INTERVIEW: Ali Barter on music, songwriting and the women she admires

I’m definitely one of those people who is pretty quick to jump on the bandwagon and get behind an artist who has simply blown me away. I’m especially a fan of any artist, who can combine super catchy indie-pop with in depth lyrics that will stay circulating in your brain for many a day. Ali Barter is a talented, fierce and tenaciously passionate singer/songwriter, and her debut album A Suitable Girl cemented her in my mind, as one of my favourite artists of 2016. As well as appearing on the ever expanding Yours and Owls lineup, Ali is set to embark on a huge national tour, breezing into the Small Ballroom on the 29th of September. We caught up with Ali to ask a bunch of questions about music, songwriting and the amazing women she admires.

I always love to start, by asking any artist, ‘why do you like to make music?’.

I enjoy expressing myself through music because I am allowed to say anything I like. I can be as angry or insecure or irrational and it’s ok. It’s very freeing, and saves me acting out in real life!

Your debut ‘A Suitable Girl’ was definitely a massive breakout album for you, tell me about the process behind deciding to make that record, and the journey and lead up to writing and creating that body of work.  

I have been writing songs for many years now and while I write, songs kinda stick together and feel like they belong together. I was in the US when the concept of ‘A Suitable Girl’ came to me. I just realised I was writing about my experience as a women in my mid to late 20’s and it was very much a release of all the feelings I was having around finding my place in the world. It just felt right and I became very clear that the songs needed to be honest and simple.

I love the complexity behind your lyrics and the songs you write, can you tell me a little more about your writing process?

I really just write whats happening for me at the time. I was angry one day about a situation that I was struggling to move on from so I wrote ‘Live With You’. I didn’t try to rewrite the lyrics and make them more punchy, I just left them in their original form and then I had a song. I usually fiddle around with chords then sing along and bits and pieces of words come out. I usually don’t realise what they mean until later but they always are about what I’m going through at the time. It’s pretty wierd actually. I like to get into an non-judgemental flow state and then have a cup of tea and come back to it later. Any time I put pressure on a song, it never works.

Is there anything in particular that’s really inspiring you to write and create at the moment?

I’m really inspired by Aimee Mann and The Breeders at the moment. Simple song writing, nice melodies and stripped back production. The sounds are making me want to write again. I am obsessed with cello lines paired with grungy guitars and angsty, imperfect vocals.

A lot of your songs, reflect on personal experiences and actual conversations you’ve had which I love! Coming from someone who also writes, what’s the reception been like from the people who the songs are about?

I love that people can identify with my songs. It’s the best. And often people have different interpretations of what the songs mean, which is so great. I think that’s the best validation I can get as a songwriter.

I love all of your pieces on the women you admire, it’s really opened my eyes as well to a lot of the amazing artists who were so on the forefront of their craft. What inspired you to start sharing that with your extended network?

I was studying music at uni last year and in our history class I realised that none of the major topics for each class were women. They were all based around male artists and included women as supporting roles. I thought that I would do my own weekly post about an awesome female musician to remind myself, and others of how many incredible women we have to thank for the music we hear today.

Is there anyone in particular that you would really love to collaborate with?

I never know how to answer this question. I guess I’d just like to write more songs with women. I really enjoy talking about life with a woman and then writing a song together. I wrote with an American artist called Sydney Wayser a couple of years ago and it was just a lovely, easy process. Something special happens when women make music together.

You’ve played in Newcastle before when you were here for Live on the Lawn, what will this string of shows look like for yourself and for your band?

It’s going to be super fun. We have new songs, a couple of old songs and even a couple of special guests lines up. Cant wait!

Written by Laura Kebby

I write words about talented people doing talented things, and translate chatter by putting pen to paper.