Interview: Mahalia Barnes

| 22 December , 2009 | Reply

Tonight and tomorrow night, The Sydney Opera House will be brimming with Christmas joy for Rock ‘n’ Roll lover’s with the Happy Xmas (War is Over) – A Christmas Gift For You, with an advent calendar choc full of iconic festive tunes!  The concerts will bring together the most celebrated Christmas anthems and Australia\’s hottest musicians.

Among the 18 strong line-up of stellar musicians and singers Mahalia Barnes (The Soul Mates) and we’ve got the low down from her on what her and her famous musical family are up to this Christmas.

How does the Barnes family usually spend Christmas?

The day usually starts with Christmas carols being put on the stereo&much to our dismay, dad likes to start the day listening to the tin lids album. We all get together with our extended family (there\’s usually about 20 – 30 of us) and have a huge Christmas lunch. Turkey, Ham, Roast Vegetables, Salads, Trifle, Christmas Pudding and custard, lots of Champagne and Red wine&.we eat for most of the day (and for a few days after!). We sit around and open presents throughout the day, laugh a lot&it\’s always really nice.

What has it been like supporting stars like Lionel Richie previously?

I\’ve had the opportunity to support all different sorts of amazing artists over the last few years. Lionel Richie, The Roots, James Morrison, my dad&I really love being given the chance to play to a new audience that otherwise may not have heard of you or given you the time of day. Each audience is so different. I enjoy the challenge of winning them over when they are really only there to see the main act usually.

Do you still get people asking you about the Tin Lids?

I would say I can count on one hand the number of interviews I\’ve done that haven\’t mentioned the Tin Lids, and so many people who I meet ask if I was a Tin Lid and what was it like. I\’m amazed at how many people think it wasn\’t that long ago&.we recorded and released the Christmas record about 16 years ago!

How many instruments do you play?

I learned Piano at school, and I can read music, but I\’d be lying if I said I play piano now&I mean I could probably do it with a bit of practice, but I don\’t&It\’s terrible, I really should play, but I have such amazing musicians around me that I don\’t feel the need to! I know about 2 chords on the guitar, and every now and then try to learn, but it hurts my fingers! I do have a guitar, but Ben plays it. I love to have a go on the drums every now and then, but I can only play 2 very simple grooves, no frills or fancy bits! It\’s a lot of fun though, I think I\’ll do some drum lessons in the new year!

Why do you think you\’re drawn to soul and jazz?

I\’ve always loved it. I guess probably because Dad played a lot of great soul music when I was growing up. I love singers, and soul music is really about the singing, and being emotive. It\’s honest. I have always related to soul music. I love that female soul singers are so powerful, where as in a lot of other styles of music female singers are soft, gentle and girly I would say, not womanly. It can make you cry, it can make you move, I love the backing vocals, the instrumentation, everything about it!

I just love the way it makes me feel.

If you and your father were to do a Christmas duet, which song would you cover and why?

Hmmm, not sure. We were trying to get Dad to come along to these shows and sing Merry Christmas Baby with me, but he\’s actually overseas so he couldn\’t make it this time. That would have been fun though. I really love Phil Spector’s “Christmas baby please come home” (which I actually recorded for the Spirit of Christmas album last year) and I know he\’d sing that fantastically, so maybe that one&

What do you feel is the hardest thing  about doing your own show as opposed to singing backup?

I wouldn\’t say that vocally it\’s harder doing leads than BVs, I actually love doing both. I guess doing your own shows you are responsible for communicating with the audience&that\’s what I find the hardest. I used to feel really awkward about talking in between songs and didn\’t know what to say, but it doesn\’t really bother me anymore.

We\’ve heard you like cooking, what dish are you proudest of to date?

I am a really good cook, I must admit. I cook all different styles, and am pretty proud of all my cooking really! I made a great roast the other day, which is always a favourite. I make yummy Mexican food, Chile’s Rellenos is one of my most requested dishes from the family&I like to bake cakes too. I made delicious fresh Ricotta and spinach gnocchi a few weeks ago, I was pretty proud of that one cause I hadn\’t really ever made it and it turned out a success! Other than music and my family, cooking and food is my life.

Do you have a favourite song off your recent album?

It changes, but I think I\’d have to say “is this a love” which is a song I wrote with my fiancé Ben Rodgers for the album. It is just really honest and personal, and I wrote it with someone I adore, so I love singing it and I\’m really proud of it.

Okay, some fun & girlie personal questions:

Who is your celebrity crush? I’ve always loved Leonardo di Caprio growing up&.not so much anymore, I think like nearly all women out there I love Johnny Depp, or if I was to go for a muso, maybe D\’Angelo – purely because of that film clip for “untitled”.

Where is your favourite place in the world and why? I love Thailand. I guess because I\’ve been going there my whole life and my Mum is from there. I love the heat and humidity, and the food is the best in the world I think! I also love the people, it really is the land of smiles. The people are so happy and kind. But I also love New York. I find it such an inspiring, amazing city. It\’s such an exciting place. I\’d love to live there for a bit. I really love to travel, I love going to new places.

Describe yourself in 5 words& Passionate, efficient, blessed, bossy, happy.

What\’s your life\’s motto? I have lots! I really believe honesty is always the best policy, and I think it\’s always important to be positive and put yourself out there. If you never ask you will never receive and if you never try you will never succeed. I also believe things happen for a reason, so trust, and be open to changes along the way!

What five favourite things can\’t you live without? Ben, Ruby, delicious food, good music, comfortable black clothes.

Which Sassi Moment best describes you and why? Probably Bad Hair Day is the one I can relate to the most – I have a few of those! I\’m not really much of a girlie girl&I don\’t really enjoy shopping too much, unless I know I need something specific and I go out to get it (although I do like to go shopping for Nikes!). I tend to buy several of the exact same clothes if I like them and they\’re comfy, so I end up wearing pretty much the same thing all the time! But my hair is CRAZY! It has a mind of it\’s own, so I tend to just let it be wild, or I just tie it up, I\’m not really bothered by it though.

Who would you like to have at a girl\’s night in and why? (can be anyone around the globe living or passed) Hmmmm. I hang out with boys far more than girls, and like it that way, but if I could have any bunch of girls, I\’d have to say my invite list would be as follows:

  • Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Mavis Staples – Because they are such incredible singers, and I\’d love to pick their brains a bit, and just talk about all their experiences! I think they\’d have some incredible stories to share! I also think they would all love food as much as me.
  • My best friend India Opitz – just because I love her
  • My Mum, and my Aunty Jeppy – they are such great cooks so they would help me to make the food for the evening.
  • My baby girl Ruby, because she is such great entertainment – it\’s amazing how long you can spend just staring at a baby!
  • Jacki Saltoon, my masseuse, to massage everyone, she is incredible!
  • Mahalia Jackson – just because I was named after her, and she\’s such an amazing singer.

I don\’t know, I could rattle off a whole list of female singers, but that\’s just because I love their music and would love to meet them or hear them in person.

So there you have an insight into Australia’s most famous musical family … I reckon they sound like a lot of fun and Mahalia is definitely more girlie than she thinks!  See it’s Sassi’s job to find every girl’s girlie side, no matter how much you think you don’t have one.

To find out more about Mahalia and her band The Soul Mates, you can visit her website.

We wish the whole Barnes family a fantabolously glamboyant Christmas!

Your Pop Culture Gossip Girl

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