It’s the kind of success every musician dreams of—landing a track on a TV show and breaking their music worldwide. Add to that the ethereal appeal of Jill Barber and the whole plot twist takes on surreal proportions.
But that’s pretty much what happened to the three-time Juno nominee and mother whose song “Chances” appeared in the pilot episode of the massive television hit Orange Is the New Black, which eventually resulted in a certified gold record for her album Chances (2010).
About a decade ago, the anglophone singer-songwriter started performing in French, beginning with a show at the Montreal Jazz Festival, where she surprised her audience with a French translation performance of one of her songs. This past summer, Barber, whose career has seen award-winning turns in indie-folk, jazz and pop, returned to the spotlight with Entre Nous, her first collection of original French songs, co-written with francophone collaborator Maia Davies and produced by Montreal producer Gus Van Go.
Originally from Port Credit, Ontario, just west of Toronto, Barber has been living with her family in Vancouver for the past decade. She recently took a moment from promoting her new album to chat with Harrowsmith about her favourite Vancouver haunts, foodie stops and must-haves.
Harrowsmith: So, where is the best place to sit down and have a coffee in your town?
Jill Barber: My local East Van coffee house, Pennyroyal Coffee, has the best coffee and scones. A winning combination.
HS: When you go to the local farmers’ market, which vendor do you visit first?
JB: My children immediately run to the French bakery. We give them a $10 bill and they are thrilled to purchase their own chocolate croissants. I love the artisan jam made by Le Meadow’s Pantry.
HS: What’s your favourite independent business?
JB: I buy most of my new clothes from Gatley on Commercial Drive. My friend Erin runs it and stocks a lot of local and Canadian designers.
HS: When company arrives from out of town, where do you take them?
JB: For the best sushi, Minami in Yaletown.
HS: Does your town have a mascot? Any unusual roadside attractions or monuments?
JB: We live really close to Hastings racetrack. In the summertime, the race announcer’s voice carries over the whole neighbourhood. We wander over there occasionally to visit the horses (but I never bet).
HS: What’s the strangest annual event or festival or little-known fact about your town?
JB: I love the Buy Nothing market that pops up in my neighbourhood park in the summer. It’s like a giant neighbourhood garage sale, except everything is free; you can take what you need and contribute what no longer serves you.
HS: What kind of bragging rights does your town have?
JB: Ocean and mountain views at the same time.
HS: Where’s the best place to take your dog?
JB: To the off-leash portion of New Brighton Park, which offers the above-mentioned views of Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains.
HS: It’s Friday night and you’re not in the mood to cook. Where do you go? Or order in?
JB: We take the kids out for authentic Neapolitan pizza at Via Tevere, followed by an ice cream cone from Earnest Ice Cream.
HS: Who’s the most famous person in town?
HS: What’s your favourite road, house or tree?
JB: My road, my house, my Italian plum tree. There’s no place like home.
HS: Is there a community garden?
JB: Many! My favourite is the student learning garden at my son’s elementary school.
HS: What’s the most popular item at roadside stands in your area?
JB: We have some amazing fruit stands that sell freshly picked Fraser Valley berries. Our favourite is Brian’s Berries in West Van.
HS: What does your town smell like?
An editor with 15-plus years in the publishing business, Catalina Margulis’ byline spans travel, food, decor, parenting, fashion, beauty, health and business. When she’s not chasing after her three young children, she can be found painting her home, taming her garden and baking muffins.