Mahalia Barnes has been around music her whole life. In fact, as the eldest daughter of Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes, you might say she has it running through her veins. Not surprisingly, she’s has never considered a career other than music. Named after the great gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, Mahalia has always found inspiration in the prolific blues, rock and soul singers of our time (and indeed of all time!).
“I have grown up in a world full of music, all sorts of music, but for me it’s always been about Soul, Blues and Rock n Roll. I remember my Dad playing me heaps of Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Ike + Tina and stuff like that as a kid.”
Mahalia began her musical career early in life having shared the stage with her dad since she was in her teens. Of course it wasn’t long before she struck out on her own and formed her own band, The Soul Mates – Originally featuring a floating line up of Sydney’s best soul/blues/rock musicians and a selection of special guest vocalists wherever possible.
In 2007, the Soul Mates released their first self-titled EP, followed in 2008 by “Volume 1”, their first full length album; a soul revue style album featuring some old favourites teamed a few original tracks. For the next few years, Mahalia Barnes and The Soul Mates toured Australia non-stop, playing supports for the likes of U.S Hip Hop greats The Roots, Lionel Richie, UK singer James Morrison and gospel/soul legend Mavis Staples, as well as playing a handful of festivals and headline shows. Over this time, the band really started to hone their sound and The Soul Mates became a more permanent line up, featuring Clayton and Lachlan Doley on keys, Franco Raggatt on guitar, plus original members, Dave Hibbard on drums and Ben Rodgers on bass. This new, permanent line up really defined the sound that Mahalia had always been looking for.
Having been playing together for almost a decade now, it’s fair to say that Mahalia Barnes and The Soul Mates have more than honed their skills – both on the stage and in the studio. Last year, Mahalia was in the studio with her dad and internationally acclaimed super-producer, Kevin Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, Journey, Divinyls) when she played Kevin some Betty Davis tracks as a reference. It was then that the idea to record an album of Ooh Yeah The Betty Davis Song Book was born.
“I have been a fan of Betty Davis for years now. I can remember the first time I heard her stuff, I was hooked! She is wild, free, nasty, raw, funky, intense, powerful and sexy.”
Ambitious? Undoubtedly. Left of centre? Perhaps. But the result? Nothing short of spectacular. Tackling some of Betty’s all-time greatest tracks, it’s safe to say that Mahalia holds her own… and then some! A powerhouse in the truest sense of the word, Mahalia Barnes is without a doubt one of the most impressive female vocalists to come out of Australia. Kevin Shirley enlisted American guitar prodigy, Joe Bonamassa to lend his skills on the record. Heralded as one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, Bonamassa soars on this album.