Artist Spotlight: My Sister Maria

Singer-songwriter Maria Barrington-Foote discusses vulnerability and growing with her music

Maria Barrington-Foote, originally from North Vancouver, recently released her first record as a solo artist. (Alyssa Laube)

Maria Barrington-Foote, originally from North Vancouver, recently released her first record as a solo artist. (Alyssa Laube)

My Sister Maria’s first record feels weightless and whimsical, but nowhere near superficial. At face value, it’s a collection of piano ballads written over some of the most dynamic years of Maria Barrington-Foote’s life, composed and recorded on the piano she grew up playing in her father’s house in North Vancouver.

The record is entitled Cocoon, and as an official debut, it’s an exciting promise of what could come out of the project as it continues to materialize.

The songs are deeply personal and sincere. At about 15 minutes long, getting through the record is an easy experience, but not an unremarkable one. From the first track, My Sister Maria’s unpredictable writing style and off-the-floor production is at once fresh and familiar.

The whole collection was recorded with one microphone in an afternoon, with Barrington-Foote being the sole vocalist and instrumentalist.

“I have to be more grounded, going and performing on my own, and so I feel more mature. I feel more like a young woman performing now,” she says. “Before I felt like a girl with a lot less confidence, and now I can just be very, very vulnerable and brave at the same time.”

The first song on Cocoon, “La Moustache”, is about the embarrassment that Barrington-Foote once associated with “growing up as a young girl with a moustache.” The second, “White Lie”, is about the toxicity of being dishonest with yourself and others. “Am I Awake?” was written on a guitar after Barrington-Foote returned to Vancouver after living in the Okanagan, and explores how jarring returning to a big city can be. The title track is about having to move on from an unsustainable relationship she was in with an older man.

“The pieces that I write and like to play are like diary entries, and they help me, and did help me at the time in which I was going through either traumatic or depressive or anxious states,” she says. “Singing them, they’re like my mantras. They’re helping me heal and they’re helping me reaffirm and let go.”

Barrington-Foote and her brother, James, were raised with a children’s musician for a father who inspired them to create and express themselves. In his home, they wrote and recorded music together for years, but “weren’t progressing in the way that [they] wanted to” as a duo.

When James started hosting shows around the city, Maria asked him to start booking her as a solo act, and My Sister Maria was the name to first appear on a poster.

“It feels organic in that way,” she says. “James has always been my strongest support. He knows my songs and he has parts for every song and harmonies. He has been my biggest fan.”

She expects that, for My Sister Maria, “It’s only a matter of time before other musicians join in.” Bass, flute, violin, and percussion are some of the instruments she’s expecting to record for her next releases.

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