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Rebecca Barnard (born Rebecca Chirnside Barnard on 26 December 1960) is a Melbourne-based Australian singer, songwriter and musician. She was the lead singer of the band Rebecca's Empire from 1993 to 2000, and has forged a solo career since her debut album, Fortified, was released in 2006. Her second solo album, Everlasting, was released in 2010. After a lengthy break of just under seven years, Barnard released her third solo album in 2017, called Music for Listening and Relaxation.
Barnard has a versatile musical range, delving into rock, pop, and jazz genres, and has been a constant fixture in the Australian music scene for over three decades.
Barnard comes from a rich musical family history. In the 1920s her grandparents Jim and Kath Barnard ran The Kath Barnard Jazz Band. Rebecca Barnard is the daughter of acclaimed Australian jazz drummer Len Barnard AM (once a member of the jazz band, Galapagos Duck) and Jane Chirnside. In 1952 The Len Barnard Jazz Band recorded Australia's first microgroove LP record and toured extensively in Australia and overseas until his death in 2005. Her uncle is Bob Barnard, who is an accomplished Australian jazz trumpet and cornet stylist. Barnard is inherently a jazz singer, and has said "I’ve always sung jazz, that’s sort of like my first love, you know, it’s like breathing. It’s sort of effortless." Barnard begun singing jazz in Melbourne venues when she was just 16.
Barnard grew up in the outer-eastern Melbourne suburb of Mooroolbark, and during her childhood listened to Gladys Moncrieff, Fats Waller, Pinetop Smith, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. Barnard started playing music at 10, when her father gave her a guitar, and she started writing songs at 12. At 14, she became acquainted with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.
Barnard featured in the following Australian bands, Daktari (1982), The Escalators (1983-1984), Black Coffee (and the Beans) (1985), Wayback 5 (1986), Romance Without Finance, Peaceful Anticipation Social Aid and Pleasure Club (1990), Stephen Cummings Band (1986 and 1990–91), The Trees (a pop band with John McAll) (1990), Triple Peaks (1991), and the Rebecca Barnard Band (1992). During this time (1982 to 1992), Rebecca spent many years in refining her live performance and vocal skills, and was an in-demand session singer, providing vocals and backing vocals on many Australian albums (including soundtracks and guest starring with various musicians). She went on to record and tour with Stephen Cummings, where she met Shane O’Mara (guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer). They were married in 1989 and amicably separated in 2009.
In the late 1980's, Barnard featured on Tonight Live with Steve Vizard and The Big Gig, as part of the in-house band for the respective shows, with the band Swinging Sidewalks.
When songwriting became a focus, she founded the band Rebecca's Empire in 1993, initially as a duo with O'Mara. In 1994, the band included Peter Luscombe, and Bill McDonald. Michael den Elzen joined the band in 1995, when Bill McDonald left Rebecca's Empire to play with the band Frente!. The band toured extensively, supported acts such as Billy Bragg and Paul Kelly on their respective Australian tours, released three EPs and two albums (Way of All Things in 1996, and Welcome in 1999) and appeared on the Triple J Hottest 100 albums three years in a row. The track "Way of All Things" was featured on the soundtrack to the Australian film Blackrock and featured on the hit television series, Good Guys Bad Guys. At this height of popularity, Barnard had her own cooking segment on Triple J called Pot of Rock. Barnard has since said of her popularity at this time, that she had "wasted a real good opportunity to do more with the momentum that we had".
Rebecca’s Empire formally disbanded in June 2000 when the duties of being a mother took priority (Barnard gave birth to her son with O'Mara, Harry, on January 29, 1996) and due to conflict between herself and Shane O'Mara . During this time and post 2000, many Australian bands recorded their albums in O'Mara and Barnard's home studio called "Yikesville".
In 2002, Rebecca Barnard contributed to the album "The Women at the Well" - an album featuring Australian female artists covering Paul Kelly songs. Rebecca's contribution was the song "She's Rare".
Barnard has appeared on recordings by other Australian artists such as Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers, Renée Geyer, Deborah Conway, The Meanies, Warped, Stephen Cummings, TISM, You Am I, The Black Sorrows, The Fauves, Kutcha Edwards, The Audreys, Guy Pearce, plus many others.
Barnard has been credited in providing the means for singer Vika Bull, in starting her musical career, when one of the backing vocalists in Barnard's band lost her voice, Vika Bull (who was a receptionist at Platinum Studios (Melbourne)), volunteered to fill the space.
- Papa Dip
- A Token Of Friendship
- The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
- Happy Feet
- Put Em' Down Blues
- The Naked Dance
- Memphis Shake
- Sing On
- Come Back Sweet Papa
- The Peanut Vendor
- Once In A While
- Stomp Time
- Come On Coot And Play That Thing
- Wait Till You See My Baby Do The Charleson
- Oriental Strut
- The Charleston