Get The Picture
|Kevin Barber is the creator of
Barber Shop Podcast
Photo: Lori Yates
It was music that saved Kevin Barber. He had a pretty bad year in 1996, losing a good high paying job, his wife to divorce and his mother to cancer within 100 days.
Playing late night jams. Writing original music with a group of friends into the wee hours, the healing magic of music and the trust and community it fostered shaped a life on the edge of ruin. When an opportunity arose to manage Hamilton’s biggest music store, Barber leaped at the opportunity, and while the store is gone, the relationships established are still strong. The next logical step of establishing a working original act took a few years to put together, but Captain Easy was an honest -to-goodness rock and roll band in the classic sense, a full time, full tilt outfit resplendent with garish van, communal house and raging substance abuse.
All came to a screeching halt with an unexpected baby. A perfect storm was brewing and while the union produced two daughters, it left behind a mountain of stress, debt, and the utter absence of music in a decaying landscape.
In 2008, Kevin Barber found himself without a family, without a dime, without his music and sliding into some kind of madness on a very slippery slope. Always a bombastic leader brimming with optimism, the change in behaviour was at times worrisome, often frightening.
What Barber had used to be called manic depression. Jimi Hendrix wrote a great song about it. Now it’s called bi-polar disorder and as the name suggests, having it can be both great and awful. Putting a name to the face of a pervasive condition led to the opening of doors and the peeling of that personal onion. Music was a distant memory – a lost love that was somehow, someway, going to save the day.
In the fall of 2011 US Steel had locked out the remaining 900 workers at the Hamilton plant. For their benefit, reaching deep into his manic energy reserves, Barber’s BOXO Studio began recording the critically acclaimed Steelworker’s Waltz, a 15 song benefit album.
Barber relied on clean, simple production. He recruited some of the region’s finest songwriters to provide the words and music that spoke of a city, a people, and an industry that was disappearing. Steelworker’s Waltz struck a nerve and provided an opportunity to raise both money and awareness.
Believing in music is easy. Believing in the music business is hard. Steadfast in the belief that music was both under-appreciated and underutilized, the next step was an extension of the relationship with engineer/producer Ryan Cannon, former bass player in Captain Easy. Barber and Cannon had always worked well together and after producing a year’s worth of live music podcasts together it was time to take the concept of Steelworker’s Waltz to the next level with the current project, Get The Picture. This landmark album consists of 15 gifted singer/songwriters speaking from the first, second and third person perspective on the lived experiences of mental illness.
Artists are especially prone to the effects of mental illness, and some of the most prolific artists are also the most vulnerable. Many songs have been penned and bled out onstage that have opened eyes, minds and hearts to the human condition, helping and healing so many of us. Barber was determined to use his experience and connections to make a record that will not only make those on the front lines take notice, but become irresistible earworms to the general population due to the stellar degree of craftsmanship displayed on every level.
Lush production and authentic words delivered honestly mark the songs captured to date on Get The Picture. Instantly, tomes about mental illness and addiction are transformed into something very accessible, enlightening and inspiring. Kevin Barber, Ryan Cannon and Alek Bromke are crafting something very special at BOXO Studio. Recorded at 432Hz, this frequency matches that of the earth, slightly lower than standard tuning and entirely holistic in nature.
Get The Picture, delivering its messages of hope, triumph over tragedy and tales of survival is the tip of the point of the head of the spear of change. If the stigma of mental illness is to be washed away, the raising of voices in unison will be the agent of that change. For far too long, music has been used to shill cheap products, prop up shabby politics and serve the few at the expense of the many. BOXO Studio sees music as something special, something divine that will save us all.
Get The Picture – Release May 24, 2014
Artists: Maggie Ciere, Jessica Blake, Roxanne Flett Campell, Kevin Barber, Dave Pomfret, Jamie Shea, Lindsay Campell, Les Smith, George Douglass, Duane Rutter, Lily Sazz, Kylie Angel, Brad Hails, Cindy Dell, Tim Gibbons, Klyde Brooks.
On Friday March 14, Bell Canada presents Clara’s Big Ride at Hamilton’s historic Liuna Station. Olympic medalist Clara Hughes is riding across Canada on her bike, engaging the population in an effort to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health issues and help to encourage discussion and compassion in the future. As the face of Bell’s #letstalk campaign, Hughes has been open and frank about her lifelong battle with depression. Hamilton is the first stop on her 12000KM journey. Clara will be celebrating with many supporters from 7-10PM during the city’s monthly Art Crawl. The event is free to the public.