Hailing from a very musical family and with her first full-length album Green Hearts due out in the fall, 2016 is proving to be an extremely good year for Philadelphia native Lesley Barth. As her fan-base continues to grow and her dreams and ambitions get bigger, the sky may very well be the limit for this immensely talented singer song-writer. Hoping to soon announce a new series of tour dates, she kindly agreed to this interview to talk musical inspirations, dream shows and ultimate ambitions.
PW: Please introduce yourself.
Lesley Barth: Hey PopWrapped! My name is Lesley Barth and I’m a NYC-based singer/songwriter with a retro pop - think Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Jenny Lewis - feel.
PW: How would you sum yourself up in 5 words?
LB: If I’m being snarky about myself? Bangs, late twenties, artsy, Queens. If I’m being sincere: love helping people feel things.
PW: When did you first realize you wanted to be a performer? Was there an album you listened to or concert you attended that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that'?
LB: I grew up in a very musical household – my father was an opera singer and my mother was an actress, so I sort of grew up performing If there was a single album that lit something within me to a performer, it was probably Carole King’s Tapestry.
PW: Which bands and artists influenced you growing up and how have those influences changed over time?
LB: The Beatles, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, a lot of Motown sounds – Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Ronettes, The Shangri-Las, etc. I think if anything has changed over time, I’ve gotten into more modern artists, most recently The Divine Comedy, Jenny Lewis, Kishi Bashi, The National. But I always go back to those 60s/70s roots.
PW: Is there a band or artist you might say you sound similar to
LB: I get Carole King a lot when I play live, which always fills me with joy.
PW: Tell me about your latest single "Just Like Summer" Is there a story behind it?
LB: The lyric that kicks off the chorus - “I love you just like summer, I need you like the rain” - came to me quickly and it just sort of built off of that. The seasons are a well-traveled metaphorical path and with good reason. You wait so long for summer, it comes, gets too hot and you start to complain, and then it leaves and you long for it.
PW: How did you come up with the concept for the video and is being creative in that way something you enjoy?
LB: I LOVE making music videos. I came up with the concept while talking with Alice Teeple, the director. I really like having constraints that you have to figure out how to work around, and that’s what we did. We rang up a little tab at Party City, but this was a very low budget production. We didn’t have any actors so we headed to Central Park with model release forms and hoped for the best! It was amazing how many people came up to US to participate. We hardly had to do any asking. That’s New York City for you – it was just an amazing experience.
PW: Are there plans for an EP or album in the pipeline?
LB: Yup! My first full-length album, Green Hearts, is coming out this fall – so excited to share it as a follow-up from my debut EP last November.
PW: Who or what most influences your song-writing?
LB: I suppose my life most influences it. I don’t write about specific experiences necessarily, but I absolutely draw the emotional truth of a song and lyric from my life and things I feel or can imagine feeling. If there’s any overall theme to the kind of stuff I write, it’s honesty. It’s about getting as honest and to the heart/truth of the matter as possible. It’s cathartic in that way for me, and I think people like it for that reason – it’s really vulnerable and honest, and it makes people feel safer being vulnerable/honest themselves.
PW: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject matter?
LB: I find there are three kinds of songs I write: 1) songs that are like little gems that come to me in one afternoon almost fully-formed. With these songs, it’s more like you just stumble across something rather than create it yourself. I love these kinds of songs. 2) songs that take weeks or months or years of editing/re-writing and you end up with something that finally clicks and feels good, but the birthing process was painful, or 3) just not-so-great songs. You have to write a lot of not-so-great songs to get the good ones, so I never let how good a song is or isn’t get me down – it’s all part of the process.
PW: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?
LB: DAMN. That’s a question! There are 10-20 songs that are always gut punches for me, but whenever I have this question, I come back to one tune. There is always one song that gets me and it’s by The Divine Comedy, Irish songwriter Neil Hannon’s band: “Tonight We Fly”. It’s just beautiful – orchestral, melodic, and the last line is such a mic drop: “If heaven doesn’t exist, what will we have missed? This life is the best we ever had.” I seriously tear up writing those lines out – you have to listen to it right away.
PW: What are your upcoming tour and performance plans?
LB: I’ll be doing album release shows in New York and Philly - my hometown - this fall, and hope to do a mini Northeast tour around those dates as well. Stay tuned for dates.
PW: If you could share a stage with four other bands or artists who can be living or dead, who would they be and where would you play?
LB: I would love to play Red Rocks with Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, Jenny Lewis, and George Harrison.
PW: What are your thoughts on social media? To what extent has it helped your career and would you agree it’s necessary for bands and artists today?
LB: I think it’s great for artists – it’s really a powerful tool in your arsenal. There aren’t the gatekeepers of yesteryear’s music industry, in the sense that you can go directly to your audience and get them to support you. I raised $8,000 last fall for an album, and a lot of that came through social media. I think it’s pretty necessary today, though of course there will always be exceptions. But those exceptions are probably pretty well-connected artists and bands.
PW: What else does the rest of the year have in store for you?
LB: Releasing this album and then plenty of sleep!
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as an artist? Whose career would you most like to emulate and why?
LB: As an artist, I want millions of people to listen to my music and have it have an effect on them. I, like so many of us, nursed emotional wounds and vulnerability with music. The power of it is undeniable – we’ve all placed “that song” on repeat and cried. Music is a very powerful tool to help people access their emotions, and I believe in that with all of my heart. Career-wise, I want to be able to support myself with music and I’m frankly still figuring out who I can model that off of, as the industry and economics around it are changing rapidly. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, PopWrapped!