Isadora’s Dream chat ‘HIRAETH’, yoga and “dancing wildly on stage”

Jenn Barrett of Adelaide band Isadora’s Dream digs deep into her songwriting process and the impetus behind latest album HIRAETH.  

Orchestral moments, piano keys and powerful vocals formed the basis of HIRAETH, the sprawling exploration of belonging by Isafora’s Dream.

The ten-track album, anchored by frontwoman Jenn Barrett, spans the reaches of ambient and rock music to soundtrack one’s search for home. It’s a bittersweet journey of longing and arrival, and a stunning sophomore outing for the Adelaide band. 

Isadora's Dream interview 'HIRAETH'

Below, Barrett swings by Happy Mag for a deep dive into HIRAETH’s genesis, her music side hustles, and tendency to “dance around a little wildly on stage.”

Catch our full interview with Jenn Barrett below, and scroll down to listen to Isadora’s Dream’s new album HIRAETH. 

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

BARRETT: When I’m not songwriting and working on Isadora’s Dream, I run a vocal coaching business called Vocal Hearts. Today is a teaching day so I’m seeing students. I work with people who are wanting to build confidence with their singing. 

I specialise in holistic coaching, working with the mind, body and emotions in connection with the voice, for performers or aspiring performers.

HAPPY: Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the band?


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BARRETT: Isadora’s Dream was a spin off of another band I had created, Jenn Barrett & The Night Shift. Bassist Damien Williams and Drummer Satomi Ohnishi were with me for that incarnation. 

In 2019 I had a line up change and decided to over haul the project. Damien and Satomi continued with me for that. I wanted to explore a more feminine version of the music I was writing, so a name change also came about that suited better. 

I remember reading a book about Isadora Duncan as a teenager and was inspired by her ground breaking and free form of dance in the early 1900s. The name Isadora seemed romantic and retro, which is a bit like the music I write. 

I added the word ‘Dream’ onto the name and it became Isadora’s Dream, reminiscent of the visionary that Isadora Duncan had been. I sometimes dance around a little wildy on stage so the name was also apt in that way too. 

The music of Isadora’s Dream is a little less rockier than the Night Shift but essentially it’s the same.


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HAPPY: What does a typical day look like when recording a project like ‘HIRAETH’?

BARRETT: It took around 10 months to record and produce HIRAETH. Most of it was created up at producer Quentin Eyers’ farm studio in the Adelaide Hills. 

Once we had the main instrumentation tracked, we set about arranging the songs, adding extra piano, synth and strings. I sat in on every production session.

This was different for me, in that I had more input into the work. That was really empowering. I’m not great at the technical side of things but I’m pretty set on what I do and don’t like. 

Quentin was great to work with, listened to what I was feeling and hearing, while he also had some incredible input into the songs. Hiraeth would not be what it is without his input and vision. Fortunately for the most part we agreed on most things.

So a day in the studio would be listening, re working things, tracking vocals and harmonies, more listening, adding instrumentation where needed. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the process and would always look forward to a drive up to the farm and a day in the studio.


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HAPPY: What inspired the album’s title, and how does that reflect in the music?

BARRETT: The album was nameless for quite some time during its making. I came across the word ‘Hiraeth’ one day last year and was quite taken by it.

When I looked up its meaning I immediately thought, that’s what I want to call the album. Hireath is a word the Welsh use to describe a feeling of nostalgia or longing for a place or thing or time. 

It’s a bittersweet feeling and I thought it very apt for the collection of songs I’d written. They are quite emotional and explore themes of coming and going, reverie and exploration of metaphorical new and old lands within the self. 

There is a mixture of joy and sadness, longing and expectation for the future within the music. 

HAPPY: Why is the piano a particular muse for the band?

BARRETT: I love the sound of piano and always have, but I did a few lessons as a child and hated it so gave it up. I actually started songwriting on guitar when I was in my early 20s but I found it restrictive and didn’t understand the instrument.

I found myself drawn to the piano again. It made more sense to me than guitar. All the notes are laid out in an order that helped open up my creativity. I’m basically self taught. 

Although I write all my songs on the piano now, playing it live is not something I like to do, which is why I have a dedicated pianist for our live gigs.

We’ve recently taken on a wonderful pianist Sara Sizer for our live shows. On the album Quentin added piano as well so there is a mix of my playing and his.


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HAPPY: The album traces multiple genres and sounds. How did you go about finding a balance that made the project feel cohesive?

BARRETT: Each song is different on Hiraeth but the instrumentation pulls it together, particularly with the inclusion of the orchestral elements.

Cohesiveness was not really an end goal as such but I think that just naturally occurs when working on a body of work, at a particular point in time and with the people I’m working with.

HAPPY: Is there anything you’ve watched or read that inspired ‘HIRAETH’?

BARRETT: Not at all. Hiraeth is from my own imagination and from snippets of my life.

HAPPY: Anything exciting on the horizon that you can tease for us?

BARRETT: We’re currently working on a video for our single Safe Passage, which we released at the end of last year. 

It’s going to include animated elements as well as live footage. We’ve got a film shoot lined up for February and the animation is currently in process.


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HAPPY: What makes you happy?

BARRETT: Happiness is hanging out with my daughter Zoe, doing Yoga, watching my students grow and find their groove, going to my art class, daily walks in the park behind my house, my theatre group, and just the day to day things like a nice cup of Rooibos tea.