Jenn Barrett & The Night Shift

Jenn Barrett & The Night Shift are an Adelaide based five piece art Rock/ Progressive Folk band with a touch of 80s edge, and a twist of sophistication. Songwriter Jenn, imbues emotive lyrics with atmos-
pheric melodies evocative of Kate Bush, merged with the Art Rock edges of Bowie and the Prog Folk rock of Jethro Tull. Theatrical and Romantic, often inspired by the drama of nature and exploring the depths of the human heart and soul, The Night Shift offer up a pop/rock experience that will leave you curious for more. Jenn Barrett talks to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about the upcoming launch.

Were there plenty of fist punches when you finished Upon A Hill?
There was definitely a feeling of relief and sense of accomplishment by the time the album was finally ready for mastering. The recording and mixing process took place over a period of eighteen months to two years. It was a matter of getting the time to get everyone involved into the studio to record their parts, and then of course, the mixing process takes ages. Initially I’d planned to record this particular group of songs maybe three years ago. That feels like a long time, and during this period I’d been studying at The Conservatorium at Adelaide Uni so my focus was there, trying to get my head around being a student again after all these years. The album took a while to gather momentum and for me to actually decide lets do this! So Yes, It’s a great achievement to see it in its finished product.

Was the process of making the album as intense as you thought?
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to be that intense and I had the grand idea that we’d knock it off in a year. But I soon had a reality check. When we started recording, we had a different line up. There was myself on keys and vocals, I had Will Street on Drums, James Paterson on Bass and Damien Williams on Guitar. We were also with a different producer at that stage as well. Soon after we started, Will got promoted interstate. I decided I’d at least get his drum tracks sorted and we could continue recording over those once he was gone. Soon after that I made the decision to work with Bethan Maddison. There were a few reasons for the change, mostly to do with our initial producers heavy work load and by then I was on a mission to go full steam ahead.

I was introduced to Bethan Maddison through a program called Girls In The Mix run by a woman I met through uni, Emily Bettison. I really liked the idea of working with another woman in a predominately male industry. Bethan is a graduate of SAE and was being mentored by Bettison. I liked Beth’s humble approach and she obviously knew her stuff. So we tracked with her in a few sessions. Overall I’d say the making of Upon A Hill was fairly laid back. The guys are all very professional and top notch at their instruments so we got through the tracking relatively quickly and painlessly.

Did you have to overcome any problems during the recording process? I think the biggest hurdle to overcome was when there were more line up changes as James our bassist also moved interstate to be with family. So I was basically having to re form the band. That was a very emotional time for me. I think I thought of maybe packing it in a few times too. I was lucky that I found Nigel Walters(bass) and then he introduced me to Craig Fenwick (drums). Damien was still on board of course and so we took a little time to jam together and find our feet again. Although I was pretty sad to lose James and Will, all turned out well as the new Night Shift line up really fell into the songs and the sound. We re recorded, keeping the original drums and included Nigel’s intricate baselines which gave the songs a new dimension.

Is it hard letting go of songs?
I’ve never really found this an issue. Although my songs are really quite personal I seem to have a sense of detachment from them, like they don’t necessary belong to me. The way it works in The Night Shift is I write the songs on piano, bring them to the guys then they add their own unique sound to them. I love the way collaboration works in that way and the songs take on their unique shape depending on who’s playing them. The songs are very different to when I first write them and I’m rarely attached to a certain outcome. Once they’re out in the world… well it’s out of my control. I always trust that the songs will be received by the right people at the right time.

Sonically, how would you describe Upon A Hill?
As a songwriter and musician I have grown and changed. My first album Curve Of The Earth (2006) was a collection of acoustic folk ballads. My second album Water (2015) was more electronic arts capes which was influenced by the producer of that particular album. Upon A Hill is now in a band context and I feel closer to where I’m heading sonically. My sound these days has been described as accessible, progressive art rock and that’s sitting well with me.

Who would you consider to be your biggest musical influence and why?
I’ve been told I sound a bit like Kate Bush which makes me very happy.. although I honestly don’t think I sound much like her and never set out to sound like her either. However, obviously her influence has crept into my compositions. I love her melodies and her sense of drama. Also I absolutely love her stage presence and I feel I’ve brought some of this into my own shows. Performance is so important to me. I’ve never wanted to be a girl behind her piano. That’s not interesting to me, at least as a performer. I don’t think I’m over the top with it but Kate’s sense of emotionality and movement I endeavour bring to my audiences.

How did The Night Shift meet?
I used to be in a Motown/soul cover band with Damien (guitars) back in 2012-14 so I knew his style and that he could play well. I brought him on board when I decided the sound needed a touch of guitar to my piano driven songs. I met Nigel(bass) through a mutual friend and he then introduced me to Craig(drums). They’d played together in bands previously. I’ve had guest pianists over the years but we’re currently working with John Meegan who I met through my university degree. I also have Sue Oldknow as my backup vocalist for the album launch. Sue and I are in a musical theatre production together so I knew our voices would match well.

Do you remember your first jam session fondly?
Every single rehearsal we’ve had is honestly a joy to work with these chaps. I’m not just saying that! We’re a great team and we have a laugh but the guys always listen to what I need and where we need to go. There’s a lot of mutual respect and collaboration. I’m very blessed.

How exciting is the build up to the launch?
I’m so very keen to get on that stage and present our work! It’s a busy time but I’m feeling focused and full hope for the future.

Beyond the launch what’s next for Jenn Barrett & The Nightshift?
On May 18 we’ll be performing at The Nexus Arts theatre where we’ll be have a special limited edition vinyl release of the album. We’re also in the process of lining up some new venues to present our show over the rest of the year. We’ve got some interesting and varied support acts on board too which are different but very complimentary. And of course I’ll keep on writing new material for the next album no doubt!

Interview By Rob Lyon

Be sure to catch Jenn Barrett & The Night Shift at The Mill, 154 Angas Street on Thursday 18 April. Tickets from

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