PODCAST: Erin Barra Rethinks How Songwriters Use Technology

Bryan Parys
November 14, 2017
Erin Barra, associate professor of songwriting
Erin Barra B.M. '06, associate professor of songwriting
Image courtesy of the artist

When Erin Barra B.M. '06 entered Berklee, it was the first semester laptops were required. For the songwriting, band-leading Barra, this seemed in opposition to who she was as an artist. In fact, she remembers getting a D in Introduction to Music Technology. Who needs technology when you have your art?

Fast forward to the present, where Barra is a product specialist for music software giant Ableton Live, an associate professor in the Songwriting Department, and uses technology as a critical part of her artistic process. An expert in digital audio workstations (DAW), she writes, produces, and even performs in digital platforms—and teaches her students how to do the same.

So, what changed? At first, embracing technology was just a means to lower overhead—costs associated with recording and performing with a full band. But, as she says, using technology as a creative tool “became this rabbit hole for me of being able to articulate ideas and thoughts that had been in my mind for a really long time.”

Creating in the DAW is not only empowering artistically, but as a woman, she’s claiming and creating inclusive space in traditionally male-dominated areas. “There’s a preconceived narrative that women don’t belong in these spaces whether it’s coding or Silicon Valley or a music studio,” she says. “It’s really powerful for women to see other women doing these things.”

In this episode of Inside Berklee, Barra talks about her anti-tech roots, walks us through the production of a new song, and how she pushes students to use technology to help achieve their vision.

Media referenced in this episode:

Producer: Bryan Parys
Engineers: Tony Brown and Darcy Davis
Recorded in partnership with the Berklee Internet Radio Network (BIRN)