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The Sally Cats Release 'consistently Engaging' Mix Of West Coast Jazz And Big Band Music
(Santa Barbara, CA) Sally Barr has turned multitasking into an art form. Not only is Barr the editor and publisher of the monthly regional publication "MUSIC! The Sounds of Santa Barbara," but she is also the lead singer of the Sally Cats. The Sally Cats(http://voxandfiddle.com) have just released Wonderful Day, a consistently engaging record that unites the laidback grooves of West Coast jazz with the exuberant bounce of Big Band music. Barr took a moment from her hectic schedule to discuss her work, both in print and on the stage.
Q: Every musician has an origin story. What would yours look like?
A: Music was always a natural draw for me. But two things convinced me that this would be my life’s path as I was turning 14: one was my junior high school vocal debut with “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” just because I had so much fun, and the second was my obsession David Oistrakh’s recording of the Khachaturian Violin Concerto. I listened to that recording hundreds of times that summer entranced by the sounds. It made me really hungry to play this kind of vibrant music. Coincidentally, I just played that concerto from the corps of the Santa Barbara Symphony last weekend. It definitely made me feel like I had come full circle.
Q: People’s viewpoints can change over the years, especially in how they view music. Has yours?
A: In the beginning, I just liked to perform for the pure fun of it, which is still my main motivation today. But now, I see more the real power and beautiful strength of music to bring people together, to make us understand each other in a way like no other. It defines us – our cultures, our lives. It can be a very emotionally engaging and even healing experience for both the listener and the performer.
Q: Your first time recording a song – what were you feeling?
A: Nervous! Self-conscious! But you can learn to relax, focus and perform well under that kind of pressure. Now I enjoy recording very much – it’s a real challenge, but there’s something about creating works that last. Live performance is wonderful, it sustains me, but to record is very special.
Q: What are your goals as an artist?
A: The immediate future holds more performances with all the wonderful orchestras and bands that I work with, and I’m planning to go back into the studio to record an EP with the Sally Cats this summer. I’d like to work up my chops on the piano and mandolin - in different genres - and perhaps try my hand at composition. Music, like life, is full of opportunities, and I plan to take advantage of as many as I can get.
Q: Do you feel that music is also a business?
This is the thing: music is a business. It’s a business whose product makes has an emotional impact on people. It’s a business that can stand on its own, but also can be mutually supportive with linked industries as well. Music brings people out, to be social, to share an experience. Even in difficult economic times. The more venues (clubs, cafes, restaurants, churches, libraries, museums) that can bring in even smaller performances a couple times per week, the better for everyone involved.
I would also like to see an even stronger support of music, musicians and especially music education. I would like to see music (and I mean all music) become a bigger piece of the American culture. All professional musicians work really hard. They have to be really flexible on many levels, artistically and personally. Most, including myself, after training for most of our youth, work several jobs to make things work financially. So many musical organizations – the classical ones especially: Detroit Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Pasadena Symphony - are in dire straits. To remedy this, we need stronger public, government, as well as media support to keep music alive in our American culture.
That is why I started the monthly magazine MUSIC! The Sounds of Santa Barbara – to showcase all the fantastic musical events that happen in Santa Barbara year round. I’m seeing many other cities and regions promote their music communities specifically as well, and I really think that this kind of communal promotion is the ticket to turning these hard times in the music world around.
Q: How would you compare the Sally Cats to other bands that you've been involved in?
A: Well, it’s interesting: The Sally Cats’ sound and vibe are completely different from any other of the groups that I work with, but I play violin (not sing) with three of the guys from the Sally Cats regularly with those other bands! But they are an entirely different genre: with Jim Connolly I play in the “Americana Circus Music” band, The Gove County String Quartet, with Tom Buckner I play in the eclectic fusion band, Headless Household, and I play with Jon Nathan in Opera Santa Barbara. And Brad Rabuchin works on different projects with the other guys, too. I think it helps that we’ve all worked with each other in this way. We really know what each other is capable of musically, and that builds a trust that is essential to a great band.
Q: How has the Sally Cats' sound evolved over the years?
A: I’m really happy with the way the band has grown in the past six years. Like many things, it gets better with time. I know that I am much more comfortable performing as a singer, with more improv-ease in my repertoire. The guys are all such pros; it’s been a pleasure and an honor to play with them and watch them grow as musicians, too. It’s been a dream!