Ila Barker

In 2017, Winnipeg-based Anishinaabe folk-soul musician Ila Barker held a guitar on her lap as a

friend confided in her the details of an abusive relationship. Barker sang her friend’s words back

to her, softly strumming the strings and turning anguish into a serendipitous self-serenade.

Eventually that song became the title track of Barker’s debut full-length album, Fool Under

Water, a tough-but-tender testament to the possibility of survival, forged as she swam ashore


To write Fool Under Water, Barker spent seven years reflecting on her own survival, alongside

that of the women around her. The elegantly rugged candor at the heart of the album’s

storytelling was amassed through experience. “My first thought as I started packing my bags to

leave was ‘what am I going to do?’” says Barker. “My second thought was ‘but damn, these are

gonna be some good songs.’”

Barker’s astute observations and vulnerable introspection create a safe basin for those still

swimming their way through rough waters. “I want listeners to have a moment to grieve the

things that they've gone through, but also to picture a future that is brighter,” she says.

On lead single “Intuition,” Barker sagely sings “Trust yourself, you know best,” reminding all of

us to listen closely to our own truths when we feel we might be sinking.

After years of writing, Barker recorded Fool Under Water at Winnipeg’s No Fun Club studio

alongside producers Sierra Noble and Rusty Matyas in August 2021. “A lot of people think I took a break from music. The truth is I was in survival mode,” she says.

Barker has played the Regina Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival, the sākihiwē festival, and opened for Jeremy Dutcher’s sold out performance at the Indian River Festival in PEI.

Recently, she also showcased at Canadian Music Week and NXNE in Toronto.

Through her work as founding curator with AIRsessions, a series of free music workshops for youth, Barker advocates for gender equity and Indigenous representation in music. “I have found a deeper connection with my community and the Indigenous music community through my music journey,” she says.

Fool Under Water is a promise that the tide will turn.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
  • Province/Territory
  • Date
    September 21, 2022
  • Discussion Guide
    create to learn discuss

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