The Austin Chronicle

Joanna Barbera’s Seven-Year Itch

By Abby Johnston, March 27, 2014, 1:37pm, Earache!

Like Marilyn Monroe, Joanna Barbera has a seven-year itch. In June, the S.F.-via-NYC transplant celebrates seven years in Austin. Her upcoming tour, with a new video, publishing company, and local Shane Cooley in tow, could temporarily relieve the tickle. She starts tonight at Holy Mountain with guests Jason Anderson and Aisha Burns.

August release Forget, Barbera’s second LP, found her settling further into her adopted home by dusting off Southwestern platitudes.

“In dipping in with different groups of musicians, I finally got out of that fantasized, ‘I’m in Texas! Imma be a folk singer,’” says Barbera, lapsing into her best Lone Star drawl. “I thought it was what I was supposed to do in Texas.”

On Forget, the self-described “classic Italian New Yorker” draws on artists that marked her early musical education – Elliott Smith, Cat Power, PJ Harvey – rather than the Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin train she rode for debut Carnival Beginning.

“It was fun to try on that costume for a little while, but I’m now trying to find my own sound, which doesn’t sound ‘Austin,’” she ventures. “I love Austin so much, but I’m starting to get a little itchy. I think that’s what got me out of the folk thing. I wanted to make a national record.”

Going out on a two-week jaunt through the South, Barbera’s got plenty to fuel those ambitions. Alongside a freshly inked deal with Nashville copyright administrators Words & Music (home to Dixie Chicks and Waylon Jennings), she has a three-minute noir directed by Jordan Haro (Max Frost’s “Nice and Slow”) tied to Forget closer “Lesson.” Could these be the final thrusts to take her from local to transient?

If nothing else, a wandering soul always benefits from time spent outside the Austin city limits. Barbera looks forward to a four-day stop in New Orleans, a few days in Nashville, and general disruption of her usual local discourse.

“I’m always inspired by traveling. Makes me remember why I’m doing all of this. Plus, I usually get good songwriting out of it,” she enthuses. “If my brain isn’t stimulated, my creative well dries up. Traveling and meeting new people puts a reserve of creative energy on the side when I get back. Then, I’m inspired to write something.”

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