Barbra Lica hid away her singing talent, but now she’s all in
No matter where you run — if you’re part of a musical family — the profession will catch up with you.
For Lytton Park’s Barbra Lica, that’s just how it went, she recalls as she reclines in a wingback chair in a sunny atrium in Yonge-Eglinton, sharing her transition into jazz music.
The chanteuse is ramping up for a performance at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival on June 22 at Home Smith Bar inside the Old Mill. The festival itself runs from June 21 to 30.
There’s warm excitement about her partaking in this year’s festival as it’s been a while. Lica will be performing as part of Heath Bambrick and Friends, which features artists performing four songs solo, and four more with duets.
“We’re going to do some super standard duets because I really like those Ella-Louis duets,” she says.
It was her stepdad Nick who introduced her to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Every month they would take a trip to Indigo Books or Sam the Record Man to buy a CD. He even built an elaborate sound system in her room.
“When I started to like music, I didn’t want them to know because it’s a family business and I didn’t want to get roped in,” she admits, adding her biological father is a pianist and her mom is a trained singer. “I was taking piano lessons and doing two piano competitions a month. I just wanted to keep it on the hush-hush.”
Her dream at 16 was to become a doctor or a veterinarian. But when she revealed her plan, her parents, mom Jenny a singer, and stepdad Nick, a music enthusiast, protested.
“My parents were so upset. They were like, ‘You should get into music while you’re young’,” she recalls. “And this is my stepdad, who is a chartered accountant. You would think he would want me to pick a practical profession.”
Lica was outed as a singer when her mother found out she had auditioned for Canadian Idol. All those moments singing to Ella, under the turned-up volume, were gone.
“I got pretty far,” she admits. “I don’t know why I did it. I really liked music, but I didn’t want to take it seriously. I didn’t want to make money off something that made me happy.”
Still, she moved on to the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music where she earned a Bachelor of Music with a major in Human Biology.
Now, seven years later — and seven albums later — she’s been putting together a repertoire that she’s very happy with, especially her most recent 12-track album, You’re Fine.
Collaborating with both Toronto and Nashville musicians, including Paul Franklin, who has worked with Shania Twain and Vince Gill, as well as Wanda Vick Burchfield (Taylor Swift and Trisha Yearwood), the album blends jazz, country and folk together.
It’s a sound that’s purely Nashvillian, akin to Grammy-award winner Kacey Musgraves.
“I became obsessed with not just country, but specifically Nashville country. It’s the art of the sound,” she says. “People like Lori McKenna, the songwriter genre where, what is it, it’s just a good song.
“We joke that it is outlaw jazz,” Lica adds. “I love something about country and folk.”