In a bookstore in New York City in 2012, Ali Barter squeezed her way into the shop to hear Patti Smith speak. She couldn’t see the artist, but simply listening to her talk inspired Barter to write and later earned a spot to be featured as a prominent artist on Barter’s Facebook.
“She spoke so beautifully, just the way she writes; and hearing her made me want to write too,” Barter explains in the online post about Patti Smith. “Smith is the embodiment of art, androgyny and rock’n’roll.”
For the past few months, Barter has been sharing the musicians who have influenced, not only her, but who have paved the way for women in the industry. Yes, they are female, and deserving of every spot in the history books in which Barter found them lacking when she studied her 20th Century music history class.
“We’re not seeing the variation of women and that women can be so many things in the industry. Also we’re not learning about the incredible stories of the things these women are doing, where people didn’t want them to be there. They had to work so much harder,” she says.
In an essay penned for Junkee on the same issue, Ali Barter wrote, “While growing up, I learned that a women’s chief purpose in music is to play the supporting role to men.”
Really launching her career with the release of Girlie Bits, which featured lines like “Give us a smile princess/it’s better for business ” and “you don’t understand what it’s like to be a man ”, Barter has hardly played a supporting role and in ways has become a voice for women not only in the industry but in the world in general.
“It’s not a role that I set out to wear and I think there are lots of people doing it at the moment,” she says. “If I see something and then write a post about it, it’s a conversation starter. I would be hesitant to say that I’m trying to be a poster girl or something, but I’m definitely learning and sharing life. That’s the thing that is really important; I want to be inclusive and I want my songs to be inclusive and I’m glad that men sing along, and that people ask questions because it should be a conversation starter writer than an accusatory conversation.”
Her newest single Cigarettes, which was picked up by triple j and landed #1 for the most played track on the radio station at the time (“I’ve never had that happen to me before”), continues along the theme of Girlie Bits, in which she captures frank emotions in stripped back songs that can be described as nothing else but completely honest.
Both songs come from the soon-to-be-released debut album, A Suitable Girl (out via Inertia Music on March 24), which is significantly more focused on Barter’s voice, guitar and lyrical honesty than before.
“It was like I wanted to cover my voice up, I would cover it with effects, and this time I was really listening to myself – which was uncomfortable too – but I really wanted to hear myself rather than the other bits,” Barter says.
“In AB-EP there was a lot more going on – production wise – and we tinkered a lot in the recording process and incorporated a lot more influences. For this record I wanted it to be short sharp and to the point.
“I wanted it to be clear and based around the core things; which was me, my singing and the guitar playing. So in that way we went in and recorded for a week in the studio and then we only put what was necessary on top of the songs. I did add some things, but not the layers and layers that were on the previous EP – this is much more immediate. And it was a conscious decision. And anytime, we were recording and things were getting out of hand I’d be like, ‘Take that out, take that out’, because sometimes the song can get lost in all the sparkly things you put on top.”
As a result the release is honest and echoes the practices Barter has put into daily life. Who knows, Barter may just feature in another budding artists key female musicians in history on their Facebook page.
Release: A Suitable Girl is out via Inertia Music on March 24
When & Where: Star Bar, Bendigo on Thursday, April 13; The Workers Club, Geelong on Friday, April 28; Karova Lounge, Ballarat on Wednesday, May 3 and Northcote Social Club, Melbourne on Friday, May 5.
Visit website for more info and tickets.
Written by Amanda Sherring
Images by Hannah Markoff