With a new album based upon the seminal funk recordings by Betty Davis, the singing daughter of soul rocker Jimmy Barnes undergoes one of our customised 20 Questions grilling’s, put together by Pete Sargeant…..



  • Do you know anyone else with your first name ? it’s a fine name to have !


I have met one or two girls named Mahalia over the years…but not really. I was named after Mahalia Jackson, one of the most incredible gospel singers ever. My dad said he saw her sing in a movie when he was about 7 or 8 years old and knew then his first daughter (me) would be named after her.


  • Miles Davis was of course the partner of Betty Davis for a while. He used to encourage his players thus: ‘ Don’t play what you know…play what you don’t know..’   What encourages you to be adventurous?


A great crowd always pushes me, as do my incredible band members. There is nothing like the excitement of playing live with great musicians and singers, you push each other, inspire each other and encourage each other to take risks – that’s when some of the best stuff happens on stage.


  • Name a film soundtrack that you enjoy ( either a customised score or a clutch of songs e g ‘Top Gun’ ) and say why


I love the soundtrack for a movie called “The Mission” – its incredibly beautiful and emotive. It was all composed by Ennio Morricone. Otherwise Good Morning Vietnam has a lot of killer songs on it!



  • Suggest a really great song intro that you dig ( I love The O’Jays ‘For The Love of Money’)


There are so many killer intros! I love “Always on the run” by Lenny Kravitz, “Day dreamin’” by Aretha Franklin, “Walkin up the road” by Betty Davis was my husbands phone ring for about 4 years.


  • Stagewear – what styles and colours suit you best ? and do you take advice, if so from whom ?


Black. Almost always black, a little white or maybe a little leopard print…I’m not really too into wearing colours. I like to be comfortable on stage, I want to look good, but I need to feel comfortable, I prefer to be focused on giving the best performance and not thinking about sore feet or restrictive clothing! Every now and then I like dressing up a little more girly… but usually leather, lace, denim, tshirts, sneakers or platforms. I take a little advice from my husband…but generally speaking, I know what I like!


  • Name a track that relaxes you (  number / artist / source album )


“I believe when I fall in love”  from the Stevie Wonder “Talking Book” record, my favourite song ever I think, it really makes me happy and relaxed. Or anything from the album “Bitter” by Meshell Ndegeocello – its such a beautiful sounding record. It is dark, heavy, heartbreaking, but also really soothing and warm.


  • Which is your favourite recording by your Dad? And why?


I love his “Soul Deeper” or his “Rhythm + the Blues” albums. Amazing band, and I just love it when he sings soul stuff! I think people underestimate his ability to sing beautifully, cause he sings rock n roll so well… I also really love his latest album 3030 Hindsight. It is an amazing record. I was really honoured to be a part of it.


  • What record label do you rate highly for its output? Elektra was my favourite, back in the day…


I think I’d have to say Motown – or Stax. The music that was put out by those labels was incredible! All such great sounding records. The Motown stuff redefined pop and was lush and beautiful. The Stax stuff was just awesome.


  • Tell us a recording you can’t bear to listen to, if it comes on the radio or whatever …and why that might be


I honestly don’t know where to start. I don’t listen to the radio much. There’s a lot of music I don’t like to listen to, but in particular I cant listen to things like “The Crazy frog song” or those gimmicky pop dance tracks. I’m not a fan of dance pop music really. Or Nickelback.

  • Name a track that always makes you want to dance


I’m not much of a dancer… but I guess any good R+B music will make me move – I really wouldn’t call it dancing though! Something with a great bass line and a heavy drum groove I suppose.


  • What is a favourite album to play while driving


I love the whole Talking Book album by Stevie Wonder, but I also find myself listening to a fair bit of Lewis Taylor in the car. I tend to make up playlists of soul, blues and rock for drives. A mix of Ike + Tina, Aretha, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Prince, The Black Crowes, The Band, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding…stuff along those lines. I also really love a bit of D’angelo and The Roots in the car!


  • Randy Jackson or Randy Newman ?


Randy Newman. Great songwriting.


  • Name a recorded vocal duet you favour and tell us why


I love “Don’t give up” by Peter Gabriel + Kate Bush. Such a beautiful song. I also really love anything Marvin + Tammie sing, or anything Dad and Ian Moss sing together in Cold Chisel – It’s an incredible combination of voices. Duets are awesome, it brings different things out of each artist.


  • Have you sat in with or seen Joe Bonamassa’s funk pals? and what did he bring to your new record ?


No I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them or sitting in with them… Joe brought some incredible guitar playing and energy. It was such a pleasure working with him on this project. He is really an unbelievable player. I am so thankful he wanted to work with us!!

  • An extended / 12 “ version a song that really works for you.and why


I love the extended version of “I wanna be your lover” by Prince. Its incredibly funky. It has really tasty little guitar bits…I’m always disappointed when I hear the short version because I love the outro so much on the long version.


  • Which is your favoured microphone?


In the studio I love a U67, on stage a Shure KSM9. I like that they can handle anything I sing… pick up the warmth and the grit and don’t freak out in the top end.


  • Do have a favourite Betty Davis cut ? and why that one ?


My favourite Betty track to listen to is Game is My Middle Name – for a start, what a killer title. I love the concept. Its such a heavy groove, I love the riff, and the singing is incredible. It gets so exciting when the girls are trading lines in the middle of the song. For me it’s just such a powerful track.


  • What do you aim at with each live performance ?


To have fun and connect with the audience. I love being on stage so much, I feed off the live energy and the adrenalin! For me I always try to give an audience everything – I like to push my band to their limits, make people dance, feel heartbreak, joy, get lost in the moment. I hope to leave them wanting to come back next time!!


  • What is your favourite James Brown recording and why that one ?


There are so many great James brown recordings, I think I would have to say “Live at the Apollo” – The whole record is unbelievable.


  • Worldwide, do you have a preferred venue? tell us about it


I haven’t had the pleasure of playing at many overseas venues yet… hoping that will change! I love playing a bit of a gritty standing room, probably where my music is most appropriate. Where people are not too uptight and feel that they can be relaxed and free and really get lost in the moment.


Thanks a lot !

Mahalia Barnes and The Soulmates featuring Joe Bonamassa ‘OOH YEA : The Betty Davis Songbook’ is out now on Provogue Records/Mascot Label Group

For more information visit: www.mahaliabarnes.com 

 Pete Sargeant