The kalimba is a simple African instrument. In essence, it's a tiny finger piano with a music box sound. Songstress Laura Barrett pairs this with her own light, sing-songy voice, beckoning images of a child singing nursery rhymes, a sound she features on her first full-length record, Victory Garden.
Barrett got her first Kalimba the summer after she graduated from the University of Toronto after majoring in psychology and specializing in English and linguistics.
"It's kind of become a mythical story," she says, laughing. "I was searching for portable music controllers online and came across a bunch of them. I bought one on a whim and after playing it, I fell in love because it's a beautiful-sounding instrument. I've since developed my own style of playing it."
Her style is definitely distinct as the young musician is virtually impossible to compare to anything that you've ever heard. Previously self-described as, "neurotic sci-folk for neurotic sci-folks," she has since changed her description to, "acoustic-trance meets impressionist-pop," though Barrett never envisioned herself going through with a career in music, despite carving such specific niches.
"I've played piano since I was about six and I would write songs, but I never performed for anyone other than my mom," she recalls. "I was really nervous and I didn't think that people would be into them, so how could I have ever imagined, 'Okay, I'm going to take up a new instrument and then I'm going to play a Weird Al [Yankovic] cover.' "
After performing that first Weird Al cover, the rest is history. Barrett self-recorded her first EP, Ursula, in her friend's bedroom. She went on to sign with Paper Bag Records and released another EP [Earth Sciences], toured cross country in May and then went back into the studio to record Victory Garden.
"It's kind of bizarre," she says. "It wasn't the plan, but now it's the plan for at least the next little while. I want to write another album and I want to travel and tour and then definitely go back to school because I feel like my brain needs a good solid workout."
Despite her burgeoning career and success so far, Barrett sees school coming back into her life in the future.
"Academics mean a lot and it's important for people not to have to quit one thing or the other," she says. "You can do both and it'll enrich both experiences. It's created a weird, not disjointed, but segmented way of looking at my life. The timing has just been strange. I have this BA, but I'm not using it in a professional context. I feel as though it was a very worthwhile experience though and I can build upon it later."