For Ali Barter to make music again, she first needed to learn to get out of her own way. In the wake of her 2017 debut record A Suitable Girl the indie-pop singer became a kind of vessel, slowly filling to the brim with a steady stream of doubts and hang-ups about her sound and herself. “The first record came out and for some reason I rejected it,” she says, listing the complaints she found with her own work, it’s too polished and my voice is too high being at the top of the list. “When people responded to it, I heard myself in a heightened way”. The criticisms came so regularly and in such quick succession that the vessel threatened to overflow. Barter was determined to never write a song again. But in winter, a few months after the record’s release, she went out of town to clear her head, with her guitar for company. “Stuff started coming up and I couldn’t push it down,” she says, despite feeling like she “wasn’t ready” for what these songs were saying. When she set about recording and testing the limits of her surprising new songs with Oscar Dawson – her producer, constant collaborator and husband – she heard something in them she’d realised she didn’t need to fight against anymore. “When we demoed them up I was like, Oh, there I am. The thing that I was pushing against was me.” The process of Barter conceding to herself and recording Hello, I’m Doing My Best became one and the same. And that process has resulted in a revealing collection of songs that track her most formative relationships: to her body, her instincts, sobriety and the old vices it counteracts, and the people she loves most. Barter confesses to having dealt with eating and drinking issues, tied to the difficult and intimate relationship many women learn to have with their body from an early age. “It’s always been about some form of shame and I feel it so intensely that I can’t help but write about it.”
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