There’s perception, and then there’s reality, the latter playing an understated but significant role in Jill Barber’s new video for “Instant Cash for Gold.”
On the surface everything looks pretty much idyllic, starting with a Country Living barn that comes complete with picture-perfect hay bales, splintered-pine siding, and rows of ‘40s farmhouse chairs. Even better, that barn seemingly houses a dream-hazed secondhand store specializing in retro-clocks, paintings of hopelessly sad clowns, pre-television kids’ toys, and faded tobacco tins (pass the Ogden’s Virginia cut plug and the rolling papers!)
Barber, who's as comfortable with indie soft-rock and springtime-in-Paris pop as she is with throwback jazz, certainly looks serene and relaxed enough with her acoustic guitar and casual blue dress.
But there’s also a serious melancholy streak in her delivery, fitting considering “Instant Cash for Gold” meshes rainy-day country with soft introspective folk.
On video-backdrop story, Barber offers this: "I've always been fascinated by second hand objects sitting on a shelf: How an object's sentimental value, which depends entirely on a person's lived experience with it, can differ so much from its monetary value, which depends entirely on what a person is willing to pay for it. There's a sadness, but also a beauty to a ramshackle collection of things-from-people's past that I find intriguing. Self-directed and shot handheld on an iPhone at MacCool's Re-use, in Chadsey's barn and along the bucolic roads of Prince Edward County, ON where my parents live, I wanted this video to capture the warmth, longing and personal reflection expressed in my song "Instant Cash for Gold".
As for what Barber is really saying in the tune and clip, that brings us back to perception and reality. Remember that old Dire Straits hit about how musicians—or at least the semi-successful ones–get their money for nothing?
To those who’ve never spent endless hours in a tour van, eaten warm cold-cuts off a deli tray in a colder green room, or played to six people in Thunder Bay on Friday night, music is the greatest job in the world. Who wouldn’t love getting paid to play guitar, work an hour or so a day, and generally live the endlessly romantic life of a nomad?
Except that, at some point–especially after the novelty has worn off and the responsibilities that come with adulthood arrive–things get a little more challenging for everyone not lucky enough to be part of pop music’s One Percent club.
The Vancouver-based Barber, who now balances a career in music with the endless demands of being a wife and a mother, explains where she’s at during this phase of her life with, “ “One day I was headlining Massey Hall, and the next day I was sweeping a messy hall”.
Need more on “Instant Cash for Gold"? Here you go: “[It’s] a reflection on the chasm that exists between the personal value that music holds for people, relative to its commercial value. Sadly, the persistent undervaluing of music forces so many of us musicians to trade it all in—often in a defeated way, much like those willing to trade in their most valued possession out of pure desperation to have cash in hand.”
Reality doesn’t necessarily bite, but it often drives home that everything, despite appearances to the contrary, is indeed relative.