Emilie-Claire Barlow spreads her wings on Spark Bird, first album in five years

Emilie-Claire Barlow has announced Spark Bird, the Canadian vocalist’s first full album in more than five years.

The multiple Juno Award winner’s 13th studio album was conceived during the dark days of the pandemic, when she questioned whether she would ever even want to make another record.

But during that time, a daily visit from a yellow-winged cacique that is native to the southern Pacific coast of Mexico eventually inspired her to dedicate an entire album of songs to birds of all shapes and varieties.

Barlow co-produced Spark Bird with her partner Steve Webster and will release the album on her own independent label Empress Music Group at the end of March. Before then, Barlow will release several singles, beginning with Over the Rainbow, which is available now.

“Birds have the power to completely transport me,” says Barlow, who splits her time between Toronto and Mexico, where she and Webster are building a house with a fully operational studio. “So, when I decided to do the album, I started going down this path of gathering songs about birds. They’re my joy, my fascination. These songs tell a story.”

Spark Bird includes Stevie Wonder’s 1974 hit Bird of Beauty, the Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer standard Skylark and the Gershwin classic Little Sky Bird, along with songs by Hannah Barstow, Manolo Garcia and Coldplay.

The album’s lineup of musicians includes saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, guitarist Reg Schwager, violinist Drew Jurecka, pianists Hannah Barstow and Chris Donnelly, and flugelhornist Rachel Therrien.

Barlow’s last full-length release was Lumières d’hiver in 2017.

“When that cacique tapped on my window, I felt a spark,” Barlow says. “Not just a budding bird obsession, but the curiosity and desire to see what life would be like if I spent more time in this place that makes me feel so buoyant and full of wonder. The birds — a constant source of joy and inspiration — have reignited my spark. For that, I’m full of gratitude.”

Emilie-Claire Barlow’s Spark Bird is out March 31, 2023, via Empress Music Group.