“Sirens are very powerful, mythological creatures. These beautiful women with their smoky voices lure sailors and sea-faring men,” says Joanna Barker, embodying the enthusiasm of a seasoned storyteller. “Do they die? Do they take them down to the sea? Do they live on an island somewhere? It’s never really quite said what happens to them.”
The young songwriter and Grand Falls-Windsor native moved to St. John’s last January after graduating from university in Nova Scotia. Between volunteer gigs and a her job working with people with autism, her heart is in many places. But the spot you will find it most melodiously revealed is on the stage.
For months Barker has been writing, performing and carving her niche in the city’s rich but populated folk music scene.
After befriending and performing alongside other young songwriters she decided to create an event where she and her friends could share their music in a unique and intimate way.
Sunday at “The Ship of Sirens” songwriters’ circle, Barker and local musicians Katie Baggs, Ilia Nicoll, Andrea McGuire and Danielle Smith will perform alongside Newfoundland folk music matriarch Pamela Morgan.
“Growing up, I knew Pamela as a local artist,” says Barker. “My parents had Figgy Duff records and they would take me to the Arts & Culture Centre if they were coming through town, so it’s a bit of a childhood dream to be in the position be able to actually ask her (to play), let alone have her say ‘yes.’”
Baggs, a St. John’s native who fronted the folk band Dead Language, is among the more talked-about emerging songwriters and has recently shared the stage with notable acts like Bahamas, John K. Samson and Dan Mangan. Her new band, All The Wiles, will release its debut album in the fall.
Nicoll, a travelling spirit from Southern Ontario via New Brunswick and The Netherlands, landed here in 2008 to attend university. With few public performances under her belt she still found herself swept up in the local music scene, though she says she enjoys playing in solitude at home just as much.
“I like that it has enough of a bare-bones structure that people can interpret it however they want,” she says of the event. “They can focus on the contrast between us ... and the level of skill and maturity that Pamela Morgan has reached ... or on the differences between our individual styles.
“I’m excited because it will be kind of a mix-tape performance, but all of us has a style that fits together in a way. We’re all connected by the fact that we’re singer-songwriters who sing and play guitar, but we do it differently.”
Nicoll is a member of The Hunter Gatherers and is working on her first solo record.
Andrea McGuire is a member of The Drows, a female folk trio of ukuleles, Celtic harp and three-part-harmonies who debuted with their 2011 RPM Challenge recording “Take An Apple And Go To The Mountain”.
And Danielle Smith, a young songwriter from C.B.S. with a country-folk sensibility, will round out the bunch.
Barker says she is going into the studio next month to record her debut full-length CD, which she hopes will be released sometime in the fall.
“I think it’s important for women to be represented everywhere, and the arts is no exception,” she says. “There was no point to make this about women — it just kind of happened that way because we’re all young, female songwriters and we’re all friends.”
And with respect to the Sirens, “There’s six of us, so we’ll lure ya in to The Ship,” Barker jokes. “The Ship will not be accountable that night for any lost men.”
“The Ship of Sirens” takes place at 8 p.m. Sunday at The Ship Pub. Tickets are $10 in advance at Fred’s Records and The Ship or $15 at the door.