Olivia Barton is a recent Berklee College of Music graduate, originally from Florida and the youngest of four artistic siblings. She writes raw folk/singer songwriter songs with a sound world similar to Phoebe Bridgers, Sarah Jarosz and Snail Mail, yet with the lyrical poetry of Joni Mitchell. But unlike most artists out there, she possess an incredible quality to hold a space so safe and supportive whilst addressing oft painful issues such as heartbreak or lack of self-worth with an incredible simplicity and honesty. I’ve been her fan since hearing her at a house show of friend and Berklee alum MARO, two years back, and am beyond excited to share her recently released whole album worth of what I strongly believe will become timeless classics. Why, you ask, do I make such a statement?
I can’t really name many other songs or artists that will make me cry on command, from the depths of my core, regardless of whether I’m sitting in fully filled Cafe Nero in the heart of Boston or not. It may not look it, but it’s evokes a wonderful feeling of relief and softening as my heart feels like it’s been cracked open. That feeling is all too often pushed past in our achievement based society that forgets what it means to regain balance. Barton guides us through her healing process via this deeply personal album, so that even when you wouldn’t choose to face your own feelings, she takes your hand and gently assures you that it’s ok. She takes your heart by the hand, and shows you how she sits with everything, every wish, desire, joy and pain, and in doing so gifting the power to let them go.
Most streamed track, "If You Say I’m Special," opens the 8 song album and really sets the scene for the entire album’s journey. With poignant vocals, reverb and comforting guitar with a sound like it was recorded alone in her bedroom, the raw-ness and pace feels like a throbbing wound when it’s been wiped clean of grit and dirt form falling. Yet when the opener song, gently hits the Bb9 chord with lyrics "if you say I’m special", it opens me up every time.
The breath after ‘special’ is so special. And it’s so simple. With the very best music, it is the intention of honesty that demands the simplicity, not the other way around. Not an inch of expression is lost with the haunting vocals, throbbing beat and simple guitar strummed to an emotional arch akin to that of a deep cry and the release that follows.
With the tempo of slow gentle breath she addresses each issue with clear intention, holding it up like a crystal to the light and examining every angle with non-judgmental love. Thus although she addresses heavy issues, she maintains a lightness of perspective that is oft lost when we feel such emotions. In doing so she reminds you that we’re all human and it is all temporary. And that we cause more pain by hiding from our wounds. With stream of thought like structures that at the same time feel very paced, it’s similar to a cleansing shower, deep meditation, or satisfying cry. Ultimately the most powerful lesson Barton shares is to be honest with your emotions in order to release them.
The virtue that comes from her writing with such honestly is that she has miraculously managed to package very human struggles with crystal clear clarity, something that silently expresses deep wisdom, patience and strength that most of us aren’t able to apply when living through these types of situations. So there’s nothing kinder that you can do for yourself this hour, week, or month, than to give yourself some much needed space, and put on Barton’s record in a candle-lit room and let it help you release everything pent up inside of your heart like the shoulder of a compassionate friend.
Check out her full album I Could Have Smiled At You More HERE