April Barrows survived the sixties in San Francisco. When she graduated
from high school she got her musician's union card, but had to work
to support her younger sister. A few years later, she ran away to
Nashville to be a musician. She struggled for recognition as a sideman,
then spent several frustrating years writing jazz songs in the home
of country music. Today, however, April is celebrating her first
national release and a multi-record deal with Kokopelli Records.
Indeed, listening to April Barrows' story it begins to sound like
one of the songs that regularly emanate from her adopted home, Nashville.
April's life- and her compositions- are much deeper than that. Her
debut release, My Dream is You, features two cover tunes (a Duke
Ellington piece and a Nat King Cole song) as well as ten originals.
It is her originals - a rich blend of immensely contemporary lyrics
and solidly rooted swing melodies - that make April stand apart
from other newcomers on the music scene.
Wishing On A Sax
April Barrows was born in Milford, Connecticut, but moved at age
five to the San Francisco Bay area. Like many artists, she grew
up in a musical home and says her strongest imprint came from her
mother's extensive collection of 78s. "My mother raised a bunch
of kids, but she managed to have an artistic life. She was really
into boogie-woogie, but also had a great love for classical music.
She played her record collection to keep all of us kids amused.
Music was always there. As a result, when I started writing songs,
the swing thing just fell out."
As a teen April learned of other jazz greats, including Ella Fitzgerald,
Duke Ellington, Mildred Bailey, Louis Armstrong and the Boswell
Sisters. "I was a tomboy, through and through. When I graduated
from high school, I owned a guitar, a few million records and I
could fix my own Volvo. I had always wanted to play the sax, but
my parents insisted that I play violin in the orchestra. Getting
My musician's union card after high school was a big moment for
Follow That Dream
April was also raised on the "flower power" culture of the Bay area.
"The music scene of the 60s was incredible! I had the whole hippie
experience. Musically, it influenced me to do my own thing, find
my own voice. The storytellers of Rock and Roll were my heroes:
Bob Dylan, The Beatles and later Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris."
Music was always April's great love, but family obligations forced
her to take a day job. "I was raising a sister and working as a
quality control specialist for a pharmaceutical company. I was making
tons of money and had a lot of responsibility. But every spare minute
I spent playing music with any band I could get into. When my sister
grew up, I came to the conclusion that the only way I'd be happy
was as a full-time musician.
"A friend called with an offer to play bass for a few weeks with
a band out of Nashville. That afternoon, I loaded 13 boxes of records
and a suitcase into my car, and I stole away in the middle of the
night. "I moved to Nashville to make records and get into the music
business. It seemed like a town to get things happening. I wanted
to be Emmylou Harris. But of course, when I got to Nashville, she
was living and recording in LA!"
With a Song in Her Heart
As one can imagine being a jazz/swing singer-songwriter living in
Nashville had its ups and downs.
"I was focusing on being a sideman - playing bass and working with
a lot of musicians. (During this time, April played and recorded
with such diverse talents as Woody Herman and Vassar Clements.)
But, it didn't feel like I was getting anywhere, I still wanted
to make a record. I noticed that bands were driven by the songwriter.
So in 1985, I became a full time writer."
April became an integral part of the Nashville songwriting community
and spent a number of years writing country bluegrass and blues
tunes. "This is how I learned to write. I found though, that when
I was just writing for myself, the swing tunes would just come out.
Eventually, I realized that there was an overwhelming strength and
personal truth in my jazz songs, and I consciously started to develop
my 'natural voice.' I went back and studied songwriters from the
great era of jazz, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Arlen and Mercer.
I had already written Mr. Moon, An Old Stuffed Sofa and Where the
Blue Begins, so it came as a big surprise to learn how similar our
methods and approaches were."
April's critically acclaimed 1996 debut release, My Dream Is
You, was another big moment from the singer/songwriter. From
her farm near Nashville, surrounded by ducks, chickens, geese, dogs
and cats, however, April immediately began planning her next move.
"I want to work with Harry 'Sweets' Edison, Doc Cheatham, David
Newman, and Clark Terry. I'd love to work with Wynton Marsalis.
I went to see him a while ago and I sat right up in the front row.
He threw some trumpet notes down on my lap and wow." Sounds like
Now with the release of her new album, All You Need Is The Girl
on her own label, Mellotone Records; and various live
performances and recording sessions, April is back...and all you