April Barrows is a bit unusual because, in addition to being an excellent jazz singer, she writes original material that sounds like the songs could be vintage swing standards from decades past. She does not copy her musical heroes in either her singing or her writing although she is quick to acknowledge the inspiration of Ella Fitzgerald, the Boswell Sisters, Mildred Bailey, Louis Armstrong, Ivie Anderson, Bing Crosby, Ruth Etting, Annette Hanshaw, and Cliff Edwards. Barrows first heard music by listening to her mother's collection of boogie-woogie 78s by such pianists as Meade "Lux" Lewis, Albert Ammons and Pinetop Smith. She sang along with the records, imitating the sounds and learning the formats. She became a record collector herself as a teenager and was always interested in older styles.
Barrows grew up in the San Francisco Bay area where she moved with her family when she was five. In addition to jazz, she listened to Bob Dylan, country music and rock of the '60s. She played violin for a few years and in high school sang and played rhythm guitar. She also performed duets with a country singer, frequently performing roots music, and learned both steel guitar and electric bass. For a time she had a regular day job as a chemist but her main dream was to become a professional musician.
One day in the late '70s she spontaneously quit her job and headed for Nashville. Her talents were quickly recognized and she played electric bass in a variety of bands for the next six years including working with the Judds' first band, the Memphis Horns, Vassar Clements, and even Woody Herman. In 1985 Barrows switched her focus and became a songwriter. While she had success writing country, bluegrass, and blues songs, her true love was writing and performing her own new swing tunes. While continuing in the commercial field, Barrows has as of this writing recorded two CDs of her own lively swing originals, My Dream Is You and All You Need Is the Girl, and she is working on a third set which features clarinetist Evan Christopher and cornetist Duke Heitger.