I started my musical life off as a songwriter, and am still startled to discover I've become a vocalist. I have a distinctive tone - think early Bowie-meets-Lennon - and my voice works well on radio. I'm a servant of the song, and I have a strong ear for emotion. Whether singing, writing or playing synth, I bring weird flava, best I can.
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2 ReviewsEndorse Anton Barbeau
Hello! I am a lifelong professional musician and have been working with Anton Barbeau for over twenty years. He has seriously written some of my favorite pop songs ever... but we are here to discuss what he can do for YOUR project: Anton has worked with me in the role of producer, keyboardist, background vocals, and countless other things... He MAKES MY SONGS BETTER! He truly does serve the song, and with kindness, humor, and lack of ego. He has opinions if you want them, but also realizes that this is YOUR art, and only wishes to help you realize YOUR vision! Always fresh and inspiring!
I have worked with Anton several times during the last ten years. Sometimes remotely and sometimes in the studio. He is a talented songwriter and expressive singer. His material and sensibilities are tuned to the unusual and interesting which is a big help with sounding exciting and original. Collaborating with Anton will be an easy way of opening new doors.
Interview with Anton Barbeau
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I loved making Allyson Seconds' second album, Little World. It's the second record I've written for her. We have a great chemistry based on years of friendship. I know her well enough that I can write from her perspective. It gets me out of my own mindset, for one thing. We brought in all sorts of cool guests, including Greek musicians and our mate Vince from the band Cake. Colin Moulding of XTC offered to sing on the title track, which was a thrill for both Allyson and me. The record got attention and coverage on NPR, which in turn brought more awareness to Allyson's first album, Bag of Kittens.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: That I'll try to zero in on what you want for your song, and that I'll try to find whatever feels most true to myself in regards to your song. And I'll get the work done in a timely way, with clean tracks delivered.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I've loved music since before I was born. I mean that. My parents were Beatles fans and my first memories are of crawling through their record collection. I'm a compulsive music maker. 30+ albums testifies to that. I try out all sorts of styles and sounds. I'm (hopefully) more open-minded than ever. I hope, however, that I still have taste and judgement! I love being in recording studios, even if only for the free cups of tea. I love recording at home, and seeing/hearing my own recordings improve all the time. I love sound itself, musical or otherwise. We recorded the sound of chickpeas poured into a metal pot the other day and I'm still trying to find a song to stick that in. I'm always thrilled to work with new people and to work with friends. I love how even personal chemistry can change over time, sometimes from one day to the next. You can always count on Player X to give you a certain good result, whereas Player Y will give you something different every time, sometimes too far out for the song, sometimes just the right thing.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: Huh. This is probably the answer I SHOULDN'T give, but I wonder if people who follow my music think I'm more "successful" than I think I am. Many artists in recent years have learned to paint a perfect smile on our social media presentations. Success breeds success, so it seems. But as I mentioned above, I'm honest. If someone ever wants to know, I don't mind breaking down the cost of making a record or how my touring costs work out. I used to show up at the airport in my shades looking as Rock Star as possible, and I pulled that off well. In an airport, I look like I must be Somebody. But on SoundBetter, there are many far bigger Somebodys, right? I'm just me, doing my thing. Thankfully, I'm more confident that my thing can work for a range of people and styles of music.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: I want to make sure we share reasonable expectations. If someone hears/reads what I do and likes it, there's a good chance they're hiring me for right reasons. To be a bit boring/practical, I'd ask about timeline - when do they need a finished result? How many revisions do we want to make? Things like that, making sure we're set for success and on the same page.
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Well, hire me! Simple, right? I dunno. Read my interview and you'll get a pretty honest assessment of what I can bring. I'm selling myself for my unique contribution, even though I like to think I can fit into any musical situation. I'm honest and will answer any questions clearly. If I feel I'm not right for something, I'll say. I'm not the best used car salesman on the block, I'm just me.
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I started off as a 4-tracking basement teen, writing hundreds of songs as soon as I could work a pencil. I put a band together with the best players I could find, started making studio records. Built up a hometown following, attracted a bit of industry attention. The first trip to LA, with label meetings set up and hotels paid for by Sony or someone, was a bust when the car broke down halfway. Instead of becoming a household object, I turned into a "cult hero's cult hero" and have remained loyal to that tag since. I've made 30+ albums, including collaborations with so many amazing artists. I spent years living in the UK and then Berlin. I've toured Europe many times, with albums coming out on labels in Spain, France and the UK. I've written and produced two albums for Allyson Seconds, the second of which got a nice feature on NPR's Fresh Air and included XTC's Colin Moulding on guest vocals. I'm now dividing my time between Berlin and California, and am singing in French band Salt with Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM, Big Star) producing. Our first record was recorded at Abbey Road in London and Ferber in Paris. The next record I'm releasing is a double album called Manbird, an auto-biographical concept piece about leaving the nest and returning home. Lots of birds, suitcases, airports, pills, nests, airplanes and such spread over two disks. I've been doing this a while!
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: The line that gets often used from my bio is "pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop," but I'm not sure that best sells my SoundBetter skills! I started with a love of music from the 60s, got warped by the new wave 80s, and am as contemporary as can be, in a timeless and slightly out-of-touch manner!
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: My sound - vocally and musically - is distinctive. I'm odd/weird/quirky/unique — those words always show up in reviews of my records. I have a love of the psychedelic, but I'm just as comfortable playing it straight. I've got a strong melodic sense, and my own songs are nothing if not catchy. I think I adapt well to the material at hand — it's about the song, and finding something special to bring to it. I'm good with harmonies, and can throw down a memorable bass line or guitar riff, too. (Not sure if this should be a side note, but I'm quite good at "classic" synth solos!)
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I'm not sure I have a "typical" process. Any project has its own needs and its own starting point. Currently, I'm working on the next Salt album. With all members in their respective homes due to the C19 pandemic, we're all sending tracks back and forth. I'll receive a solid demo from bandleader Stef, and I'll start singing over the top. I'm creating melodies and then filling in lyrics. I'll generally add some basic harmonies - cos I just can't help it! Knowing that producer Ken Stringfellow will also add vocals, I don't try to fill the song up with parts, only the essentials. I send my finished tracks - I spend about a day per song - to Stef and wait for the next songs to be sent. Rinse and repeat. If someone wants me to do a specific vocal/part, that's much more straightforward. I learn it, record it, send it back. For keyboards, same thing - if it's left to me, I'll come up with several different ideas and send them along. With specific parts, I do what I'm asked but with whatever that "thing" is that I bring to a project.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: I've finished my own album, Manbird, and am prepping for an autumn release. I'm doing melodies/lyrics and then vocals for the second Salt album. I have a curious collaboration with Bryan Poole (Elf Power/Of Montreal) started called Christian Wife. We were working together in Berlin, but have both headed back to the States during the pandemic so we'll carry on working remotely.
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I'm new here!
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Digital. It's what I have and what I've been working with for ages.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: "Do you want to sing on this track?" My answer is usually, "Sure."
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Prophet 6, Drumtraks, Guild 12-string, Hofner, U67 mic.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: It used to be Paul McCartney or Kate Bush, but I think I'd just be too awe-struck to offer anything useful to either of them. Working with Eno has always been a dream, though. How could one not learn so much from that fellow? I want to work with people who challenge me, turn my head in new directions. Ideally, that works both ways.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: Be nice to people! Everyone is sensitive, everyone likes praise. Criticism can be incredibly helpful, but if presented/taken the wrong way, it can be counter-productive and damaging.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: Unpopular pop music! I do psychedelic stuff, lots of synth pop, power pop, folk, indie guitar rock. Most recently I've dipped toes into punk, Twelve Tone and accidental jazz. I'm open and up for anything, give or take!
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: At this point, I think it's probably my adaptability to the song. What does the song need, what doesn't it need? Not that it's an exact science, of course. My way with music is very intuitive. I trust the first/earliest ideas that come to me, but am also quick enough to see when something isn't right. When that's the case, I might try going in an opposite direction.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: It's a modest set up that gets the job done. I've got two set-ups, one in Berlin and one on a farm in California. For vocals, I've got an Aston Origin which I run into a JoeMeek 3Q (Berlin) or a CL7602 and CL7802. I get a clean sound that, well, sounds like me. Synth-wise, I've got more variety between my two set-ups. In Berlin, a Prophet 6 is the heart of my studio, with a Juno 6, Pro One, Micromoog and other synths surrounding, plus a beloved Yamaha CP. In California, it's a Prophet 5, Korg Prologue, PolySix and others. I have an old Wurli that's seen better days, but it still has tricks up its sleeve. In both locations I have a collection of acoustic, electric and bass guitars, and on the farm I have a 1959 Ludwig kit. I run Pro Tools and Studio One.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: It's almost too easy to mention the Beatles, but that's a given for me. Their music is perfect and their work in the studio stunning. I'm a big Bowie fan, and I love Eno and Visconti. One drummer I've worked with for ages, Michael Urbano, has played on loads of huge records and has always been a massive inspiration. I've worked with many of my heroes - musicians and producers - and have been able to secretly steal all their secrets!
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: The majority of my time is spent working on my own music, but in recent years, I've joined a French band called Salt, featuring Ken Stringfellow (Posies, REM, Big Star). I'm the lead vocalist in the group. As a result of my work with Salt, I've started singing on other people's songs and records as well. I've also played a fair bit of keyboards - synth, piano, Mellotron - on other folk's recordings.