Monday, April 14, 2014

Introducing Barbara Meyer, Another Highlight in the Upcoming Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan

This article is third in a series of interviews highlighting some of the musicians and performers who will be a part of A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan, May 17 at Sacred Heart in Downtown Duluth.

According to Barbara Meyer’s pedigree lists a Master’s in vocal performance from the University of Iowa, where she also studied opera before redirecting toward jazz. Meyer still sings jazz standards around the Twin Cities with several groups, and also sang Afro-Cuban Rock as a member of Minneapolis’ seminal ensemble One World. Her musical roots further encompass Broadway show tunes, gospel, and rock & roll. She has been compared to such vocalists as Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Erykah Badu, and Lucinda Williams, and draws as much critical praise for her live performances as she does for her work in the studio.

In speaking of her second album, the review stated Meyer's "wildly talented band, anchored by international world beat drummer Stan Kipper (4 time Minnesota Music Award winner and double Rock and Country Hall of Fame inductee), joins her to create a truly magical sound." Based on everything I've seen and heard, she is a stellar addition to the upcoming concert here next month.

EN: Where did you grow up and who were your early musical influences?

Barbara Meyer: I grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, in the 1960s and 70s. Early (and continued, really) influences included Dylan (of course), Joni Mitchell, CSNY, the Beatles, Laura Nyro... Man, how to even list them all?!? But that's a start.

EN: How did you get into performing and what kinds of work have you done as a musician/artist?

Meyer: Music was encouraged in me from a very young age. I was given a plastic ukulele when I was about 5, and according to my mother I sang before even I spoke. I have a Master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of Iowa, where I studied opera. Currently I have my own band (the Barbara Meyer Band), which includes Stan Kipper (New Primitives, worldwide rhythm monster) on drums, Bill Hulett on bass, Park Evans on guitar, and Andy Shaffer on sax, plus I front a number of jazz/cabaret groups here around the Twin Cities. I am also in the process of recording a collection of Harold Arlen songs with world-renowned pianist Phil Mattson. My musical roots further encompass Broadway show tunes, gospel, and rock & roll, and I also sang Afro-Cuban Rock as a member of Minneapolis’ seminal world beat ensemble One World (again, with Stan Kipper).

EN: When did you first take an interest in Bob Dylan's music? What was it that you especially responded to?

Meyer: Again, I must have been about 5 or 6 when I first started digging Dylan. My sister, who is 7 years older than I, exposed me to him and the others. I think that what first truly drew me in was the simple, straightforward storytelling style of his tunes. I liked (and still do) being able to hear the words and the guitar - the open, intimate feel of it all. Plus the evocative nature of his tunes taught me the special magic of music: transporting the listener out of the moment and into the soul. (Not to get all ethereal or anything...) ;- )

EN: How did you connect with Stan Kipper?

Meyer: I was working at a restaurant in the late 1990s with bass player Tom Peterson. Tommy played sometimes with Stan, who was looking for a singer. Tom suggested me, and Stan heard me and hired me on to sing lead female vocals with One World - a world beat/reggae band that was big around here in the 90s.

EN: You have an older sister… were you the baby of the family? Any particular personal traits that you can share pertaining to your birth order?

Meyer: Yes, I'm the youngest. Hmm... I think my sister and I are pretty typical, from what I've observed in others: she is more introverted, structured, and rule-following, while I tend to be more carefree and spontaneous. I think it's because my folks had relaxed a bit by the time they had me, so I was given more wiggle room. It certainly informs my songwriting, to be more free-spirited, as it were.

EN: Have you always made a living through your music?

Meyer: No, and (sadly) I still don't. It's my career and my life, but I have to supplement up the wazoo to make things work. Yet I love it!

EN: What is it that has enabled Dylan to connect with so many people, not only in the Sixties but around the world and over several generations?

Meyer: Ah, that's a great point: his connection to (and of) people. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that he's "every man," in a way - he just lays his heart out in his songs, and folks relate to that. Sometimes he's very straightforward, other times poetic and provocative - just like people are, just like life is. He's larger than life, yet totally accessible. We gravitate to that kind of modest power.

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You can hear the Barbara Meyer Band at

A Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan is a Magic Marc Production and the kickoff event for this year's North Country Dylan Fest, May 17-25 in Duluth and Hibbing.  Tickets here

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