Barbra Lica, Jazz Music’s Little Miss Sunshine
WATERLOO – A college professor once told Barbra Lica that one day she would have a major heartbreak and after that she would sing so much better.
It was an odd comment and while Lica doesn’t consider herself perpetually happy or bouncy, the singer/songwriter has managed to earn the nickname Little Miss Sunshine and is known for wearing a massive gold “Love” necklace.
“I tried to be serious,” she said in an interview from her Toronto home, remembering one song in particular about the pain of lost love. “I was getting to the chorus and everyone was laughing. That’s not what I was looking for.”
Even when she went to London, England to visit jazz label Decca, apparently they told her “you got nothing glass half empty?”
Lica may not sing from a place of anguish, but she sings from a place of emotion and on December 9, the singer and her quintet return to the stage at Waterloo’s Jazz Room, a place that ‘she adores.
The singer is funny, sincere and down to earth, the kind of performer who gives her all to every song, something she learned in part from her parents, both musicians.
Lica’s mother was a professional singer, immigrated to Canada from Romania. His father, a pianist, was born in Russia. They met in a band and during Lica’s formative years the house was always filled with music, mostly popular. Her parents divorced when she was young, but rather than harming her musical education, it actually launched her into jazz.
“Mom remarried an accountant,” she said. “He had this giant jazz collection.”
Her stepfather even built a small sound booth in her bedroom so that she could listen to music, undisturbed and without disturbing anyone.
It was her stepfather who always encouraged Lica to pursue her dreams. He knew what it was like to have an unfulfilled dream and he didn’t want her to suffer the same fate.
Lica’s mother also encouraged her to pursue her dream, but understood firsthand the difficulties of a career in music. She wanted her daughter to have an alternative, just in case.
“She was always incredibly supportive, but she was scared,” Lica said. “My mother is so pragmatic.”
Lica chose science and studied jazz at the University of Toronto with a minor in human biology. It was a lot of work, studying music all day and then poring over lab equipment in the evening.
After graduating, her mother hopefully asked “are you going to become a scientist?” to which the response was not unexpected.
“I said no.'”
While still in college, her music had been played on the radio so she was like, “OK, let’s go.”
The move was good for the singer who earned her musical stripes performing on iconic Toronto stages such as The Rex Hotel and The Old Mill.
Lica’s early influences include Doris Day, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole and Betty Hutton and she was named one of Canada’s Top Upcoming Female Jazz Artists as well as the first runner up of the Sarah International Jazz Competition. Vaughan in 2013.
To date, the singer has released four albums: “That’s What I Do” in 2012, “Kissing You” in 2015 and a Christmas album in 2015. Her latest album, “I’m Still Learning” was released this year, his first recording contract with Justin Time Records.
This new album is thoughtful and about “making many, many mistakes” in life.
She said: “You think as you get older it’s about wanting to learn.”
Lica will perform songs from her latest album, but said a true coast-to-coast tour won’t officially begin until June.
She is happy with the public reaction to her music so far.
“I hear the same thing a lot.” She says. “People say they come away feeling really good and light.”
Barbra Lica Quintet
The Jazz Room
Huether Hotel, 59 King St. N., Waterloo
Friday, December 9, doors open at 6:30 p.m., concert at 8:30 p.m.