Maya Angelou said it best with, “a bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song.” What she means is that a bird’s song is a means of individuality; it sings because it must. It’s a lesson to us all to stop looking for the answers to everything, and start enjoying life and the gifts we are given.
Emerging singer Robin Barnes is a living reminder of that quote. Using her musical gifts to pursue her dream, she takes advantage of the opportunities she has been given to build her career, represent her city, and bring joy with her songs. She captivates her audience with her voice and power, and for those few moments, there is no need to continue searching for meaning and answers to life. For those few moments, there is only music.
Growing up in a musical entourage much like a modern-day Partridge family, Robin used music to bond with her older siblings and parents. Her father and older brothers started a band called ‘The Soul Heirs,” and after sitting in on many of their gigs, she started singing with them at a young age, cultivating a passion for music through her admiration of her family’s band.
“I am blessed to be in New Orleans where music not only brings a family together, it inspires with a way of life,” explained Robin.
Besides using music as a way to become closer to her family, she became passionate about becoming an entertainer. To her, entertaining was not about having the spotlight on herself, but about connecting with her audience and sharing the experience with others.
“I feel joy connecting with people and giving them a great show, “ says Robin. “I want to be able to take people away with my music.”
Robin has abundant love for her hometown of New Orleans. Besides the inspiration she draws from the city, she finds that if offers many opportunities to musicians, specifically females. While many well-known entertainers have come out of New Orleans, most have been men, giving women a new opportunity to shine and more ambition to make names for themselves and other female jazz musicians as well.
The songstress has been able to brand herself as a well-rounded musician, with an emphasis on the classical jazz qualities for which New Orleans is so well known. With her strong, unique voice and high energy, Robin emulates the strength of male musical legends while remaining feminine as her formula for success.
Having had opera training, Robin’s voice ranges from soprano to deep alto, giving her the ability to sing deep, soulful blues like a man in one song, and using a sweet, classically trained soft voice in another.
“I love when I can sing a classic like ‘La Vie en Rose.’ I’ll sing the first verse in alto II, a low alto, then repeat the same verse in alto I but in French. Then, by the third verse, I like to shock everyone and sing it with a high Soprano I,” explains the singer. “ I love not only leaving my audience wondering how I’m going to sing a song, but also how I’m going to make it my own.”
In addition to showcasing the unexpected and captivating range of her voice, she likes to add her own unique twist to covers. She sometimes creates a remix by combining classics with her own modern flair, as she has down with Harry Nilsson’s “Lime in the Coconut” and the late Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”
Robin’s singing style, inspired by different musical genres, has been called edgy jazz, and often moves from jazz to blues to soul. Sometimes she changes the genre of a modern song into a more bluesy and sultry piece to make a cover her own, as exemplified in her rendition of Kanye West’s “Heartless.”
Robin takes her passion for New Orleans and musical inspiration from singers such as Irma Thomas, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Adele..
“I want to represent New Orleans as a cultural ambassador,” says Robin. “In the light of having a masters in business, I am a born and raised musician, and I am proud and fortunate to have best of both worlds.”
In her upcoming album, Robin’s original songs are relatable to a nationwide and international audience. She sings about lessons, life, family and love, but, like a true New Orleans artist, she includes hints of the city in all her songs with mentions of local sayings, flavor, and sounds throughout each piece.
“My mama always said, she did well in naming me Robin because of my love for music, my diversity in style, and ability to range.”
She did indeed.