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Today we get to Spotlight – Ila Barker. Ila comes to sit and talk about her journey in music and the newest release Intuition which is now out. Check out Ila’s story and get to know this talented Indigenous artist!

Spotlight – Ila Barker
Hidden Beats is proud to present Canadian singer-songwriter, Ila Barker. Thank you for joining us today. Would you be able to introduce yourself to our readers?

Hey, Hidden Beats fans! Aniin boozhoo, my name is Ila Barker. I’m an indie-folk singer-songwriter based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I’m Anishinaabe on my mother’s side from Berens River First Nation.

What did music mean to you growing up?

Music was my first form of therapy for sure. I spent a lot of time outside when I was growing up and I used to write little songs, and then eventually started learning how to play guitar which empowered me to start exploring songwriting so much more deeply. It was such a healing and personal process for me at the start (and still is), and I love that it’s evolved to getting to share my process and art with others too!

Who out of your family or friends has always been the biggest encourager of your music career?

I’m grateful to have some incredible supporters in my life. My mom taught me young that I needed to work hard and not just try and rely on the luck of “being discovered”. My best friend Hera has been working and collaborating alongside me for years and she even co-wrote a few of the songs on my upcoming album! I’m also super grateful for my Auntie Jean and Uncle Ian. They were super fundamental in my journey. My Uncle gifted me my first guitar and my Auntie signed me up for my first music camp that landing me my first ever gig!

Who were your inspirations in music as you started out?

The first time that I felt that ‘spark’ of inspiration musically was when I heard Colbie Callait’s “Bubbly”. A feeling just came over me and that made me want to play this song. This ended up being the first song that I covered and led me to learn so much more! I was also super inspired by Jack Johnson’s “Sleep Through The Static”. It was one of the first records I heard that you could really hear the room noise. I loved the organic nature of it and felt like I was in the room with the band.

What’s your process like when creating your music?

I love the idea that songs are already out there and we just have to be open enough to receive them or ‘catch’ them. Some of the songs aren’t for us, and those are the ones that are quickly fleeting. But those other ones can be so sweet when they gift themselves fully! I like to play around with little melodies until I hear something that sparks the inspiration and runs with it. Other times I sit down with my guitar because I need to process something and just let it out (good or bad) into the music.

Your newest song “Intuition” is about learning to trust yourself after an abusive relationship. The message of it is so raw and personal do you ever feel nervous about being that vulnerable with your audience?

It can be super scary being vulnerable with my audience (and I actually have a song called “Vulnerable”!) but I also think that these stories are really important to share. I felt so much shame at first when I finally left my relationship. Shame that I had gotten so trapped in something so toxic. But the truth is that it could happen to anyone and I hope that by sharing my own experience and story other people can feel less shameful and the stigma can be lessened.

What was the hardest part in the creation of this song?

This song was really fun to write. I got super inspired by a podcast that discussed the connection between our mind and gut. It instantly made me think of my own relationship to my intuition and the creativity flowed super quickly! Although there are elements to this song that are heavy, writing it was really healing and reaffirming that I’m back on the path I’m meant to be on.

This is your comeback single after a couple of years. How does it set the bar for your future releases?

Although it’s been a while since I had new music out, I never really left. I’ve been working hard behind the scenes growing and learning as an artist while mentoring a lot of up-and-comers along the way. With the new music coming out though it does feel like a fresh start and like it’s just the beginning of great things.

How do you feel listeners are receiving the song so far? Any reactions that have surprised you?

It’s been incredibly heartwarming to receive such a strong response from my community. So many folks in the music community, my friends, and fans have reached out to let me know they’re listening and are excited and proud of me. I know a lot of folks have been waiting for this record and I’m so excited to be launching it!

How is the music scene in Manitoba? I feel most Canadian artists tend to relocate to Toronto but you like staying close to home.

Manitoba is a great place for music. We have such a strong music community and an even tighter-knit Indigenous music community in Winnipeg. It’s nice being in the heart of the nation, and my family has been here for generations and time immemorial. My sights are set high though and I’ve got a lot of travel on the calendar.

What do you think the world needs to know about Anishinaabe descending musicians?

For me, I want people to know that we are still here and deserving of space in this industry. The generation before mine paved the first path for Indigenous artists in the music industry, a path that my generation is continuing to pave. We still have a long way to go to get the acceptance and recognition that we deserve, and we need allies to continue to stand with us.

You have some Toronto performances coming up, it must feel good getting back into live music. What can audiences expect from a live Ila Barker show?

Definitely a rollercoaster of emotions. Let’s laugh, let’s cry, and let’s unpack a few stories along the way. Since the start of the year, I’ve had the pleasure of playing regularly with a band for the first time. I can still be found just me and my guitar occasionally but bringing that full band sound is oh so sweet.

What city would you most like to perform in and why?

Mexico City is on my bucket list for sure, and to tour Mexico in general! Mexico is the largest consumer of music and there are a lot of super fans there. I’ve spent a lot of time in the country and would love to take my songs and stories there!

Your music has been described as folk. Would you agree with that? Any other genres you identify with?

I definitely describe myself as folk. Folk music is rooted in acoustic instruments and meaningful, heartfelt lyrics which certainly rings true for my songs. My music has moments of pop, and moments of soul. I resonate with the term singer-songwriter too.

Thank you for joining us today. Before you go, what is one fun fact you want to share with your audience?

I absolutely love plants, animals, and bugs! If I were to do any other career other than music I think I’d want to study the natural world and all the little critters.

Now that we are finishing up with our Spotlight – Ila Barker, we want to give a big thanks to Ila for taking the time to chat with us

Check out Intuition right now!

Keep up with all things Ila Barker right here

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