The Frostbite Music Festival has always been an important part of Jona Barr’s life. He grew up in a musical environment that included annual attendance of one of Whitehorse’s best-loved music festivals.
But his involvement with Frostbite didn’t stop there; later he began to take an active role in making it happen, from co-organizing the FrostBYTE Battle of the Bands and running a songwriting workshop, to working as a committee head and, of course, performing in the festival.
For Barr, this year will be nothing new, except for one thing: this will be the first year he performs his own solo project, Old Cabin.
Though he only formed Old Cabin last year, Barr has been writing his own songs for the last seven or eight years, and is no stranger to the stage besides.
Old Cabin performers (l. to r.) Ryan McNally, Fiona Solon, Jona Barr, Johnny Rodgers and Micah Smith PHOTO: Mo Whibley
Currently, he also plays in his father’s country-folk band, Kevin Barr and Blue Eagle, as well as the indie rock group Death in Venice.
Backed by well-known fellow Whitehorse musicians like Ryan McNally, Fiona Solon and Johnny Rodgers, Barr loosely classifies his music with Old Cabin as ‘alternative folk’, describing it as more instrument-oriented than Death In Venice, in which he and Rodgers both play.
“This is more about songwriting, more focused on words and harmonies,” says Barr. “There’s sing-alongs… It’s a fun show, pretty relaxed and pretty chill.”
Though he works most often in a trio with Solon and Rodgers, Barr also collaborates with musicians Micah Smith, Jordy Walker, Kyle Cashen and Gordie Tentrees.
“I’ve got really good musicians backing me up,” he says, “They’re all good friends. Everybody takes it seriously but they have lots of fun, too. I’m pretty stoked on it!”
Since the formation of the project, Old Cabin has been playing shows steadily, much to Barr’s delight.
At the time of this interview, he was in the middle of a four-gig week, which included playing with Greg MacPherson at Mark & Paddy’s Wondrous Music Emporium in Whitehorse, and two shows in Dawson City, playing at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) and The Pit, with Dawson band Community Chest.
All of these shows aren’t the only thing Barr’s in the middle of, however. Old Cabin has also just released a split EP done with Old Time Machine, and recorded by Jordy Walker. It was released online in late January, and they have already been selling copies at shows.
“We started selling them at Moonstroke. They’ve been selling like hotcakes!” says Barr.
After Frostbite, he plans to record a full-length album, again with Walker.
“The songs are all ready,” he says. “We’re set to record the Monday after Frostbite, and the album will hopefully be released by late April or early May.”
With all of this on the go, it’s no wonder Barr says he spends as much time making music as he does working.
Influenced by local musicians young and old, he appreciates the diversity and richness of the Yukon’s music and the talent of the many amateur and professional musicians who collaborate with and inspire him in all his musical endeavours.
As for the upcoming Frostbite performance this weekend, he looks forward to simply playing and enjoying good music, and encourages everyone to come out and do the same.
“This should be a big year,” he says. “We’ve already sold more tickets than last year. It just keeps getting better and better.”
Old Cabin will be playing mainstage on Saturday, February 18 at 9 p.m. For more information, sound clips and pictures, visit them on Facebook or Tumblr.