After 25 years, Barbie Almalbis still makes music for ‘the joy of it’
As passionate as she is about music, there were moments in Barbie Almalbis’ 25-year career, she said, when inspiration was hard to come by. There were the inevitable bouts of creative slump. Sometimes, the pressure to earn consistent chart success can be stifling.
But whenever she found herself in such a situation, Barbie soldiered on by reminding herself why she makes music in the first place: For the sheer joy of it.
“I started out just playing and writing songs at home. It wasn’t really a means to an end—I simply enjoyed doing music. But once you enter the industry, suddenly there’s pressure. You have to be successful. And then, you have to sustain it. I did feel the pressure through the years. Not every song you put out will be received the same way,” she said at a press conference.
“But what helps me is going back to the original reason I got into music, which is for the joy of it,” she added. “It’s no longer solely about the reception to my work, although I will always be grateful for that. It’s about the true joy of writing songs.”
Having a good and reliable support system is also a crucial factor. “I couldn’t have done it without people encouraging me like my husband (Martin Honasan). A couple of years ago, I had a season when I couldn’t write songs. Nothing I was writing was coming out right. And so, he helped me by writing songs together,” she said, adding that she also seeks God’s guidance every day.
Barbie, who navigated a male-dominated field to become one of the country’s most influential rock artists, started out on the scene in 1997 as the lead singer and guitarist of Hungry Young Poets (later renamed to Barbie’s Cradle)—the group behind such hits as “Torpe,” “Firewoman” and “Tabing Ilog.”
In 2005, Barbie pursued a solo career and continued churning out memorable anthems, like “Just a Smile.” “I didn’t have so many plans growing up, but I always just dreamed of playing music. I’m so thankful I get to do this and share the experience with others, too,” she said. “I’m always touched by the support of my fans and friends, and humbled and encouraged by their words and stories about how these songs have also become part of their journey.”
To mark her 25th anniversary, the singer-songwriter released a new album “Barbie Almalbis: Tower Sessions Live,” which features new arrangements of her career-defining hits. The 11-track record also includes new songs like “Days Are Long,” “Tigre,” “Silaw” and the carrier single, “Kumpas.”
“It has always been a dream of mine to record our songs live, because there’s always something special that gets captured when we play live together,” Barbie said. “My producers and collaborators did such a great job of making you feel like you’re at the gig.”
Barbie also reunited with her former bandmates from Hungry Young Poets (Ricci Gurango, Franklin Benitez) and Barbie’s Cradle (Rommel dela Cruz, Kakoy Legaspi, Wendell Garcia) in a concert titled, “Firewoman: 25 Years of Barbie Almalbis,” last March 11 at Mandala Park in Mandaluyong City.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m excited that I will get to jam with them again. I had so many amazing memories with them. But when I think of it, I’m like, ‘Why didn’t we continue?’ But we were young then, a bit crazy and had a lot of growing up to do, so we had to go our separate ways. But then again, I’m thankful for the chance to revisit old songs with them.”
Asked what advice she could give hopefuls aspiring for career longevity, Barbie said it’s important that musicians never stop being music fans. “You have to continue being a music fan because every musician started out as one. Sometimes, when it becomes your job, you don’t feel like listening to new music anymore. The moment you stop being a music fan is the moment you stop finding new inspiration.”
“Sometimes, your work is celebrated; sometimes, it’s not. But you just have to keep going. Keep finding that joy and be proud of what you do,” Barbie added. INQ
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