Barber was born and raised in Port Credit, a lake-side neighbourhood in Mississauga, just west of Toronto. Her brother is singer-songwriter Matthew Barber. She studied at Queen's University before pursuing her musical career on a full-time basis.
Barber won the Female Artist Recording of the Year award for her debut album Oh Heart at the 2005 Music Nova Scotia Awards. In 2007, Barber earned her fourth win as Best Local Solo Artist (Female) in The Coast’s annual "Best of Music Reader’s Poll", and her first win as Best Canadian Solo Artist (Female).
From February to March 2007, she toured eastern Canada with Dan Hill as part of Stuart McLean's CBC Radio show The Vinyl Cafe. She returned to the Vinyl Cafe Tour in 2009 performing across Canada with Matt Anderson. In 2008, Barber released Chances, a jazz album with full orchestral arrangements which was partially co-written with her producer Les Cooper, while also collaborating on several songs with Canadian music legend Ron Sexsmith.
This album led to a new level in touring reaching audiences across the globe while earning two Juno Award nominations including New Artist of the Year. The title track to this album is featured on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, at the end of season 1, episode 1.
She followed up with the album Mischievous Moon, released through Outside Music in 2011. In the same year, Jill and Matthew Barber collaborated on a cover of The Hardship Post's "Your Sunshine", which appeared on the charity compilation album Have Not Been the Same - Vol. 1: Too Cool to Live, Too Smart to Die.
Barber has performed predominantly in English, although she has also recorded and performed French translations of two of her songs, "All My Dreams" ("Tous mes rêves") and "Tell Me" ("Dis-moi"). Her 2013 album Chansons, a selection of cover versions of classic songs from Quebec and France, was her first album of material recorded and performed entirely in French.
Barber won the SiriusXM 2012 Jazz Artist of the Year award, as well as the 2013 Western Canadian Francophone Album of the Year for Chansons. In 2016, Barber co-produced an album The Family Album, with her brother Matthew Barber, also a singer-songwriter.
Barber has written two children's books, Baby’s Lullaby and Music is for Everyone.
Barber is mentor to young women as part of the Girls Action Foundation’s Light A Spark initiative, and an ambassador for Save the Children.
Barber is married to CBC Radio 3 personality Grant Lawrence. They have two children.2002: A Note to Follow So
2004: Oh Heart
2006: For All Time
2011: Mischievous Moon
2014: Fool's Gold
2016: The Family Album with Matthew Barber
2005 East Coast Music Awards
nominated Female Artist of the Year
nominated Folk Recording of the Year for the album Oh Heart
2007 East Coast Music Awards
won Best Album of the Year for the album For All Time
won Female Artist of the Year
nominated Folk Recording of the Year
nominated Songwriter of the Year for the song "Don't Go Easy"
2008 Juno Awards
nominated New Artist of the Year
2017 Juno Awards
nominated Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for the album The Family Album (shared with Matthew Barber)