PHOTO : OBBILDER FROM PIXABAY people . Does your approach change at all from project to project ?
Barr : The easiest distinction to make would be between The Barr Brothers and solo stuff . The main difference being the absence or presence of lyrics . Writing with The Barr Brothers can go a lot of different ways . Lately , it ’ s been my brother and I taking these germs of ideas and playing them , improvising on them , and messing around , and sometimes I ’ ll set up a microphone and just see what kind of nonsense comes out and if any lyrics connect . I ’ ll take those demos and drive around with them playing in my car , or with headphones when I ’ m walking around the house , and see what comes lyrically . If I need to , I will sit down and write if nothing comes immediately . I ’ ll sit down and just start writing anything to jumpstart the process . I find that the brain just needs to do some push-ups sometimes . It needs to get used to making quick decisions , growing connections , and seeing what little snippets of grace it ’ s capable of finding , but I usually don ’ t force it too much . If I ’ m feeling like I ’ m hitting walls I will put a song down . Many songs that have appeared on Barr Brothers records had been on shelves for as long as five years .
CM : Have you worked on any projects that felt like a departure from what you ’ re used to doing ?
Barr : The Winter Mission was actually commissioned by a theatre company in New York who asked me to write some music for them and it was very interesting . At first I thought I was composing music , kind of to be arbitrarily used in a play or a venue . So , I was trying to write with that in mind , but after a little while , I realized he really just wanted me to kind of free-write . He was a fan of my first instrumental record , [ 2008 ’ s The Fall Apartment ,] and he just had an opportunity to inspire me to make a new record . That was a really liberating process .
It was challenging at first because I had to really think about what I wanted to hear if I were to go to my own concert and see myself , sitting facing myself , what I ’ d want to hear myself play . That was more of a meditation , I guess , than anything . I had to kind of project on myself what I would have hoped for and it came out much trancier , kind of hypnotic and swirling than anything I ’ ve done .
[ Ed . Note : For a separate conversation about Barr ’ s career and the creative process behind The Winter Mission , listen to the Feb . 23 , 2022 , episode of the Canadian Musician Podcast .]
CANADA ’ S FIRST LADY OF GUITAR LIONA BOYD
Known as “ Canada ’ s First Lady of Guitar ,” Liona Boyd is a five-time Juno Award winner , has five honorary doctorates , and has received the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario . In 2019 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Guitar Museum in New York . Boyd ’ s career spans over 45 years and nearly 30 albums , many of which are Gold and Platinum certified .
CM : Walk me through your typical live setup these days , and does it change for live vs . studio work ?
Liona Boyd : I haven ’ t performed live since before the pandemic . Our setup is pretty simple . My duo partner , Andrew Dolson , and I each have our guitar and a vocal mic . Some pieces in the program have accompanying tracks that are triggered by Andrew from a MacBook Air on the stage running Logic , which sends stems to the PA . My main concert guitar has a custom pickup system by Trinity Audio installed by [ Toronto guitar shop ] The 12 th Fret that connects to an external two-channel preamp . The system consists of a pickup in the bridge and a microphone in the sound hole . The preamp allows each signal to go separately to the PA , or they can be blended to a single channel on the preamp . Andrew is playing one of my older classical guitars , which has had a microphone pickup installed .
The studio setup is completely different , of course . For years , my long-time producer , Peter Bond , has recorded me with a combination of a Neumann M149 and an AKG C12 with a pair of room mics , usually [ AKG ] 414s . The microphones are running into a Manley VoxBox and Avalon 737 [ tube channel strip ].
CM : Do you have any specific favourite guitars ?
PHOTO : DEAN MARRANTZ
Boyd : I have played German Vasquez Rubio ‘ Solista ’ model guitars since the mid ‘ 90s . Personally , I tend to prefer the tonal colour of cedar tops over spruce , but I have used both over the years . I started my professional career playing Jose Ramirez and then later in the ‘ 80s Yamaha custom-built guitars for me . I still have the 1982 Grand Concert
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