Home Interviews Interview: MAHALIA BARNES


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Aussie Rock icon, Jimmy Barnes kicks off his ‘Welcome to the Pleasure House’ tour this weekend in Canberra, taking the singer on a massive national tour for the next two months. And Jimmy isn’t the only Barnes on this tour; not by a long shot! It is definitely a family affair, with various members of the clan joining him on stage, both within his band and as special guests throughout the tour. And daughter, Mahalia, is very excited to have her own band, The Soul Mates, supporting her famous father. “It’s going to be a lot of fun,” she tells me during our recent interview. “I’m really pleased that my band, The Soul Mates, will be opening up for most of the shows on the tour and I get the benefit of doing two shows. I get to do Dad’s set as well which is always a lot of fun. It’s a real family affair. It’s going to be a real rock ‘n’ roll show, with different eras of music. My band is going to be playing some new stuff; soul music and a bit of blues.” Mahalia’s sister Eliza Jane will also be opening for her father at some of the shows.  With her musical partner Ceci, they will perform as Evil J and Saint Cecelia, bringing their own unique brand of music to the show. And, at various points on the tour, Jimmy will be joined by the likes of Swanee, Ian Moss and Diesel, among other members of the clan. “It really is a family affair,” she agrees. “And in Dad’s band, we’ve got my brother Jackie, my husband Ben playing guitar, my sister Ellie will be singing. We have a lot of fun together and I just hope it shows to the audience.”


Mahalia tells me that her band has been playing together and in different arrangements over the last ten to twelve years. “They really are some of my closest friends,” she says. “The drummer is Dave Hibbard, who I’ve known for many years now and we’re very close friends. It’s always a pleasure getting to play with him. He’s an amazing soul drummer. He has a real passion for what he does. My husband Ben usually plays bass with us but as Dad has stolen him to play with his band, I’m bringing on another fantastic bass player, James Hazelwood who is an amazing player and my guitarist, Franco Raggatt is amazing. He’s one of my favourite guitarists in the country and he is constantly surprising me on shows. And then in some of the shows will be Clayton Doley and some of them will be Lachlan Doley. They’ve both played with me for as long as I’ve been doing shows and they’re taking turns on some of the shows. In Canberra, Sydney and in Twin Towns, I’m going to be bringing a horn section along too. Unfortunately, they weren’t available for the whole tour but we’re going to bring them for those couple of special shows. We play a lot of classic soul stuff but we are playing a lot of new material as well. We’re also trying out some brand new songs that we’re planning to record after the tour.”


One new song that Mahalia co-wrote with her husband is ‘Feels Right’, which will soon be released as a single. Mahalia recorded the track with her father. “We originally recorded the song with my band The Soul Mates,” she explains. “And then we decided that if Dad and I were going to tour together, we should do a song together and we added Dad into the mix and we also added an amazing guitarist, Joe Bonamassa. He’s a fantastic American guitarist. That song will be released very soon as a single and it’s very exciting for me because it’s one of my songs. I love hearing him sing on it. It’s a real honour.”


So what is it like being on the road, surrounded by family? “We have a lot of fun. Some days it’s hard. We are family and we fight sometimes; especially my brothers and sisters,” she laughs. “We all get on each other’s nerves but at the end of the day, we’re a very close family. We all get along really well. And the chance to get up there on stage, and share music, is something that I don’t really know how to explain. It’s such a unique experience and such a special thing. I relish every opportunity that I get to perform with my family because there is a different connection that you don’t get with anyone else. We’re also lucky that there’s a hell of a lot of us that like to perform and we can do that often.”


Mahalia’s three year old daughter Ruby will also be joining her parents on the tour.  “Because my husband and I play together most of the time, we tend to take her with us,” she explains. “Sometimes I feel a bit bad dragging her around the country but, at the end of the day, she’s a very good traveller. She loves being around the shows. She gets to hang out with her grandpa and my mum always comes on the tour as well. When she’s not performing, she hangs out with Ruby a lot. You know, she gets spoiled! She gets to see different places and meet different people and she just loves it. For now, while she’s not at school, that’s a good arrangement. People always say it must be hard being a touring musician with a young child, but we do get to spend most of our time with her, rather than having babysitters or having her in day care all the time. So I think that we’re actually very lucky to get to spend a lot of time with her.”


Mahalia admits that she has been very blessed to perform with some incredible artists over the years and has met some of her idols through music and through her family but the events of the last year or so in particular stand out as something very special.  Appearing on The Voice, she says, was a life changing experience for her. “It was an opportunity for me to get out there and perform to a whole new audience,” she explains. “And to really cement myself in the industry as my own entity as an artist and not just as Jimmy’s daughter and the support that I received from doing that, and the response that I got from the audiences, made me feel so humbled and so honoured. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.”


And from that experience, came another amazing opportunity for the singer; to be the ambassador for Weight Watchers for the year. “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” Mahalia reveals. “I feel like it’s really improved my life drastically. I feel like a new person – literally! I’ve lost 20 kilos on the program. I’ve been exposed to some incredibly inspiring people and their stories and I’ve learned a lot about feeling good and feeling healthy and how important it is. I couldn’t care less about how I look. I care about how I feel. It’s given me a new lease on life to perform and I can be a better mum and I feel great. It’s really been an amazing journey for me and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”




by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © 2013 Sharyn Hamey All Rights Reserved


The ‘Welcome to the Pleasure House’ tour kicks off this Sunday, 4th August at the Theatre Centre, Canberra. For a full list of dates and venues, click here

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