded or produced, so we’re both pretty pumped that we’re finally recording some of my stuff. We should be finishing up the recording in August.
What inspires you as a songwriter?
I’ve always been amused by the way I make songs. I didn’t even call myself a “songwriter” until very recently, because I didn’t think it was accurate. I rarely, if ever, sit down with a pen and paper with the intention of writing a song. I’ve always thought of myself more of a “song-maker” or a “song-getter.” Songs basically just pop into my head at pretty random times. I’ll get a melodic line or two and record them into my phone. Sometimes I’ll revisit it later, and the rest of the song will materialize.
A few months ago, I was studying for a test and I had an entire song, start to finish, complete with whistling solo, come into my head. Fortunately, I was able to stop what I was doing and record it with a guitar part. I played it the next day at One Longfellow Square. That was pretty neat.
Who did you grow up listening to, and how does it influence you?
I don’t come from a super-musical family, so I don’t remember hearing a lot of music when I was very young. My mom sang a lot around the house and definitely had an affinity for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Broadway show tunes, so there was that.
I have three older sisters, who I of course wanted to be just like, so I listened to everything they listened to, which was mostly top 40 pop music kind of stuff. I know way too much ’80s music for someone who was actually born in the ’80s. But I am also shamelessly enamored with that music too. I could listen to Lionel Richie, Madonna, Tina Turner and Phil Collins all day long. Sometimes, I do! I’m not quite sure how it influences my songwriting, but I’m sure there is some benefit to it. Right?
If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be and why?
Locally, it would definitely be Lyle Divinsky. I wrote a duet that had a part that I actually heard in his voice as I was writing it — but I’d never heard him sing before. Then, the same week I wrote it, a friend shared a video on Facebook of him, and I freaked out when I heard him. I’m hoping I can get him to record with me for my full-length album. That would be dreamy. Otherwise, it would be Bobby McFerrin. He is a musical genius. It would be fun to do a mouth trumpet duet with him.
Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at: