Robin Barnes is one of those girls whose vibrant and poise character exudes through her personality as much as her music. Properly designated the "Song Bird of New Orleans," Barnes creates music for her peers, the people of New Orleans and everyone around the world. With the talent of any modern and precedent diva, this song bird remains humble and true to her local culture and musical background. She seems pleased with her current life, but Barnes is certainly determined and through her drive and musical capabilities, it’s surefire that she is on the road to becoming someone major.
As one of the relatives of music legend Dave Bartholomew, it seems as if Barnes’ talent was a destined feat. But what is most interesting about Robin Barnes is her natural attraction to music and her aptitude and ability to create a classic yet ironically genre-less sound. Her appeal made it rather easy to dig deeper into whom Ms. Barnes really is; what she likes, how she started her career and all things that comprises this lady we all know as the "Song Bird of New Orleans."
Where Y’at: When did you first realize that singing was your career?
Robin Barnes: I’ve been singing and gigging since I was 6, but made it my sole career about 3 years ago. I tried the 9 – 5 and just always felt like I was missing something – something that made me happy. That happiness was always music.
WYAT: Is there a sense of musical pressure being related to the famous musician and legend Dave Bartholomew?
RB: Hmm, YES! Definite pressure to not mess up and to be smart musically and business wise with my decisions. It’s inspiring to have a relative be so successful and do what they love. I only hope to make him proud.
WYAT: Explain your title as the “Songbird of New Orleans.” Who came up with this name for you?
RB: I had been known as the little girl with a big voice. By my name being a type of bird and me being a singer, it wasn’t too long before people began to call me “songbird.” As I got older, people saw that little girl grow up. I had a fan make me a sign that said "New Orleans Songbird." I felt it was an honored title and nola.com did a feature calling me that. AMAZING!
WYAT: Biggest inspiration? (non-musical or musical)
RB: Life! I write about my life experiences (the good, bad and ugly). We all go through the same situations and I find it most satisfying when fans tell me how they felt one of my songs was written about them.
WYAT: Outside of singing and music, who is Robin Barnes? What do you like to do: any hobbies, charities?
RB: I play golf. I thoroughly enjoy volunteering to speak at schools about how dreams come true. Anyone can follow their dreams, but education and hard work is the key to being successful and how to make that dream a reality. I serve on two boards: At-Large Director on The University of New Orleans International Alumni Board and member of The Beautiful Foundation that serves uplifting young women.
WYAT: Do you write most or all of your music?
RB: Yes, I co-wrote all my songs except for “Pieces,” that was written for me by a friend who translated my experiences into the song. I worked with some great co-writers such as Shane Theriot and Jake Smith.
WYAT: You began your career singing live. What’s the biggest difference between live shows and studio recordings? Which do you prefer?
RB: I enjoy both but they’re different. I prefer live because I can connect and interact with the audience. I love it and it’s the most rewarding experience. The studio aspect is another beast. It’s raw and a mental game. It’s you in the booth singing out your ideas, finding yourself and sound.
WYAT: You’ve traveled and performed quite a bit. What’s the biggest difference between performing locally and performing elsewhere?
RB: Most recent trip was to Cognac, France. It was amazing! One difference I saw was the audience’s reactions. The audience would close their eyes and sway like they were picturing my words coming to life whether the song was fast or slow. Verses at home where the audience watches me and reacts to the music and mirrors my movements. Example, I love jumping and dancing around the stage so I see my audiences watching where I go even if I get into the audience (which I do a lot) and dance with them. I have to say, seeing the audiences’ reactions and getting them into the music is my favorite part.
WYAT: With your new album and more recognition, what’s next for Robin Barnes?
RB: I’d love to get my music licensed into movies, TV shows and commercials etc. Also, I’m writing for my full length album which I’m looking forward to sharing it with my NOLA and many more.
WYAT: Any crazy fan stories? Spill it!
RB: A woman had me autograph her cleavage after a big show. That lady was so determined! I’ll never forget that. From what my band told me, my shocked face was priceless.
WYAT: What song(s) on your EP is truest to who you are today?
RB: Right now it is “Running.” I’m working on new music, finding my sound for this new album and expanding my team; with a lot on my plate it’s reassuring to have those individuals that support you, help you from being overwhelmed and just keeping on going – to keep on going for it!
WYAT: Some may consider your music modern retro-jazz. Do you like this title? And would you agree?
RB: Yes, I like that title! My music has so many elements of influence, people describe it different ways.
WYAT: It seems to me that a lot of the modern jazz musicians these days are men. Would you agree? And is that a benefit for you, or would you like to see more modern female jazz musicians?
RB: There are a lot of women in the game, but the men are recognized a bit more. Doesn’t matter to me. There’s a challenge I have to overcome everyday and I do, so that’s just one added to my list! When I talk to all those beautiful little girls at different schools, I tell them “don’t be the next anybody, be the first SOMEBODY!” I live by that motto.
WYAT: When you hit the Superdome field for Saints game, what are your initial feelings, thoughts, etc.?
RB:I sung that day with all my heart and the words just flowed out of my mouth. I snapped back into focus when I hit that last note and heard all the people cheering. One of the happiest days of my life. I hope to do it again soon.
WYAT: You are becoming a pretty big name around the city. Do you feel different now with all of your current success?
RB: No, I’m still Robin Barnes. BUT...sometimes I wake up and think, is this really happening? I get to wake up and do what I love every day of my life, not many people can say that. I am very lucky and grateful for it!