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The Hidden Gem in Music - Barbra Lica

When I listen to Barbra Lica’s music I have the feeling Sunday mornings give - the feeling of
tranquility in the air, a time to pause and breathe, to linger over a cup of coffee and anticipate
happy moments. She has a refined distinct sound that can only reflect the beauty and the raw
essence of her soul. Everybody calls her Barbie. Her eyes are a mesmerizing shade of blue,
sparkling with an inner light and I can’t wait to find out what ignites that light. She is a hidden
gem who should definitely be a chart-topping sensation.

- Thank you for meeting with me, Barbra, I am honoured. Let’s start by saying we
could very well have this interview in Romanian, you just feel more confident
speaking English. Would you like to tell our readers a little bit about your

- My mom was a professional vocalist in Romania. She tells me that she sang in
the TV show that I think is called “Steaua fara nume”, she was touring all over
Europe with a Romanian band and my dad is a Ukrainian pianist and they met in
a band in Toronto. So music was kind of the family industry and I tried to fight it
for a long time ‘cause, you know, teenagers want to be rebellious and usually
people are rebellious by doing music but for me rebellion was studying biology
(laughs). I was going to go on a scholarship to Dalhousie on the east coast and
study microbiology and immunology and my parents got so upset. They said
“Please, at least go to the U of T where you can study both.” So I went to U of T
where I got a double major in jazz performance and a third major in immunology.
Then, on the day I graduated, my parents asked me “So, what is it you wanna do,
music or science?” And by that point I already had music on the radio so I said
“Fine, I’ll give in, I’ll give in to music” ‘cause this is what I love, I just didn’t want to
admit it.

- You have a very distinct sound that immediately has everyone’s attention,
especially when singing jazzy songs. I was listening to “How Insensitive” and I
was blown away by your vocal timbre and your emotive delivery. Then I listened
to the same song by Judy Garland, Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Krall.
Great voices, no doubt, but it was your interpretation that managed to touch the
deepest core in me. How do you weave technical precision with raw emotion in
your singing in order to evoke this profound response from your audience?

- I think that even when I sing a standard, a jazz standard, I always like to approach everything as
a songwriter. So even if I pick a song because I can relate to it personally, I try to think of a
personal story when I’m singing. So whenever I sing “How Insensitive”, for instance, I always
imagine the look on my ex-boyfriend’s face when I broke up with him (laughs). Everything has to
be personal. I need the song to feel like I wrote it so it comes off honestly.

- You have a Best Vocal Jazz Album JUNO nomination from 2017, an Ontario Folk
Music award from 2023 (CMRRA Song of the Year for your song “The Ghost of
Me”), and two 2024 Canadian Folk Music Award nominations (Solo Artist of the
Year and Song of the Year for your song, “In 40 Years”). With this list of
nominations and awards, how do you stay grounded and connected to your fans?

- To me, awards are nice and it’s nice to have that little bit of external validation from the industry
but really I would say that audiences and engaging people who listen to my music and come to
concerts and write in to my website, those are the people that do drive my career. I think that
that’s actually what’s important to me, the awards are kind of a secondary thought. Not that I’m
not grateful but really I think many artists will tell you that it really is about the audiences and the
engagement and the exchange of energy. When you’re on stage, a really amazing audience,
they give so much and I know many artists have also told me they relate to the feeling of a good
show, you cannot even go to bed ‘cause you’re just so energized.

- Do you feel overshadowed by more commercial genres? I’m asking this because
you sing soulful melodies better than the most famous singers out there. Have
you ever thought of blurring the lines between genres?

- Yeah, I think blurring the lines between genres is what I’m actively trying to do, which is why it’s
difficult to market my music. I feel that, especially people in Canada, not as much in other
markets but in Canada people really want to know which box you fit in, whereas I’d like to think
that I borrow from and blend different genres. I love folk music, I love country music, I love jazz,
I love alternative pop, sometimes I even like mainstream pop, I like to take different elements
and borrow whatever is needed to tell the best story. I think fundamentally what matters to me
the most is telling stories effectively.

- Do you have a favourite?

- I think I like… I don’t know, I like that sort of Nashville folk music the most. I think it’s a sandbox,
too, it depends on the day, it depends on when you ask. I like to play and experiment and it’s
always changing, too.

- If your piano could talk, what would it say about you?

- It would say “Go to bed!” (laughs heartily) Yeah, I’m up very late most nights
practising piano.

- What ignites your inner light, what inspires you when writing new songs? And
what comes first, the lyrics or the music?

- I don’t know why but for me lyrics and music always come at the same time. I feel
like the perfect lyric is already married to a melody and it already knows how it
wants to be painted onto the canvas. So I always sing, when I’m composing I
sing with the lyrics already. And then maybe later I go and fix some of the lyrics, I
change it to make it fit more perfectly but I do them at the same time. And what
inspires me, I think, is that I have a lot of feelings and the only way that I know to
process them effectively is to put them into a song and live in the song and, you
know, sing that song out to people and find other people that feel that way. I think
it just makes me feel less alone. I think writing a song is like searching for a
kindred spirit.

- If you could have a duet with anybody, who would it be and why?

- Oh, a duet? Who would it be? I love so many people…. There’s a Toronto-born
pop singer named J.P Saxe, I think he has the most incredible voice and he’s
such a unique songwriter. I would die to sing and write with him!

- Can you share any details about upcoming performances that your fans can look
forward to?

- Yeah, actually! I have a few good shows coming up. First of all I’ll be in Kansas
City next week for Folk Alliance but Observatorul is in Toronto so that’s not useful
to know but I’m in Markham for a festival called Jazzlicious every day from March
5th to March 9th. It’s a festival where Destination Markham is teaming up with
different chefs in the Markham area and presenting jazz musicians and chefs
together, like a music and food pairing. Every artist they programmed will be
performing five nights. Catie Gyorgy was the first performer (she just won her
second Juno last year.) I’ll be performing every night from the 5th to the 9th at… I
believe it’s called Laz cuisine. Matt Dusk will be before me and then after me will
be Michael Kaeshammer, he will be doing a few shows. It’s a very interesting,
beautiful festival, the chef and the artist are equal billing. Other than that I’m
gonna be in Alaska in March for almost three weeks, doing a tour there, and then
in April I’ll be performing in Newfoundland at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
Then I’ll be doing a small concert at Beach United Church in Toronto on April

- Barbra, thank you for sharing your time with me today and for your candid
answers. Your voice is a gift and it touches hearts. You “put your star up in the
sky”, to quote one of your songs, and I’m looking forward to seeing how “it’s
gonna make it way up high”.

- I want to say thank you so much for the interview, Danuta, and really a huge
thank you to the Romanian community for their support because I’ve had so
many Romanians at concerts over the years and it means so much to me to be
embraced and supported by the community.

After the interview was over, Barbie graciously extended the conversation and
proved how effortlessly she can connect with people, how humble and amiable
she is. She told me about her wonderful, doting husband and her beautiful
2-year-old son with whom she lives in Toronto. I asked her to say something in
Romanian and I greatly enjoyed her delicious accent and the very correct “Mersi
foarte mult, imi pare bine ca ne-am intalnit astazi si sper ca mai ne vedem in
viitor.” Seize the opportunity to experience Barbra Lica’s musical universe. You
will have a front-row seat to musical excellence.

by Danuta Gherman    2/19/2024


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