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Commenting on singer/songwriter and actress Chantelle Barry, Lionel Richie comments ”long overdue,..the best kept secret on the planet”. We couldn’t agree more. We first came to know her through her music – “You” and "Like You Do” (Elvis-like).
She’s intelligent, talented and strikingly pretty. If that isn’t enough, talking with her is just…fun. You come away from meeting her feeling like you have a real new friend. A native of Perth Western Australia, Chantelle Barry won Australia’s version of POPSTARS, earning a coveted spot in the all-girl pop group, Bardot. The group’s debut single, “Poison”, entered the ARIA Singles Chart at 1, where it spent two consecutive weeks, earning a double platinum certification. It became the sixth highest selling single in Australia in 2000, and was the highest selling single by an Australian act that year. Since leaving Australia, she’s lived in London and now resides in Los Angeles.
Chantelle, thanks so much for taking time to talk to us. It’s such a pleasure to chat with you. We know a little bit about you – we know you are Australian, you left Australia to pursue you music and acting career, stopped of in London and now you are in Southern California. Fill in the blanks a bit if you will…how and where did you start your career in music and acting?
CB: I started singing when I was 5 or 6. I sang in a lot of competitions and really loved being on stage. Acting came later. When I was in my last year of primary school my music teacher who was from California, Mr Mike Leaderbrand wrote a musical based on the C.S. Lewis novel ‘The Silver Chair’ and made me the star of it. I was like “Wait, I can act AND sing at the same time?, I’m in!!”. Mr Leaderbrand was a huge inspiration to me. He taught me how to read music and introduced me to a lot of great music like The Beatles and Pink Flloyd. My dad was also a musician and an audio engineer so when I wasn’t at school I had my dad teaching me about decibels and country music. Yep, he insisted that if I wanted to be a good singer I needed to be able to sing country, so I had an eclectic style from a really young age.
I went to a performing arts high school and buried myself in theater. I just really had a passion for learning about different techniques and playwrights and loved the idea of becoming a different person to tell a story on stage. I wasn’t a ‘cool kid’ that’s for sure, but I truly believed that everything I was interested in was cool.
When I finished high school I moved to The East coast (Sydney) to study acting and that’s when I really started to get into songwriting. Then I auditioned for a TV show called POPSTARS. It was a making of the band type show, I made the final cut and the rest is a hop, step and a google click away
How do you describe you music – your sound?
CB: That’s always a tough question for me but I think I’d call it ’singer songwriter/pop’. If I had to do a pitch I’d probably say Sade meets Bruno Mars. Old school meets new school. I have a lot of musical influences and I think they all make an appearance in some song or another.
Tell us a bit about your journey from Australia to LA – were you performing along the way?
CB: And what a long journey it’s been!! I’ve always felt like there was more for me out in the world and I felt a little stunted in Australia- for lack of a better word. So I moved to London first, it was an easier transition seeing that there are so many Aussies in the UK, but after 8 months of cold and writing too many songs about being lonely I moved to sunny Los Angeles CA. I’d visited the states before and since I was a little girl I had dreams of one day living here so it seemed like the natural next step for me to take.
Your first CD, Simple Things…tell us about that…what inspired you to do the CD?
CB: Simple Things was my first album and a really big deal for me. Being in a place like LA, it’s easy to get swept away in all the excitement and
Scott Whyte and Chantelle Barry
opportunity, but on the flip side it’s just as easy to feel jaded and to personalize the daily rejections that this industry deals out. So one day I was sitting in my car thinking about my life and my (at the time) evident lack of money and out came the song Simple Things. People really took a liking to the song and it was the first time I’d written something that organic that didn’t come out of me asking “Ok, what do the labels wanna hear? Would this sound good on the radio?”. It resonated because it came from a real place. So a few years later I met a really talented actor/musician on a movie I was working on by the name of Scott Whyte. He came out to see me perform one night and once he heard my music he wanted to produce an album for me. At the time he was a first time producer so it was a fun and bumpy ride for both of us. The thing about Scott is that he really got my music immediately. He wasn’t wanting to change my style or put beats to my songs- he just wanted to produce something really organic that showed the songs in their best light. And I think that’s exactly what he did.
Now Scott and I are writing partners and have a song that we wrote on hold for the new Footloose movie. Fingers crossed.
Let”s take a few minutes right now to watch your video, “Letting Go”…
We’ve mentioned the support you’ve gotten from Lionel Richie…tell us about how you came to know Lionel and a bit about the direction he has given you.
CB: I met Lionel years ago when I first moved to LA. His manger at the time was trying to sign me (and get into my pants, but that’s a whole other story) and mid meeting in walks Lionel Richie. I tried to play it cool given that he’s an absolute legend and I grew up listening to him on the radio but I think it was obvious that I was really star struck. We immediately clicked. He reminds me a lot of my dad in some ways so early on we established a fun relaxed relationship, and I always fee like he’s someone I can be myself around and really trust. He’s alway given me the most honest advice in regards to my music and he respects the fact that I’m still here pursuing my passion, and admittedly it’s really nice to have that kind of support from someone as like him. He’s a pioneer in the music business. He’s also one of the most generous people I know- when I told him that I was going to make my album Simple Things he bought me an Apple computer completely decked out with all the music programs that we’d need. We’ve talked about me opening for him one day,…that is definitely one of the most exciting prospects I can imagine.
Do you recall a special moment in your career – that memory that keeps you going even when it’s been a really bad day?
CB: When I was just out of high school I auditioned for big show and got really close on it. My mum flew to Sydney with me for the callback and when I didn’t get the part I was so disappointed, but my mum gave me a huge hug, told me how proud she was of me for getting that far and took me to see Showboat that night. I know that no matter what I always have my family and my friends and they love me no matter how successful i am. That is a constant in my life and that keeps me going for sure.
A lot of our young friends dream of going to LA and becoming a star…Be frank, tell us about what’s it’s like to be part of the LA music scene…the great, and maybe the not so great…?
CB: I always tell people to do it because you love it,..because there’s nothing else you wanna do. For me, when I wake up music’s the first thing on my mind and when I go to sleep it’s still there. There are so many ups and downs (welcome to life),…I get a lot of joy from performing live because I know that my music is reaching people immediately, and I love getting letters from people telling me how they could relate to my lyrics or how one of my songs helped them through a breakup. That’s really rewarding. On the not so fun side often it feels like you’re fate is in other peoples’ hands. Waiting for someone to say “yes” , which could be the one yes that changes your entire life. But I think finding a way to say “yes!” to yourself is key. Approval has to start from within, and I’m still learning that.
You seem to have your finger in a lot of different pots. Do you get much free time to pursue other passions?
CB: I try to stay really busy. Kind of like the concept of throwing a bunch into the air and seeing what sticks, ya know. I recently performed at the NAMM conference at the Sennheier booth and received an awesome endorsement deal with them http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBGJ_dLqO0g. I couldn’t be happier, especially since this satisfies my microphone fetish As a result of that Scott and I made a cool making of video where that showcases my songwriting process from start to finish featuring Sennheiser gear. The company loved the video so much that they’re now going to put the video on their home page. Making the video was fun.
I also just became the face of a new skincare lone called KEVO Naturals (www.kevonaturals.com). I have really sensitive skin and this product is amazing. It’s made from all natural ingredients like certified organic shea butter blended with jojoba and essential oils,..and having a free life time supply isn’t a bad deal!
What’s next for you? We know you are working with Gerry Ceagle…what do you two have planned?
Believe it or not I met my music manager Gerry on Facebook. (I will NEVER talk sh*#t about an online social network again!) He’s managed some really amazing artists, has an impressive career as a radio programmer for many years, and above all he’s a real fan of my music. At the moment we’re shopping to major labels. It’s been a weird time for me because I’m such a proactive person and have a difficult time not being in control of my career (ha, clearly I chose the wrong business), so I had to take a lot of my content down from websites and online stores and haven’t been pursuing the same opportunities that I usually do just because we’re waiting for labels responses. I think the biggest frustration for me is that it seems like major labels wanna find the next big ‘unique’ thing but no-one’s really willing to take the risk on someone that doesn’t sound familiar or like an artist that already on the radio. I trust Gerry though and I trust my own instincts so at this point it’s just a waiting game. Maybe I’ll try to master the art of patience in the meantime
I always have to ask my friends…who is your hero?
I have a couple. Judy Garland for sure. That is a woman who took so much crap from the industry from such a young age- she wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough or whatever, and she never quit. There was something so beautifully melancholy about her and yet everytime I listen to her singing I feel so happy. What a gift.
My other hero is hands down my mother. An amazingly strong woman who didn’t have much growing up in terms of material wealth, but she has never let her circumstances define who she is. My mum is one of those rare people that lives by example. Not to mention the fact that she made every costume of mine when I performed as a kid and has done nothing but support me and every crazy idea I’ve ever had. I’m very lucky. Oh yeah, and she cooks up a storm!
Chantelle, it’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. Please know you have friends at HorizonVU Music…five stars for you and all the best of luck! Stay in touch!
HorizonVU Music celebrates the independent music community by supporting emerging musicians’ efforts to achieve a key business objective - recognition. http://www.horizonvumusic.com