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Emilie-Claire Barlow

Juno award-winning singer Emilie-Claire Barlow’s 10 albums to date have included not only fresh and sensitive readings of jazz standards, but daring and exhilarating takes on French chansons, Brazilian favorites and even ’60s pop classics. Whatever the source material, her phrasing and astonishing pitch are served by the vulnerability and warmth at the core of her approach: no oversung melismas are to be found in the Toronto-born vocalist and arranger’s

body of work.

Barlow is firmly in the tradition of gifted interpreters. “I get asked all the time when I’m going to write my own songs,” she said during a 2012 interview. “Maybe I will, but I might not. It’s a completely different craft. I marvel at that skill, but I have a lot of ideas for repertoire and for arrangements. That’s my creative process. That’s how I get my creative kicks, how I express myself: by writing arrangements for horns and strings. That, to me, is a hugely important part of the process that I don’t want to give up.” The daringly arranged and imaginatively chosen songs on her upcoming disc, Clear Day, usher in a new phase of Barlow’s career.

The project began with her experiences four years ago as an observer on the icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, sailing through the Northwest Passage to Resolute in Nunavut. It was a time for Barlow to take stock of her life and make significant changes, which included leaving her marriage. As personal revelations were gradually reimagined into universal ones, the ambitious Clear Day began to take shape.

The disc’s era- and genre-spanning songs-including material by Brad Mehldau, Paul Simon, David Bowie and Queen, Coldplay, Pat Metheny and Joni Mitchell-tell a chronological story of Barlow’s emotional journey, with fresh and unusual arrangements and orchestrations by Barlow and collaborator Steve Webster, who is also her boyfriend.

John Metcalfe, whose work on Peter Gabriel’s Scratch My Back had impressed the couple, agreed to write orchestrations for two of the songs on the new disc, which also features the 70-piece Metropole Orkest on most of the tracks.

Even the recording of the project broke with the traditional process. With the arrangements written in Mexico, the orchestra recorded in Amsterdam, Barlow’s band adding its parts in Toronto and some of the final vocals recorded before a small audience in Montreal, it was an international project.

Clear Day, coproduced by Barlow and Webster, is due to be released this month. “With this

album, I’m reaching for something bigger, more challenging and more personal,” Barlow said.