His Saturn Returned and He’s Heading Out

Whitehorse resident Jona Barr is the songwriter and main guy behind Old Cabin

Saturn is somewhere in its grand orbit when you’re born. When it comes round again, 29.5 years later, astrologers say it can mean big changes in your life.

For Whitehorse musician Jona Barr, it was during his own period of Saturn returning that he wrote the songs for the new Old Cabin EP, Saturn Return.

“I wanted to write about things that matter,” Barr says.

He’s helmed Old Cabin since 2012 in collaboration with other musicians from the Yukon and beyond.

Old Cabin kicked off the cross-Canada tour to present Saturn Return on June 1 at an evening performance at Arts in the Park in Whitehorse.

The first single, “Where Did You Go,” is a moody, slow-building blend of strings and echoey vocal harmonies, reflecting struggles with addiction.

While he’s not struggled with addictions himself, Barr has “a lot of friends who have suffered and lost.” His parents worked as drug and alcohol counsellors and now he is working as a coordinator of a drop-in art space for young people in downtown Whitehorse and sees their struggles.

He’s hoping his music will spark conversations not only about addiction, but about other social issues such as residential school and homophobia.

The subject matter marks a turn from what Barr has written in the past.

His last album, called Old Cabin, was mostly love and break-up songs. It was made in under a month.

The new project has evolved over a longer period, influenced by what Barr saw as a kid observing his dad, Kevin Barr, and other Yukon musicians.

“I grew up watching them record and experiment at Old Crow Studios… just trying things and experimenting in a relaxed environment.”

Saturn Return reflects more of that free flow.

“When you don’t have a deadline, your mind can go to a lot of different places. So I went into it, not having that. I just wanted it to be what is was and not affected by a deadline.”

Old Cabin’s tour will take Barr and his musical team from Whitehorse across Canada throughout June, playing a different city almost every day and returning to the Yukon in July for the Atlin and Dawson City music festivals and for Popechella/Rympelooza at Annie Lake.

When playing in the Yukon, Old Cabin normally includes musicians Micah Smith, Fiona Solon and Jordy Walker. Going on an extended road tour means working with other collaborators, says Barr, because his Whitehorse bandmates “have kids and mortgages and can’t take a month off to sleep on other people’s floors.”

For the Saturn Return tour, Barr will be joined by Ottawa musicians Thean Slabbert (bass) and Pascal Delaquis (drums) and Vancouver’s Kyle Cashen (keyboards). Barr plays guitar and all four will be singing “lots of harmony.”

Saturn Return will be released later this summer under Label Fantastic. The single “Where Did You Go” will be released first, on 7-inch vinyl, through Headless Owl Records. You can listen to the single and learn more about Old Cabin’s Canadian tour at www.OldCabinFever.com.

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