Rebecca Barnard

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Rebecca Barnard
Barnard in 2005
Barnard in 2005
Background information
Birth nameRebecca Chirnside Barnard
Born (1960-12-26) 26 December 1960 (age 62)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia [1]
GenresPop, rock, jazz
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter
  • jazz singer
  • producer
  • teacher
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, bass
Years active1982–present

Rebecca Chirnside Barnard (born 26 December 1960) is an Australian singer, songwriter, producer 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, Music for Listening and Relaxation, in 2017. She released her first solo jazz album, The Night We Called It A Day, in 2023.

Barnard is a Melbourne-based musician with a versatile musical range, delving into rock, pop and jazz genres. She has been a constant fixture in the Australian music scene for over four decades.

Barnard has appeared on recordings by many Australian artists including 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 and Guy Pearce.

Early years[edit]

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 Australian jazz drummer Len Barnard (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."[2] Barnard begun singing jazz in Melbourne venues when she was 16.[3]

Barnard was born in Melbourne and grew up in the outer-eastern Melbourne suburb of Mooroolbark in an estate designed by Edna Walling.[1] During her childhood, she listened to Gladys Moncrieff, Fats Waller, Pinetop Smith, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong. She started playing music at 10 when her father gave her a guitar and started writing songs at 12.[4] At 14, she became acquainted with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan.

Barnard featured in the Australian bands Daktari (1982), the Escalators (1983-1984), Black Coffee (and the Beans) (1985), Way Back Five (1986), Romance Without Finance, Peaceful Anticipation Social Aid and Pleasure Club (1990), the 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). The band Way Back Five were a "super group" which played funk and reggae covers and consisted of Barnard, Kate Ceberano, Phil Ceberano, James Reyne and Steve Kearney (from Los Trio Ringbarkus). Barnard has indicated that Michael Hutchence (from INXS) sang with the band at one of their gigs.[5]

From 1982 to 1992, Barnard refined her live performance and vocal skills and was an in-demand session singer,[6] 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 1980s, Barnard featured on Tonight Live with Steve Vizard and The Big Gig as part of the inhouse band for the respective shows. The band Swinging Sidewalks, featured on The Big Gig, was a jazz band which featured the singers Kerri Simpson and Shelley Scown.[1]

Barnard has credited the journalist Jill Singer in giving her the confidence to sing her own songs.[1]

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 in 1995 when McDonald left 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.[7] 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 said of her popularity at this time that she had "wasted a real good opportunity to do more with the momentum that we had".[8]

Rebecca's Empire formally disbanded in June 2000 when being a mother took priority (Barnard gave birth to her son with O'Mara, Harry, on 29 January 1996) and due to conflict between herself and O'Mara .[8] During this time and post 2000, many Australian bands recorded their albums in O'Mara and Barnard's home studio called Yikesville.

Barnard indicated that she suffered writer's block from 2000 to 2005, hence a hiatus between Rebecca's Empire ending and her solo career commencing.[5]

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. Bull, who was a receptionist at Platinum Studios in Melbourne, volunteered to fill the space.[9]

Solo career[edit]

She has recorded three solo albums, namely Fortified (2006),[10] Everlasting (2010), and after a lengthy hiatus, the album Music for Listening and Relaxation (2017). Barnard is known for her personal and heartfelt lyrics.[11] Her first two albums are on her own record label, Ladybird and distributed by Shock Records.

In 2022, it was announced that Barnard would be releasing her first album of jazz standards entitled The Night We Called It A Day, which has been produced and arranged by Barnard's friend Monique diMattina.

None of Rebecca's solo albums have charted on the Australian ARIA charts - it has been difficult for a performer like Rebecca Barnard to gain exposure for her original work, due to limitations of promotional budgets and lack of airplay. She also cites agism in the music industry as a factor for the lack of exposure "It is an ageist industry especially if you’re a woman. I’m doing the best stuff I’ve ever done now but you just do it because it feels good and that’s what you do.[4]

Fortified (2006)[edit]

Fortified was co-produced by Barnard and her then husband, Shane O'Mara, and recorded at their home studio, Yikesville. She commenced writing material for the album in 2003.[12] Fortified featured various Melbourne musicians such as Lisa Miller (backing vocals), Tim Rogers (backing vocals), Peter Jones (drums), Michael Barker of the John Butler Trio (drums) and Snout's Ross McLennan (bass). The album contains tracks penned by Barnard and co-writers, including Rosemary Milne who wrote the lyrics to the theme of Play School on the song "I Hurt" (a track about the dark side of love). Fortified features one cover song, the Bob Dylan song "Boots of Spanish Leather". The album is led with the exuberant track "Keep Smiling", a song which deals with a longstanding relationship (either family or a friend) and the feeling of being so close, disassociated and out of control as a person becomes older ("who would have guessed, we would be such a mess ... down the track").

Track listing

  1. "Keep Smiling" – 5:06
  2. "Little Boy" – 4:11
  3. "Fortified" – 4:31
  4. "Nobody Breaks This Heart" – 3:53
  5. "Sirens" – 3:33
  6. "Such A Bore" – 3:58
  7. "The Moon" – 3:05
  8. "I Hurt" – 4:42
  9. "As Free As You Can Be"– 4:50
  10. "Husbands"– 4:05
  11. "Boots of Spanish Leather"– 5:57

Everlasting (2010)[edit]

The emotive Everlasting was recorded in New York City, and mixed at Tony Bennett's studio in Englewood New Jersey, during a two-week stint of recording in 2008, with the help of jazz pianist Barney McAll, a long-time friend of Barnard and the first album without the assistance of Shane O'Mara. Rebecca Barnard co-produced this album with Barney McAll, which deals with issues of loss and love. The track Everlasting deals with the death of her father, jazz musician, Len Barnard. Everlasting includes some mature pop songs infused with jazz, such as Born in a Shirt (a Russian metaphor for being born lucky).[13] The tracks were all written by Barnard, except the track Seasong which is cover of a track by Robert Wyatt. The album was predominantly promoted by Barnard herself due to the lack of a promotional budget.[14] Everlasting was made with the assistance of a VicARTS grant. Rebecca has said "How incredible that we live in a society, where most of us are to be free to be. The government giving a 49-year-old woman money to write and record music. There are thousands of women out there deserving of this. Women that struggle with the constant dilemma of creativity versus motherhood, hormonal weirdness, ageing parents, trying to be everything to everyone."[15] The album received favourable reviews upon its release.[16]

Everlasting was also the ABC Radio "disc of the week" (week starting 21 June 2010), where the album received some airplay. The ABC Radio review of the album indicated that Everlasting was "sultry, sassy and even a little bit sexy, Rebecca captures the sound of a woman on top of her game."[17]

The musicians on the album (apart from Barnard and Barney McAll) include Matt Darriau (he plays a clarinet solo on the song You Are Loved), drummer Dan Rieser (ex-band member from Marcy Playground and drummer for Norah Jones), jazz musician Jonathan Maron on bass (from the band Groove Collective), and cellist Rufus Cappadocia.[18][19]

Track listing

  1. "Born in a Shirt" – 4:58
  2. "Age 14" – 5:37
  3. "Everlasting" – 4:51
  4. "Fall and Walk" – 4:35
  5. "Give Way" – 5:25
  6. "Own Time" – 4:27
  7. "Closer to You" – 3:14
  8. "Seasong" – 3:09
  9. "Little Ruffy"– 3:16
  10. "You Are Loved"– 4:30

Music for Listening and Relaxation (2017)[edit]

The album was released on iTunes on 9 April 2017, and available on music streaming websites such as Tidal and Spotify, with the album being officially launched in Melbourne on 8 July 2017.

For this album, Barnard collaborated with Michael den Elzen, (who previously played bass with Rebecca's Empire on their 1996 album, Way of All Things). The album was recorded in den Elzen's studio in Central Victoria, called Waldemar's Studio. The album was a true collaboration between Rebecca and Michael, as they play all the instruments on the album. Rebecca on vocals, guitar, kalimba, percussion and keyboards, whilst Michael plays guitars, bass, drums, percussion, cello, double bass, keyboard, banjo, mandolin, tzoura, chimes vocal, and also undertook the field recording of the Australian bush, which features heavily on the album.

Barnard has indicated that the album was inspired by "the power of nature, love, the fragile beauty of planet Earth", and that this is reflected in the lyrics.[20]

The title Music for Listening and Relaxation was inspired by an old record cover Barnard found in an opportunity shop in the Blue Mountains. Barnard indicated that the title "seemed to encapsulate the mood of the songs we were writing at the time, and our obsession with nature photographer Michael K Morcombe."[20]

Barnard has indicated that in retrospect she should have called the album 'Music for Listening', "because some people seriously have thought it's a new age meditation record. Or I should have called it 'Music for Listening while Driving."[4]

Barnard indicated that many of the tracks on the album focused on the fate of the world, where "Golden Hour" is about nature, "Black Coral" about aging and young girls, and "Crash and Burn" being inspired by Australian Greens founder Bob Brown – where Barnard was inspired by a quote of his "If it goes, it's gone forever" – Barnard said, "(It) just stuck in my mind, so you know, it is a bit negative.".[1]

Track listing (All songs by Rebecca Barnard and Michael den Elzen)

  1. "Everything We Knew" – 5:56
  2. "Golden Hour" – 8:29
  3. "Crash and Burn" – 5:34
  4. "Sound Your Heart Makes" – 5:20
  5. "All at Sea" – 4:24
  6. "Black Coral" – 7:24
  7. "Generations" – 2:32
  8. "Smoking Gun" – 4:42
  9. "Flash A New Love" – 4:46
  10. "Melancholia"– 6:49

Soundtracks and other appearances[edit]

In 1986, Barnard provided vocals to the songs "The Moon" and "Detective Love" on the motion picture soundtrack to Jamezee's Changing Name – Do You "Speak My Language?" album.[21]

In 1995, Rebcca's Empire contributed to a compilation jazz and blues album called Up All Night, with a song written by O'Mara and Stephen Cummings called "One Step".[22]

In 2002, Barnard contributed to the album The Women at the Well, an album featuring Australian female artists covering Paul Kelly songs. Her contribution was the song "She's Rare".

In 2013, Barnard contributed to The Boy Castaways movie soundtrack with the song "I Know Where You're Going". The film featured Paul Capsis, Tim Rogers and Megan Washington. The film was directed by Michael Kantor.

In 2016, Barnard featured on the tracks "Now That Our Babies Have Grown", a duet with Paul Kelly, and "The Children" as part of the Pesky Bones project. The project features different Australian artists singing in diverse styles. It was established by the Boom Crash Opera founder Peter Farnan (with all songs written by him).


Rebecca Barnard is known for her warm personality and humour[citation needed], and she couples this with her emotive performances. She tours frequently (particularly in Melbourne), but also takes part in various music festivals and gigs throughout Australia.

Due to her jazz background, Rebecca Barnard also performs jazz - both solo and with various bands, singing a selection of jazz standards.

During 2011 and 2012, Barnard teamed with up with fellow Australian singers Monique Brumby and Kerri Simpson, performing the show "Sheilas of the '70s" (a tribute to female singers of that decade), where the show included comic dialogue and songs by Kate Bush, Donna Summer, Suzi Quatro, Melanie, Blondie and Fleetwood Mac.[23]

On 26 September 2017, Rebecca Barnard whilst being interviewed by Jon Faine (on ABC Radio Melbourne), indicated that it was difficult to "get bums on seats" in touring and promoting her own original work. Consequently, Rebecca has been touring, doing jazz shows, and dedicated shows singing songs by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Due to the lack of exposure and promotional budgets, it has been difficult for Barnard to inform the Australian public of her current original work, despite the early success she had with her band, Rebecca's Empire.

Throughout 2017, Rebecca Barnard and Monique diMattina toured their "Dao of Dylan" show. In this collaboration, Monique and Rebecca draw from their blues/jazz/rock roots to interpret and discuss the mystic resonance of Bob Dylan's work in their lives and music.

In April 2018, Barnard announced that she would be doing a series of shows (in June 2018) with Jodi Phillis (from the band The Clouds).

Television and radio appearances[edit]

Barnard has appeared on RocKwiz (a music-focused TV show) in 2005, 2006 and 2009. She has also appeared on another music-oriented music quiz show, Spicks and Specks, in 2009. In 1998, she appeared on the Good News Week show osted by Paul McDermott.

Barnard has appeared regularly on radio station 774 ABC Melbourne co-hosting with Derek Guille and, until the end of 2013, was a regular on 3RRR's The Word with Tracee Hutchison.[24]

Barnard sings the theme song to the ABC TV series Back Roads.


In 2015, Barnard submitted a piece of writing to the book From the Heart: A Collection from Women of Letters, as part of Women of Letters series curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. The book was published on 18 November 2015.[25]


In 1992, Barnard contributed to an album with a group of other musicians called P.R.I.C.S (Performers Releasing Information About Clean Syringes), on the album called "Covered". Barnard contributed with a Bob Dylan penned song called "Serve Somebody".[26] In 1994, she provided two tracks with P.R.I.C.S (now renamed Performers Releasing Information About Clean Syringes/Clean Sex) on the album "If You Do It Do It Safe" - the two tracks contributed were Pearl Jam's "Alive", and Prince's "Sign O' The Times". Barnard also contributed bass on a David Hosking-penned song called "Simply Survivors" which was sung by Shelly Scown.

Barnard has been a much loved figure of the Melbourne music community, where she runs songwriting workshops for girls in the Melbourne western suburbs.[27]

She is a founding member of the Mirabel Foundation, which works to assist children who have been orphaned and abandoned due to parental drug use.[28]

Barnard also conducts songwriting workshops with intellectually disabled adults in Ballarat (who have recently formed a band, the Funky Turtles) and at the Footscray Community Arts Centre with a Sudanese Choir.[29]

Rebecca Barnard is a regular performer at the annual Sacred Heart Mission of St Kilda fundraiser concert in Melbourne.[30]

In 2011, Rebecca Barnard released a CD and download single called "A Mother Weeps" (with the Models Super Orchestra), featuring Cal McAlpine (drums), Mark Ferrie (bass), Billy Miller (lead guitar/harmony), Sean Kelly (rhythm guitar/harmony), Andrew Duffield (piano/harmony) and Jack Howard (trumpet/harmony). All profits of the single went to Cancer research. The motivation of the single, was a tribute to Gabby Larkin who died at the age of 16 from an extremely rare and aggressive form of cancer.[31]


Barnard is a part-time music teacher at Northern College of The Arts and Technology (NCAT) in Melbourne. In 2015, as part of the course, some of the participants had the opportunity to perform live gigs with Barnard. The hands-on course aims to develop skills in songwriting, recording, rehearsal techniques, performance, stagecraft, vocal technique and more - all under the guidance of Barnard.[32]

Barnard also has a residence at Melbourne's Caravan Club with the "Rebecca Barnard & Billy Millers Sing-Along", where participants are encouraged to sing, for both fun and therapeutic purposes.[33]


Solo albums[edit]

Album Release Date Catalogue Number Producer AUS (ARIA) Chart
Fortified 3 April 2006 LADYBIRD1 Rebecca Barnard & Shane O'Mara -
Everlasting 7 May 2010 LADYBIRD2 Rebecca Barnard & Barney McAll -
Music for Listening and Relaxation 9 April 2017 WILDFLOWER1 Rebecca Barnard & Michael den Elzen -
The Night We Called It A Day TBC TBC Monique diMattina -

Albums with Rebecca's Empire[edit]

Album Year Record Company and Catalogue Number Producer AUS (ARIA) Chart
Way of All Things 1996 Eternity Recordings/Polydor (Australia) 5279802 Shane O'Mara -
Welcome 1999 Festival B0000506O4 Shane O'Mara -


Rebecca Barnard has appeared on the following artists/various albums:


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  2. ^ "Women in Jazz - Victorian Jazz Stories". Culture Victoria. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Port Fairy Folk Festival". Port Fairy Folk Festival. Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Varricchio, Mario. "Rebecca Barnard - Music for Listening". The Westsider. The Westsider. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  5. ^ a b Parker, Brian. "Australian Music Avengers Series: Rebecca Barnard". Your Music Radar. Your Music Radar. Archived from the original on 4 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Rebecca's Empire". Archived Whammo Encyclopedia Page. Whammo. Archived from the original on 23 August 2004. Retrieved 10 March 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ "Rage Playlist 1999". ABC. ABC. Archived from the original on 13 November 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  8. ^ a b YouTube Interview, 8 April 2015 Archived 17 October 2017 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Baker, Glenn A. "How 'quiet girl' singer Vika Bull hit stardom after decades in the business". The Age. The Age. Archived from the original on 29 October 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
  10. ^ "There's a bear in there... and some sex as well". The Age. 2 July 2006. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012.
  11. ^ "Rebecca Barnard tapping a song stream ahead of music feast by Julie Irwin". Preston Leader. 23 June 2011. Archived from the original on 5 October 2011.
  12. ^ Varricchio, Mario. "Rebecca Barnard - Music for Listening". The Westsider. The Westsider. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  13. ^ Archived 25 March 2012 at the Wayback MachineUSessions - Rebecca Barnard
  14. ^ "Building an Empire". The Weekly Review. 23 July 2010. Archived from the original on 14 September 2011.
  15. ^ {Everlasting liner notes}
  16. ^ " : Rebecca Barnard - Everlasting -". Archived from the original on 8 October 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2011. = The, Everlasting Review, 2 June 2010
  17. ^ "Disc of the Week 21/06 - ABC Tasmania - Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)". Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  18. ^ "Rebecca Barnard ( first aired on 16/6/2010 )". Radio National. 18 August 1998. Archived from the original on 6 January 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Music Track: Rebecca Barnard". Radio National. 19 June 2010. Archived from the original on 7 January 2016. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  20. ^ a b Barnard, Rebecca. "Home Section". Rebecca Barnard - Official Website. Rebecca Barnard. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  21. ^ "Discogs". Discogs. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  22. ^ "Various – Up All Night". Discogs. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Photo Gallery: Sheila's of the 70's, feat. Monique Brumby + Kerri Simpson + Rebecca Barnard - The Caravan (16.10.11) - the AU review". the AU review. Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  24. ^ "SAVE Concert - Geelong Grammar School". Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  25. ^ "From The Heart: Women of Letters by Marieke Hardy". Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  26. ^ "P.R.I.C.S – Covered". Discogs. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  27. ^ "Sing out sisters". The Age. 22 October 2007. Archived from the original on 7 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Mirabel & its People | Mirabel Foundation". Archived from the original on 5 October 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011. = The Mirabel Foundation
  29. ^ "Calendar - the Wheeler Centre: Books, Writing, Ideas". Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 3 March 2013. = The Wheeler Centre
  30. ^ O'Brien, Kerrie (25 July 2014). "Lunch with Rebecca Barnard". Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 3 August 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  31. ^ Larkin, Patrice. "A Mother Weeps". Patrice Larkin. Archived from the original on 21 January 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  32. ^ "NCAT Announces Touring Opportunity and Classes With Rebecca Barnard". Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  33. ^ "Rebecca Barnard & Billy Meyers Sing-a-long 2014". Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 24 September 2017.