Zodiac sign: Pisces 

Gear or tool you can’t live without: Voice Memos app on my phone – for when inspiration hits you on the go.

Favourite lyrics: From my song “Down Below” coming out on my upcoming project Sadditude: “Come one, come all, welcome to the sinners and saints, the Kings still make the calls and we’ll all end up in the same place, down below”

You open your streaming platform of choice – what are you currently listening to? Lately I have been listening to a lot of R&B music. I just recently discovered a project that’s a couple years old called the Celestial Suite by Pale Jay, I’ve been playing it a lot!

Caleigh Barker, singer-songwriter, sound engineer and producer, brings us into emotional and invigorating pop music, while leaving in her wake some catchy vocal melodies. Her polished productions take the same direction on her forthcoming EP, Sadditude. With her enveloping voice, the artist advocates vulnerability, both at its darkest and at its brightest. RAC spoke with her about the journey and multiple inspirations that permeate her music.

RAC: First of all, how did your journey as an artist and musician bring you to Toronto’s RAC program in audio recording and production?

Caleigh: I had always been interested in music composition and all related to music as well as theatre, which was what I initially pursued in college at NYU. After graduating and booking a few gigs I was losing interest in acting and I had to return to my love for music. So I decided to put my focus on it, but I knew that unless I had the skills to produce and engineer, there would always be someone else in charge of my music and I didn’t want that, so I decided to apply for RAC.

RAC: In addition to the varied style of your compositions, there’s an evolution in the production and message. Can you share with us the main message and values you want to share in your music now?

Caleigh: I want my music to be truthful and emotionally vulnerable. My next release comes from a darker place, for sure. But I think it is important to share those feelings in art just as it’s important to put good vibes out there, because people are experiencing everything there is from good to bad. All of us want to see ourselves and our experiences reflected in art and entertainment because at the end of the day, we don’t want to feel alone.

RAC: Your musical style seems to float between pop, R&B, alternative and electropop. Who are your influences? 

Caleigh: The biggest influences on my taste in music have been my parents and my three older brothers and the different music that they have each introduced me to. In terms of artists’ influences, I would say Amy Winehouse, The Kooks, Tove Lo, John Mayer, every Motown artist, Hank Williams, Aretha Franklin, Sublime, and The Doors – just to name a few.

RAC: Your lyrics are emotional, and also concrete and direct. How does inspiration come when you create your songs? 

Caleigh: Songs come together in so many different ways, a lot of the time I’m having an emotional reaction to something going on in my life and I physically need to get the feeling out. The easiest way to do that is to put it into a song. Sometimes, I just start fiddling around on the piano and I stumble upon a melody that I work into a structure. In that process, the emotional subject matter of the song becomes clear to me and I start writing. Other times, I play through beats and one will strike a feeling in me so I start freestyling through it. Also, inspiration hits because I hear a cool sound outside and I record it on my voice notes to build into a beat. It can happen in so many different ways, the most important thing is to be open to letting it come to you.

RAC: How would you describe the pre-production and production phases of your songwriting process? 

Caleigh: It’s different every time. For the majority of my music, I start composing the song on my own – usually me and the piano – and then I either take that to a producer to flush out into a finished song, or I begin production on my own and  take that to a producer to help me finish. 

RAC: In the same spirit, do you mostly produce your songs yourself or do you collaborate? 

Caleigh: I am a big fan of collaboration. With a lot of my songs I start composing on my own and then I work with another producer to get the finished product. I think my best songs are ones that have been collaborated on.

RAC: You have songs featured with JRDN and you’re with Peter Jackson’s on his new hip-hop song “Numb” – can you explain how collaboration influences your career and how it usually starts off? 

Caleigh: JRDN and I have been working together for the last few years, collaborating on both his music and mine, as well as featuring on each other’s songs. I’ve been lucky enough to be in a lot of sessions with amazing artists like Peter Jackson because of this writing partnership! That song in particular came about because JRDN and I were writing a hook for him to potentially sing and we all agreed that it was a better fit for my voice. 

Final notes

Being both the artist and the person behind the console, Caleigh Barker takes on multiple roles. She embraces the challenge and manages to find balance by flowing through cycles and shifting her focus over time: “I spent most of the last year engineering sessions for other artists and did not produce or write as much, so this year I am focusing more on songwriting and producing,” she announces.

Sadditude is coming out this summer and will include songs that Caleigh Barker has been working on for the past two years. She’s excited to finally release the project as a whole, and let her audience hear the pieces that reveal a musical “journey through a breakup, with a focus on sadness and negativity because we do not always handle breakups in the most graceful of ways.” Caleigh Barker will be promoting the project and playing live this summer.

Written by Caroline Boivin
Illustration by Holly Li