Beginning her career several years ago, NYC’s up and coming DJ, singer, songwriter and producer, Barbara beamed her love of deep house, Italo disco, tech house, progressive house out on to San Francisco’s and NYC’s dancefloors. Barbara is quite the creative force to be reckoned with, playful and fresh with her approach to music creation and boldly exploring all the genres within it. With a new album already released this year and a hot new collaboration with Sasheen tearing up the dance floors, DMCWorld checks in with Barbara.

Hi Barbara, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us at DMC World. How’s 2024 been for you so far?

I am in awe of all that has happened in 2024 and can’t believe we’re only half way through the year. I am grateful and feel incredibly fortunate to be able to share my music with the world and see it land in such a powerful way. So far this year I released my debut album, ‘Palm Dreams’, had an amazing album launch party at Outer Heaven in New York; performed at my first stadium, Allegiant, in Las Vegas for 30,000 people; launched my own record label, Good Crazy, on Paradise Worldwide, and signed our first 3 tracks to the label; released Barbara tracks on Dirtybird and Blue Magenta; performed in Italy for the first time; and had full length Barbara interviews published in FAZE magazine and Electronic Groove. I participated in Miami Music Week and Coachella; and got to make some incredible collaborations and new music that I’m really excited about. Next up, I am performing in Times Square in New York, through the Times Square Live NYC Summer Music series. It’s incredible.

Please can you introduce yourself to our DMCWorld readers. 

I’m from Boston, Massachusetts and come from a large Italian family. I was mostly raised by my mom, grandparents and great-grandmother so it’s no surprise now that I am surrounded by so many strong, incredible women in my life. We lived in a very music filled household with my mom singing or playing her favourites: Tavares, Whitney, Tina Turner, The Joneses and Tom Jones. I can still hear Nannie singing to me, ‘You are My Sunshine’ and my grandfather playing Sinatra in the den. My other grandfather (I had 3 sets of grandparents at one point) owned his own music shop called Dominic’s Music in Brookline and encouraged me to learn a few instruments. He’s an incredible saxophone and harmonica player and I hope to do a hybrid set with him one day. Have you ever seen a DJ perform with their grandparents? How special it will be.

At a young age I started out singing in church choir, acapella groups, Tufts Magic Circle musical theatre camp and the Handel and Haydn Society. This is the first time I’m sharing it, but I had a really long break from singing in college because I did not see a path where music would be a possibility without the support of my family. They were afraid of how I would make a living and their support has always been important to me. I tried out for American Idol and I was rejected. I think I was at such an impressionable age that that level of rejection from an “authoritative” and so well known institution crushed me. I felt I wasn’t good enough and completely gave up on my dreams.

How did you first get into making dance music? 

Since I was young, my love for dance music was undeniable. From dancing in school recitals to cruising with friends, iconic tracks like Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’ and Kreo’s ‘Burn For You’ were the soundtrack to my life. I still blast Aqua’s ‘Roses Are Red’ (my guilty pleasure). It wasn’t until my first Miami Music Week that I discovered my true calling. The underground sounds of the Resistance stage at Ultra, led by artists like Maceo Plex and Guy Gerber, mesmerized me and solidified my passion for melodic dance music.

After that experience, I moved to New York and dove headfirst into the scene. My cousin helped me learn to DJ vinyl in my tiny Williamsburg apartment, and I spent countless hours practicing and collecting records. I landed my first gig at Black Flamingo  and quickly became immersed in the Brooklyn scene, playing at venues like Donna and Jupiter Disco. As my DJ career grew, I turned my focus to production, studying Ableton and incorporating my own vocals into original tracks. I was fortunate to learn from industry legends like LP Giobbi, Lee Foss and John Summit, whose support and guidance were invaluable. In 2022, I partnered with Jim Greer, known for his work with Big Freedia, Macy Gray, and Foster the People, to co-produce my debut album, ‘Palm Dream’s. We made 17 tracks in 2 weeks which apparently is unheard of. 15 made the album. He thought I was crazy, but turns out good crazy.

What is the best piece of new music you have heard recently? 

Ooooh this is such a hard one! I listen to hundreds of tracks in a day. Three artists I’m really digging at the moment are Illangelo, Kim Ann Foxman (Pleasure Planet) and YULLOLA. I love how experimental their music is and with YULLOLA, she’s incorporating almost operatic singing, rapping and haunting chants in her music. Plus her tracks are all about femme power, which is my jam. Check out YULLOLA’s ‘Body Godly’ and Illangelo’s ‘Tear’ or ‘Fears’. I had the opportunity to visit Kim’s studio recently with my friend Matisa and Kim played us tracks off her upcoming album. My whole body got goosebumps. I haven’t heard an album like this in a really long time. I was amazed.

How would you describe your signature sound?

It’s an explosion for your ears and unexpected. I think genre defying is really overly used these days, but I do play with lots of styles. I mix disco, pop, funk, house and even gritty, punk and rock n roll sources of inspiration for my music. It has to be weird and make you feel something. You’ll be dancing the entire time whether you’re smiling or crying on the dance floor.

Who or what inspires your music?

Everyone and everything. Inspiration is all around us every second of the day. Every experience good or bad inspires my music. Every track I hear, story I read, art I pass by, people I meet, places I visit, meal I enjoy – it’s all source material. As an example, I was stuck in traffic yesterday, daydreaming about someone I have been missing because we had such a deep connection and so I wrote a poem about it. Today I took some of those words and have turned them into verses for a new song idea. I would say I am constantly creating and trying less so to look for the why in things. Like Rick Rubin says, “our job is merely to observe and create”, so I’m sharing how I see the world and what I’ve experienced in my life in my music.

What’s been your most successful release so far?

‘Feet Money’ with my good friend and collaborator, Ed Hoffman that came out on Dirtybird this year. It’s a really fun and driving tech house track in the style of Martinez Brothers or Jamie Jones and it was inspired by one of my very good friends. We were all in Palm Springs celebrating my birthday weekend and while we were out shopping for designer vintage one day we joked with her that she needed feet money to afford this insanely beautiful YSL fur coat. Now it’s a song.

Ed Hoffman & Barbara - Feet Money [BIRDFEED EXCLUSIVE]

Congratulations on your new release, ‘Feel Your Soul’ with Sasheen on Blue Magenta. What was the inspiration behind the release and what can we expect to hear?

‘Feel Your Soul’ is a really special track with Sasheen, because it’s the first time we’ve made a track together after being friends for several years. I really loved one of his tracks he sent me for a locals only mix I did for radio in San Francisco and knew we needed to collaborate. He sent over this beautiful, almost mystical and ethereal instrumental that put me in a dreamscape. It was captivating and enchanting to hear. I was instantly called to write about a deep love with someone where you’re connected on a level that defies gravity, space and time. When you meet someone and your souls just click, you’re half an orange, that feels like you’ve known them your entire life. That’s what ‘Feel Your Soul’ is about – a special place for you and your eternal soulmate. We hope you find it as beautiful as we do.

You also recently released your fabulous debut album, ‘Palm Dreams’, please tell us about the release.  

I’m so proud of the music that Jim Greer and I made! I listen to some of the tracks and can’t believe we created them in two weeks with no previous experience jamming together. It’s wild. And even more wild is to see how it’s landing with fans. I had one woman write to me that she absolutely hates needles and was going through egg freezing. She played my song, ‘Church of House’ every night during her injections and it helped ease the pain. To have my music touch people on such a deep level was something I couldn’t even imagine. There’s no greater feeling of connection and meaning in this world than having my music help and heal people.

Have you got a favourite track from the album?

Such a tough one to answer! It kind of depends on my mood and the day but generally the top three would be ‘Ghosted’, ‘Killer’ and ‘World Goes Dark’. I’m a punk rock chick at heart from my black nail polish, moshing and Warped tour days.

How do you typically go about putting a new song together?

Ideas come in the form of lyrics, melodies or motifs. For example, I saw strawberries 3 times yesterday in a few different settings and I’ve jogged that for a future track. I take a voice memo or notes on my phone and then turn to Ableton. I start with my drums, a mix of midi and pulling from sample packs, airdrop the voice memo and then build out the melodics. Because I collaborate with so many producers sometimes a specific idea is better suited for a certain genre. So I sent them the voice memo and see if they want to build something around it. Once I get the basic track going, I build it out as much as I can in terms of arrangement and markers for where I want the verse, drop, build, etc. And if I’m stuck and don’t have a clear vision for the song, I’ll listen to a few reference tracks to get a good blueprint down.

When I’m creating a track, I start with drums and percussion and then layer on the instrumental elements and vocals. I go where my energy flows and don’t think about whether it fits with this style or genre too much because it doesn’t matter. If it sounds good, it stays. I once had a jalapeño peanut butter sushi roll that I know sounds crazy, but the strange flavours created an explosion in my mouth. I like to think of my music as that. By bringing worlds together that on the surface don’t seem like they should go, you ultimately end up with something really cool and novel.

You’ve worked with the likes of Nhii and Lefti, Model Man, Luxe Agoris, Ede, and Ed Hoffman. Who else would you love to collaborate with?

There’s a lot, but it would be Matisa, Peggy Gou, Grimes, Kito, Yetmore, Mita Gami, Francies Mercier, Blondish, Mia Moretti, Damian Lazarus, Black Coffee, Bediun, LP Giobbi, Carlita, Dom Dolla, Chloe Caillet, Gorgon City, Channel Tres, Fred Again & John Summit. Outside of dance, Dolly Parton, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Arctic Monkeys, Pharrell, Black Keys, Skepta, LCD Soundsystem and Stevie Nicks.

You’ve also just started your own label, Good Crazy, what fuelled the decision to take the leap and what have you got lined up?

I have always wanted to start my own label and had the opportunity to launch it when my distributor, Paradise Worldwide, approached me with the idea. Good Crazy is home for the weirdos. The people that want to live life to the fullest and don’t care what people think. We don’t see genres, trends, likes or followers as guides to what we sign. We sign the music and artists that hit our gut. ‘My Best Friend’ with Ed Hoffman came out in May and we have a high energy trance track with my favourite French artist and collaborator, Spunoff, coming in June. This fall we also have a funk nu-disco track coming that I love. The vocals are so smooth.

What has been your favourite DJ gig so far this year and where are you most looking forward to playing? 

Linea Milano no question. This is a radio in an underground train station in the middle of Milan. It was a takeover with Nothing is Real (the guys behind Modular Project) and came about because I was in Milan recording and DJing at the East Market. I had the most fun! People were commuting with groceries, families, friends, going to a party, etc, and they saw me playing and feeling the music and we literally started a party in the middle of the train station. It was crazy, good crazy and made me so happy. I also fell in love with the city of Milan and I can’t wait to go back.

What has been your biggest learning curve or challenge so far in the music industry?

At this point I learned to not really force or chase producers for toplines. The right collaborators will find you. I put a lot of energy in tracks and invested money in studio time for tracks that went nowhere after I sent ideas back, which is really discouraging. I’ve learned to ask upfront their plans for the track, if they have a specific vision in mind, or if it’s cool if I send back vocal ideas of whatever comes and next steps. I need to preserve my energy and vocal chords as a singer, so when I sing on something now, I need to know we’re equally very invested in the track. Be mindful and respectful of people’s time. Sometimes you struggle with the direction of a track and need to sit on it for a bit, which is ok, but it’s important to communicate with your collaborator about it. I think also sometimes we fail into comparison traps when we’re stuck and listen to too many reference tracks, it can only make it more confusing on the direction of the track.

We come to raid your record collection, which embarrassing record do you chuck out the window before we arrive? 

None! I would never do such a thing to my babies. They all reflect parts of me and I’m not afraid to show you my layers.

What record makes you say ‘damn, I wish I made that’? 

Diana Ross – Upside Down.

Finally, what new productions are you working on that you can tell us about?

If you listen to ‘World Goes Dark’ on ‘Palm Dreams’, it’s an indicator of where my sound is going. Get ready for a lot more gritty, rock and rawness in upcoming songs. I’m still processing my divorce that was finalized earlier this year, so I’m healing through expressing myself in this kind of music. There’s going to be pain coming out, but it’s beautiful and I need to really feel it in order to move on and I know I’m not alone.

Sasheen, Barbara ‘Feel Your Soul’ is released May 17th 2024 on Blue Magenta.