Photo by Melina Lindinger
“I found it incredibly natural,” says Camille Barr on her transition from poetry to songwriting.
Born and raised in Byron Bay, Barr has made a name for herself as an environmentally and politically minded poet, publishing work in Green Left Weekly and issuing a first book of poetry. With a second edition on the way, she is now excited to make the shift from writer to singer.
Having only recently taught herself to play the piano, Barr’s first single, ‘A Little Gypsy Song’, was picked up by producer Sefi Carmel, with who she is now collaborating on a full album. This was never Barr’s intention, however.
“It wasn’t like I was going down this music avenue, it was just from the poetry. Poetry really gives you a good grounding to tell a story, because in poetry you’ve already got to establish that rhythm so that it transitions quite easily into lyrics.”
Still, it isn’t the easiest of creative changes. “The music part I’m still teaching myself a lot of, that’s harder for me,” she says.
Barr may be finding it to be a challenge, however exciting it may be, but she is not doing it alone. “There’s a lot of musicians willing to share their knowledge. The music community is really about sharing, which makes it easy in encouraging people.”
Taking her influence from political writer and critical thinker Noam Chomsky, Barr has sought to take a global view of our place in the world and attempt to imbue that in her lyrics.
“The perspective I take is to understand myself within the context of the wider world. We all are influenced by our environment and that’s what helps to create an individual. I’m not just looking at it through my perspective, I like reading about other people’s perspectives and how the wider world works.”
Going by the stage name ‘The Last Folk Singer’, Barr says the pseudonym came about when she tried to recategorise folk; a genre which wasn’t listed on a music app she had been using. It’s her attempt to return the limelight back to the beloved genre.
“When I was writing that song, I was listening to classical music”, she says, though influences came from every direction. She settled on the idea of folk music “because that was a traditional way of passing down stories.” It made her realize “how powerful music is in telling a story and that peoples’ lived experience is important and valid. Academics aren’t the ones with all the answers. The general population are just as intelligent and have just as much to say as well.”
The release of her debut single coincides with her second book of poetry, a compilation “about exploring the concept of happiness; what makes humans happy,” according to Barr.
“One of the things I was looking at was the connection between freedom and happiness, which led into politics and the economy.”
Within both her song lyrics and written poetry, Barr discusses how freedom interlinks with human happiness. “We are born free and construct a society which either nurtures freedom or doesn’t.”
Barr is looking at “how much happiness was linked to that desire which never actually goes away. I was looking at it through capitalism because of the effects of how social-economic position has in our lives. Opportunity is bought and paid for.
“Is this why so many people are unhappy? Because we’re so constrained by something that was just developed as a trading tool? Once we realize that, we all play a part in designing the society in which we live, then we have the power to make it a better place.”
Camille Barr’s debut single as The Last Folk Singer, ‘A Little Gypsy Song’, is out now alongside her new book Rise (Demoratise). Head to thelastfolksinger.com to find out more.