Robin Barnes was born and raised in the Lower 9th Ward, shuttling between her parents’ and grandparents’ houses and singing the songs they liked to hear. Armed with a tambourine at the age of six, she charmed her way into her father’s cover band. Since then, she’s grown into a commanding vocalist with a repertoire of gospel, soul and r&b classics, jazz, funk and pop songs, opera and her own compositions. Her 2016 EP Songbird Sessions reached the top five on the Billboard jazz chart. But jazz may be a confining genre for Barnes. The way she tells it, her tastes are far too eclectic to fit into any single category.
She must be doing something right — her audience is growing. In 2018, Barnes — who gave up her studies at New York University to help re-build her family home after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures that destroyed much of the Lower Ninth Ward —returned to New York City to perform. She also sang at the MTV India Music Summit in Jaipur. Barnes bills herself as the “Songbird of New Orleans.”