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'Canada's Sweetheart' Builds On American Standards

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"Canada's Sweetheart," otherwise known as singer-songwriter Jill Barber, is full of surprises. She crafts songs inspired by a collection of decades and styles — everything from doo-wop to lounge music. Despite the temptation to perform covers, all of Barber's tunes are originals, and all are as surprising as how she came to be known as Canada's Sweetheart.

"I confess I gave myself that nickname," Barber says. "For press purposes, people want to know where I'm from, and there's been a lot of confusion because I've built my career in different parts of Canada ... so to avoid the confusion, I said, 'Look, let's just call me Canada's Sweetheart.' It solves the problem."

Barber describes her music as "nostalgic," incorporating her love for old music and influences from the Great American Songbook to create something new.

"There's absolutely a retro feel," Barber says. "But by virtue of the fact that these are all new songs, I do feel that it's contemporary, but with a lot of influences from the greats that came before me."

Barber says it seems natural for the records she loves to become a part of her production process, and that her musical integrity comes from the personal aspects of her original songs.

"I wear my influences right on my sleeve, and I'm not afraid of that. I suppose I feel that the integrity comes from the fact that I'm a songwriter; I'm creating songs from my imagination," Barber says. "I'm not singing old covers, somebody else's feelings. I'm really singing from my own experiences, and I'm singing songs I wrote."

Barber says she hopes her music will serve as a contribution to the songbook that inspired her — and a way for her favorite music to find new life.

"If somebody doesn't start writing more songs in the tradition of that great songbook, what's going to happen? They're just going to get older and older and dustier," Barber says. "So I just want to make my contribution to the 'tower of song.' I'm doing my best."

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