Tara Lee. The Irish singer-songwriter and actress with a fresh sound and an old soul who grew up listening to the eclectic sounds of David Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Nirvana, to name a few. With a film composing father, it seems natural that music would ignite her soul. I had the immense pleasure of chatting with the bold and free-spirited Tara Lee about her music, her films and writing new songs during the pandemic.
Check out the interview below!
Gabrielle Bisaccia: You sing, compose songs and act. Is there a discipline that you enjoy the most?
Tara Lee: Music is something that came first and there is no pretending there, it’s completely me. Acting I had to work at, but I just became so passionate about it. I think they are so symbiotic, and they work so well together that I could never pick one over the other because they fulfill different parts of me. With my dad being a film composer, I always put the visuals with music. Watching him compose to film when he would have three massive screens with a film playing and simultaneously running the music for it made the two intertwined for me.
GB: The music video for Narcotic Heart was very raw and honest, featuring you dancing alone, which is incredibly brave. Did you come up with this theme? What was the inspiration behind it?
TL: I always wanted to dance alone. I wanted it to be one take with this sort of naked camera: very real and very raw. The song was about those nights and times in my life where you’d have drunk arguments with somebody who was hurting you emotionally. It was also such a good dancing song. I wanted the music video to capture that a song could make you feel like you wanted to dance, but also cry. We didn’t rehearse it, just mapped out where I was going to go and let the camera follow. It was very representative of who I am.
GB: You have a unique and airy sound, reminiscent of Alina Baraz. Your musical genre falls into the alternative/pop realm. Have you had interest in pursuing any other genres like house/electronic?
TL: I love house music and trip hop; Massive Attack are an inspiration to me. I do think there is something very interesting about a producer alternating your voice for house music. I do have a lot of unreleased music that I’ve worked on over the years with DJs, so maybe it’s something I should venture into!
GB: Are there any musical artists who you consider to be role models?
TL: Debbie Harry and Madonna are my idols. I worship everything they have done and everything that they do, especially their attitudes and work ethic. My parents were quite eclectic with the music that they played when I was a kid; everything from Bon Jovi to Nirvana and Journey. I was also obsessed with Britney Spears. I like the greatest of every genre and it comes out in different ways for me. What I got from pop music when I was a kid was really good melodies, and R&B in my preteens taught me that you have to tell a story. I feel that you get different things from different role models in each genre.
GB: You play the piano in the music video for “Christmas Time in Dublin City”. Are there any other instruments you play?
TL: I started piano when I was four and then had to un-learn everything classically trained into my brain to start writing music. I started the guitar when I was a teenager, but I’ve never been very good at it; I can play a few chords and work my way to a standard chord progression.
GB: Your song in the Hallmark movie, Christmas Waltz, was met with very positive reviews. What was it like being a part of this project? How did you get involved?
TL: My dad was doing the music for it and they wanted the title song featured in the film. He pitched me to them because he knew that I could sing it well and they really liked my voice. I actually had no idea it was going to be used for the end dance sequence, and seeing people dance to my song at the end of the film was such a beautiful experience!
GB: I would like to talk about your role as “Jess” in A Date for Mad Mary. Was this your first LGBTQ-themed movie role?
TL: Yes. That was a really interesting project because when Seana and I read the script, it never hit us that it was specifically an LGBTQ+ film. It was just a love story to us. It was only afterwards when it was in post-production, right when Ireland became the first country to vote same-sex marriage, that it truly hit us. It came at a really pivotal time and it made us realize what the film meant. It’s one of those films that has brought really incredible people into my life; I’ve gotten such positive messages on social media from people who have seen it and now feel seen and heard and can relate to Mary or Jess. It’s really the gift that keeps on giving every time it plays or someone discovers it. I just love it so much and I love that character. I think Jess was such a special person.
GB: How did the role of Jess in A Date for Mad Mary affect you?
TL: I think it was a really important role for me. Playing Jess made me realize how similar I am to her. She’s with men at the beginning and then she falls in love with Mary. She’s very much all about the person in front of her and not about gender or sex and I really related to that when I was playing the role. It really taught me something about myself and it was a really special project.
GB: What have you been doing to stay sane during the pandemic?
TL: At the beginning I was binging everything on Netflix because I feel that when you’re busy working, you miss out on what content others are making and that’s where you learn a lot. Killing Eve and Tiger King I re-watched a thousand times. I baked a lot, and then I realized I had to stop doing that because none of my clothes would fit me, so then I was running a lot! Pilates is a big thing for me so even though the gyms are closed, I have my pilates mat and incense. I also keep writing because that’s the best thing to me. I have a home studio so I’m writing and working on some music at the moment and I’m really happy with how it’s sounding.
GB: Do you have any projects you’re currently working on that you can share with our readers?
TL: I’m shooting something next month in Wales that is actually another LGBTQ+ themed project. It’s about the Ladies of Llangollen. It focuses on young Irish women who fall in love and run away to Wales to live together in the late 1800s. It’s such a beautiful story and I’m so excited to be a part of it!