Talking down the line from Denmark in Western Australia, the Seychelles-born, Australian-based queen of all things soulful counts her lucky stars given what has undoubtedly been a blessed career. RK catches up with Grace ahead of her set at RTRFM’s World In A Warehouse at PS Art Space this Friday, June 6.
“Right now we’re focusing on promoting the new album Welele!” chimes the upbeat Barbé. Released in October last year, her touring schedule has been a little hectic admittedly, but she would rather be doing nothing else. “We did a short tour in March that took us to the Port Fairy Folk Festival in Victoria, then Ten Days On The Island in Tasmania and afterwards The Blue Mountains Music Festival (NSW). Since then, we’ve been doing some shows here in WA, both in town and regionally.”
In hindsight, her musical path was somewhat inevitable – her mum was a dancer with the national troupe as well as being an actress on TV and a radio broadcaster, while her aunt is a published poet. “Music is very important to Seychellois people,” she professes proudly. “Growing up in Perth too, we held regular community dances. I was lucky enough to be mentored by two legendary Seychellois Kreol musicians as I began singing and playing bass in community bands. From there, I joined a hip hop crew that toured all over Australia working a lot with remote indigenous communities.”
So while being born in Seychelles, it was at six years of age that her mother received a scholarship to study in Australia. “I came with her and spent most of my primary school years in Perth,” explains Barbé. “After her studies, we returned to the Seychelles where I attended secondary school and we moved back to Perth when I was 16. Interestingly, I was looking forward to moving back to Australia as I had left Seychelles so young the first time. All my friends were here and I found it a bit hard to adapt to life and school back in Seychelles at the age of 12.”
In retrospect however, she feels like she has grown up both in Australia and the Seychelles and as such, has been really lucky to experience the best of both worlds. “I have a strong connection to my culture but I have also benefited from the opportunities and lifestyle here in Australia,” she says. “It would be very hard to do what I do if I had remained back in Seychelles!” Likewise, describing her music as soulful but roping in elements of R&B and reggae, all influences on her style, she kicks some knowledge on her next series of gigs.
“Our five-piece ensemble includes my sister Joelle Barbé on drums, our producer and collaborator Jamie Searle on bass and guitar, Dan Carroll on lead guitar and our newest member Hardy Perrine on percussion. We’re going to be playing most of the songs from the new album, a few from the first, and a few from the next plus a few sega and seggae classics that we love to play!”