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    Barbara Higbie Talks About Her New Release, Women’s Music, 2024 Shows, and East Bay Faves

    Barbara Higbie

    Grammy-nominated, Bammy award winning composer, pianist, fiddler, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Barbara Higbie has performed on more than 100 albums, including at least one for Carlos Santa and another that was recorded at Lucas Film’s Skywalker Sound. She contributed to 12 Windham Hill compilations that have sold in the multi-millions. Her solo releases remain standouts, and particularly at this time of year when cozying up to her season-inspired works provides comfort and joy.

    Her latest, Solstice, is part of Higbie’s new “Chillogy” series. It features inventive, instrumental versions of Christmas, Hanukkah, Divali, and original tunes. She recently took time to do an interview with the San Francisco Bay Times while preparing for her December 17 show at The Freight & Salvage in Berkeley. In case you missed this stellar performance, she will be performing again at The Freight January 5–6, 2024, with Cris Williamson and other music legends!

    San Francisco Bay Times: For those not familiar with your “Chillogy” series, please explain the idea behind it and how the individual CDs stand on their own while also adding to the whole of the series. 

    Barbara Higbie: My new “Chillogy” series came about trying to please a friend! Theresa Lumiere, a genius body worker, asked me to record music that she could use in her work. The first of the three albums, Resonance, featuring the amazing Jami Sieber and Mia Pixley on cellos and brilliant Michaelle Goerlitz on percussion, produced by Lisa Vogel, was released in 2019. Resonance became a surprise underground “hit.” Several people stopped me on the street and said they had “worn it out.” It became so popular, we decided to record a follow up, Murmuration, adding Vicki Randle on guitars. While we were recording Murmuration, I had a creative burst and composed a whole new album in a few nights. We recorded all of those pieces, which became the third album. Presence.

    The term “Chillogy” is almost tongue in cheek, but it’s true! It’s music created in the spirit of healing and renewal, and people find that it really works in their lives. In traffic, while on the computer, with your family, you name it. It is instrumental music that is chill, while including real musical and emotional content that lifts your spirit up.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What inspired you to create your latest recording, Solstice

    Barbara Higbie: I was inspired to create the new Solstice album in honor of my longtime friend, pianist George Winston. He passed in June 2023. I thought some music would help my sadness. He knew how to capture seasons in his music, and I hoped I could do the same.

    San Francisco Bay Times: Your recordings reflect not only your skill as a musician, composer, and producer, but also your ability to collaborate. Solstice, as for your other works, brings together such a talented group of artists, particularly other women artists. Please tell us about them, shedding light on their own impressive careers.

    Barbara Higbie: We were so lucky that Jami Sieber, the brilliant composer and electric cellist from Seattle, Mia Pixley, the phenomenal young acoustic cellist and singer from Oakland, and my amazing producer, Lisa Vogel, were all available for a brief window of time. We recorded at a state-of-the-art studio in Berkeley that has a $200,000 German handmade piano and the best engineer in the business. That is why the sonic experience, on all four albums, even on earbuds, is over the moon!

    Barbara Higbie

    San Francisco Bay Times: You have a long history with The Freight, currently serving as Co-Chair of its board. Please share why this venue and organization remain important to you. 

    Barbara Higbie: I am so excited about The Freight and Salvage. If you haven’t been there, go to a show ASAP! Having toured extensively the last few decades, I can safely say that it is one of the top five listening rooms in the world. The music is incredibly diverse, community-oriented, and so creative. I’ve been serving on the board for several years and am currently Co-Chair of the board with conductor Elizabeth Seja Min. It is one of the gems of the Bay Area, and the world. It’s been in Berkeley for 55 years, and is going strong. What a miracle!

    San Francisco Bay Times: While you work in many different genres, Women’s Music has been a constant. Other artists, such as Holly Near and photographer Irene Young, are working to preserve its history while fostering its growth. How do you see your place in Women’s Music, and how do you envision this genre evolving? 

    Barbara Higbie: I love Women’s Music and the artists who work in that genre. Ferron is a true genius, as are Cris Williamson, Teresa Trull, Vicki Randle, and Holly Near, to name a few. The band Skip the Needle is amazing! Everyone is welcome and the atmosphere at those shows is so warm and welcoming. I’ve played in so many scenes: jazz, folk, bluegrass, smooth jazz, trad jazz, classical, new classical, and I believe that Women’s Music is the most creative and future thinking of all of them. If you don’t know about it, check it out for sure! There is a lot of documenting of the history of the movement right now, because we have already lost some of the greats. Cris Williamson’s upcoming shows at The Freight in January 2024 will be great.

    San Francisco Bay Times: What do you enjoy doing outside of music? We would love to hear your recommendations for favorite places, events, and more here in the Bay Area.

    Barbara Higbie: My favorite places in the East Bay are too many to name: Comal or Revival Restaurant, if you are heading to The Freight; Café Raj on Solano if you need late night bites; Point Isabel Dog Park or the Albany Bulb if you have a pup; the fire trail behind the Space Sciences building at UC Berkeley; Cafenated Coffee Company for a heated outdoor group gathering any time of day; and the Pub on Solano (Schmidt’s) for old world intimacy. We moved back to Indianapolis for over a year to take care of my folks, and I will never take the Bay Area food scene for granted again!

    I love backpacking in the Sierras. Bluegrass great Laurie Lewis and I go several times every summer. It is hard work, but so worth it.

    San Francisco Bay Times: You mentioned The Freight shows in 2024. What else do you have planned for the new year?

    Barbara Higbie: 2024 will see me touring in New Zealand with the great Teresa Trull, both on an Olivia adventure trip and on land. We will also be playing the National Women’s Music Festival. Also, my one child, daughter Lena, is graduating from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, hoping to go into corporate environmental responsibility. The young ones are on the environmental issues!

    I also plan to work hard on the upcoming election, because democracy is something that my daughter and her kids and their kids need.

    Arts & Entertainment
    Published on December 21, 2023