Two years after she began pursuing her dream, West Hartford native Steph Barrak, has released her first album.
"Words to Break Your Heart" was released on Feb. 14, and despite the word "heart" in the title, she didn't originally plan the Valentine's Day release.
"It wasn't a deliberate choice when I started recording the album, but releasing close to the first of the year is beneficial," she said.
Her family left West Hartford after 20 years and now lives in Avon, and Barrak hopes to perform in Connecticut later this year.
Barrak said she hoped people won't read the title and think the album is depressing. "It's reflective of life in general. There's a 'heartfelt' element to all of the songs – optimism as well, that juxtaposes nicely," she said.
Barrak, a 2006 graduate of Hall High School, is a singer/songwriter who wrote the music and lyrics to all of the songs on the album. She teamed up with a record producer in Boston, Mike Davidson, and after three recording session, learned that he was also a Hall graduate, class of 2004.
Working by day as a data analyst at a consulting firm in Boston, Barrak self-funded the album and worked on the project whenever she could. She's done virtually everything involved with the release herself – booking shows, choosing cover art, handling copyright issues.
Barrak freely admits that she's not really a trained musician, not in the classical sense. She played clarinet and sang in choir through eighth grade at King Philip, but didn't pursue music at Hall.
"I came home from school and taught myself guitar, starting with simple songs," she said.
After graduation she headed to Boston University, and studied business administration while performing at open mics. "I met a lot of people who went to Berklee; there was this looming Berklee presence," she said. But she made the decision that studying music formally was not for her.
"For me, music is journaling, it's an outlet. To pursue it academically would take away from that."
Barrak has performed throughout the northeast, at venues that include The Knitting Factory in New York City. She describes her sound as "indie rock meets folk-pop," and said her voice has most often been compared to Suzanne Vega's.
Unlike many other young musicians, she has stayed completely away from talent shows, although she was featured on the Jimmy Long Songwriter Showcase on NBC. "At the end of the day, it's not my technical skills that people like. What I'm good at is writing songs, putting lyrics together, and getting the best musicians I can."
Barrak was really excited about producing her first album, and although she's hoping it will be a success, she doesn't think she wants to do it full time.
"I found I really loved putting my website together – it's something I might like to pursue," she said. Being a full-time musician, she said, is really difficult without an either external source of funding or constant travel.
Having a job that allows her to produce music is a "perfect combination," she said.
Barrak is having her album release party Saturday night at UFORGE Gallery in Jamaica Plain, MA.
Information about other upcoming shows, and the link to download the album can be found on Barrak's website, http://www.stephbarrak.com. The songs in the above YouTube videos can be downloaded for free at http://stephbarrak.bandcamp.com. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.