Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter Tara Velarde (formerly playing out under the name The Tara Novellas) is touring in support of her debut full-length, Get Out and Walk.
Free from the confines and restraints a band name can impose on some, Velarde felt freer to create the album she has always wanted, resulting in the ten track Get Out and Walk, a record that showcases the singer-songwriter ambitions of Velarde, blending elements of folk, indie-rock, Latin groove, gypsy vibes, all with a voice that can be sweet one moment and powerful the next. Get Out and Walk is a melodic, touching, and soaring collection of songs that are as familiar as the last, but eclectic enough to keep you guessing.
“My songs feature such an eclectic variety of styles and influences, some have expressed to me before that I need to focus in on one genre,” comments Velarde. “I don't think that's true - not for myself or for anyone. My personal definition of a truly remarkable artist is one that stands out, not one that sounds like everyone else.”
Heavily influenced by the likes of Regina Spektor, Brandi Carlile, and Ingrid Michaelson, as well as classics such as Joni Mitchell, Judy Garland, and even Janis Joplin, Velarde is no stranger to comparisons to female vocalists spanning the last several decades, and it’s something she doesn’t shy away from like other artists.
“My voice is often described as smooth, sweet, and pretty, and it hasn't been until recent years that I have plugged in a new power and intensity. Brandi Carlile was the first female artist that I heard that pushed her vocals to the breaking point, and I was immediately captivated by the effect,” recalls Velarde. “I started using it in my own signing and all of a sudden I could achieve a much broader range of emotion and inflection. From one song to the next - and often within the course of a single song - I could draw the audience in with purity and subtlety, and then blow them away by bringing my vocal power to it's limit. This album is a perfect demonstration of that range of vocal command.”
Referring to her music as “songstress indie-folk,” Velarde says the sound is, “sometimes we're acoustic, sometimes electric, sometimes percussive, sometimes orchestral, but always at the heart is the singer-songwriter style that is my true medium.”
As change is the only constant, Velarde has a lot to sing about change - and life in general - on Get Out and Walk, including the album’s title track, a song that reminds Velarde that not even the bad lasts forever.
“[The title track] sums up my experience these last few years very well. I graduated from college with a degree in music education three years ago, and in the time that has passed it has been a constant scrap to create a stable life for myself as a music teacher, while still being able making my own music. There was one point where I lost my car, I had no money, and I was walking and busing to get to work. I wrote the song ‘Get Out and Walk’ as I was traveling along a highway at night, just as the lyrics say. Actually, all of the imagery in that song is literal, as I walked and recorded my voice on my phone in one long take. It was one of my toughest times to date, but I kept pushing and made it through. That experience taught me that no matter my circumstances, I have the will and drive to rise. I felt that the song represented my outlook and paid homage to the things I've gone through recently, and it was fitting to make it the banner of the album.”
On the song she sings, “Well, I’ll carve out a space on the face of this earth, and my weathered head I will hold high,” a line that, for Velarde, perfectly communications the “sometimes obsessive” drive that she has to pursue her dreams, and the pride she feels from moving through different life situations and coming out wiser.
This mindset and attitude helped shape the record as a whole, with the messages of hard work and coming to peace with the things that you can’t change permeating throughout the album.
“In a way these two concepts are very related,” she says. “I’ve found in my life that there is often a struggle to find the line between the things that I can affect and the things that simply are. ‘Get Out and Walk’ is all about that constant drive to push through any barrier in your way. ‘Streetwise’ depicts my personal transformation from naivety to knowledge, a journey that I sought out for myself to learn and grow for the better. On the other side, ‘Change’ is the product of my realization that ‘change is sometime good, and sometimes it is bad, but always inevitable.’ It explores frustration and helplessness but also a peace in knowing that nothing, not even the bad, lasts forever. Even ‘Farewell Brother,’ while it is primarily about a very dear sibling relationship, has the line, ‘they said your looks have changed, but no one stays the same, and they shouldn't anyway,’ which speaks to our natural development and evolution as individuals.”
Further exploring the tracks on the album, she also mentioned that, “‘Ridiculous’ and ‘Living with Myself’ are about coming to terms with my flaws and having a bit of a laugh at myself in good humor. And then, of course, there is the song titled ‘Work,’ which walks through my journey to join the workforce and subsequent burnout by the time I got there. These are concepts that I think we can all relate to, and writing them has been a natural creation process since these themes have been so relevant to my life as of late.”
Of the record as a whole, while listening back to it, Velarde says, “All of the songs are special to me in some way. My songwriting style tends to be honest and personal, so the lyrics are always meaningful and significant. ‘Alone’ does have a special place in my heart, though. When I wrote it I allowed myself to be more honest than I had ever been before, and the result was a song that is quite exposing of some flaws, and some of my inner weirdness. The amazing thing is, so many people have connected with this song on a deep level. By exposing myself I found that I was better able to reach my listeners, and in turn they often approach me to communicate that they can relate, and were moved. It was the number one requested song to go on this album.”
Velarde is very happy the way the record came out, too, stating that despite the fact that she’s a perfectionist by nature, Get Out and Walk taught her to let go, to allow the record to live and breathe, and to have a personality of its own.
“I enjoy careful attention to detail,” she says without hesitation. “Iwould say that as a whole, it was a challenge for me to record using the live format that we decided to go with. But, I am so glad that we did it that way because it preserved the authenticity of our live performance, capturing energy, playfulness, and spontaneity, but by the same token there was less fine-tuning than on our previous album. While I naturally found myself wanting to correct every imperfection, it was a good lesson for me to remember that those little ‘flaws’ are what keeps the music alive and breathing. So, while I could see a tweak here or there, I think that leaving it natural is a good thing. That's certainly what I appreciate about my favorite artists' albums.”
With no regrets and a new lease on music making, Veladre is proud of what she has accomplished with the record and is very eager to share it with old and new fans alike.
“I am very happy with the way this record turned out. I’ve been dreaming of putting these songs down for a long time, and now that it's done I can't believe I'm listening to the final version, on a track, as a full album.”
When asked if there record came out the way she heard it in her head while she was writing it, she is quick to answer with a smile. “Being a singer primarily, I'm always excited to hear how the rest of the band members fill in their parts and bring a song to life. Some of the songs, mostly the ones that are solo or that we've already been playing live for a number of years, came out just how I hoped and I'm really happy with that. Other songs that are newer or that featured some studio musicians found a slightly new iteration in the studio. There's no way that I can know exactly how the double bassist or the banjo player are going to put down their parts, but we had such quality players come in that I was totally thrilled with the final product. It was exciting for me to hear how the parts all come together once we were working with the final mixes.”
The biggest surprise for her on the album was, “How often I laid down three-part harmonies! I intentionally selected these ten songs to illustrate our diversity and variety of style, and as I was doing the vocal tracking I realized that there are several songs that feature fully stacked harmonies, sometimes as many as four or five different voices at once. I’m a big choral nerd, and I think that whichever style of song I'm writing that always comes through. I get really excited when I start adding in harmonies to a new song that I'm writing, and I sometimes have to keep a lid on it before it turns into a full-blown choral piece. However, if I'm really feeling my muse I'll let the music run away with me and that's where so much of this vocal work has been created.”
Proud of the outcome, Velarde notes that her voice and lyrics are intrinsically linked, stating, “For me, they cannot be separated. Since my voice is my true instrument, every word I write has a melodic counterpart. Whether the link is through pitch, rhythm, or inflection, my voice is the tool through which I bring my thoughts and words to life. From there is it only natural to echo those sentiments instrumentally.”
Now, she plans to tour in support of the album, both solo and with a band at times, sharing these personal songs with audiences, and getting the album out there as much as she can.
“This record is our biggest album to date. I feel that it is a strong and thrilling representation of our sound, our message, and our style, and I hope that it makes a clear statement about our passion. But most of all, I hope that listeners are able to connect with the songs and find strength, smiles, and solidarity. My goal is to always deliver a performance that rings true with our audience, and I feel that this album delivers in a powerful way. We plan to use this album as a launching point to propel the project full-speed ahead, and we're going to give it all the energy we've got. We have big plans ahead for touring and playing live, expanding our horizons and growing the wonderful fans, friends, and followers that have joined us for the ride.”
Get Out and Walk is a true testament that change is inevitable - and can be good.
By SCOTT CUNNINGHAM // Appears Friday at the Wonder Ballroom
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