Fresh off a European tour with The Cat Empire, ARIA-nominated Grace Barbe is headed to Geraldton as a Shore Leave festival headliner. For Grace Barbe, music is so much more than the notes on the page and sound in our ears. The Perth-based artist fell in love with music as a child, using it as a medium to express herself and her culture. It was in primary school when Barbe started to sing in choirs at school and for her Seychellois community, and in her late teens when she picked up the bass guitar. “Music was my number one. I knew in my heart and in the back of my mind. It’s something I always went back to,” Barbe said when asked about the confidence in choosing a career in music. Her Seychellean heritage inspires her music, along with other world cultures putting in the rhyme for her rhythm. Drawing inspiration from funk, reggae, Afrobeats and psychedelic rock to make the songs uniquely hers. “It’s a nod to the culture, the heritage and where I come from,” she said. Her passion becomes clear very quickly, speaking about the arts with such enthusiasm and dedication, mentioning the “struggling artist” trope, but not missing a beat to say “the arts are the things that get us through life”. Although music is her driving force, Barbe began studying drafting and leaning towards a career in architecture. She started working in an office for a logistics company and joined the rat race for three years. She spoke to her boss, also a musician, about stepping out of her role to which he said: “I’ve been waiting for you to turn to music full time”. When asked how the jump from the secure, salary-assured life was, Barbe said, “I was so ready to let it go”. “I said to myself if I’m going to quit this job, I’m not going back to full-time office work, I’m going to focus on music, so I have to make sure that if this is it I’m going to give my everything — I haven’t looked back,” she said. That was 16 years ago. This week, Barbe wrapped up a five-week tour through Europe with The Cat Empire as their bassist and backup vocalist. In all, 27 shows sold out including London, Glasgow, Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona. She said she was jetlagged and happy to be home. When she isn’t in the international spotlight, Barbe is a part-time music teacher at a school in Perth. For seven years, she studied part-time, doing assignments and coursework late into the night after gigs, and earnt her bachelors degree in commerce from Murdoch university. But it is music that Barbe continues to return to. “I look at music as a platform to bring people together. It conjures emotions it builds identity and solidifies a lot of things — it’s very powerful,” she said. Barbe has a profound view of the impact music and art can have on people. We discuss the absence of the arts during COVID, and the void that was left. “Can you imagine if you took away all the entertainment, it’s not just music. It’s galleries, it’s Spotify, it’s Netflix — that would be a very boring life,” she said. No stranger to success, the artist took out her 10th consecutive win for “best world act” at the 2019 Western Australian Music Industry Awards. The act of performing is important to the ARIA-nominated artist. “Just for that moment, coming together is priceless and we get to experience it and it’s our music that makes people feel that way — it’s a very special thing”, she said. This year’s Shore Leave festival later this month in Geraldton will not be Barbe’s first time performing in the Mid West. “It’s going to be nice to explore WA again — I’m looking forward to the festival. It’s been a whirlwind,” she said. The line-up for this year’s festival includes Reigan Derry with the Coconut Carny’s, Alexia Parenzee, Ian Weggler , Born 2 Sing (Zain Laudehr May), DJ Jedd Bumbak, Anne Williams and Good Strife. Shore Leave is on from April 27-30. Barbe will be performing at The Helm Bar on Saturday, April 29 from 7.30pm. The full list of events can be found at shoreleavefestival.com.au/events.