An innate love for music has fueled Tara Kelly to pursue her dreams ever since she can remember. Kelly recalls, as a child, pleading with her parents to allow her to hire a manager to help further her lofty ambitions. At the age of 16 Kelly was able to persuade them to allow her to move out to LA alone to chase this undying dream.
Recently we had the chance to speak with Kelly about her upbringing, unique sound and brand new single “Play With Fire”.
Who would you describe as your biggest musical influences?
I’m deeply inspired by Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt who paved the way for artists like me to blend country, southern rock, and pop into one cosmic, American sound. I’m also heavily influenced by Kacey Musgraves, Fleetwood Mac, John Mayer and Brandi Carlile.
Did you always know that music was what you wanted to pursue?
From the time I was a little kid I knew I wanted to be a singer. My exposure to certain sounds and the places I lived definitely shaped the kind of music I would eventually make, but writing songs and performing them has always been in me.
Once you realized music was something you could pursue seriously what was your first step towards making it a reality?
I begged my parents from an early age to let me get a manager so I could audition for every singing-related opportunity in Philadelphia and New York. I diligently sent every one of those emails and took meetings by myself. When I finally convinced my parents to let me move to LA on my own at 16, I knew it was my job to write in as many rooms as possible and perform wherever I could so I could prove to them that I’d made the right choice.
What’s the story behind your upcoming single “Playing With Fire”?
Play With Fire is about pushing your limits so far that you “burn” yourself in the process. I had the privilege of writing it with Billy Delia from the band Grizfolk – I was a huge fan of their sound and passion when they played live. I came into our first session with the title “Play With Fire” and a vision for a folky, cosmic country anthem. He started messing around in Open C and I immediately got excited when I heard him play that deep, low-pitch progression for the first time. It had an ominousness to it that was really captivating, but the ring of C in 3 separate octaves made it feel light and fun. From there, we wrote the whole song in a half hour.
How do you feel this song differs from what you’ve previously put out?
This song is a little darker and uses more of the folk instruments I’ve been working with on my newer stuff, like mandolin and harmonica. It’s also got a little bit of a sassy, Miranda Lambert moment in the chorus that is so fun to perform.
What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced throughout your journey and how have you overcome them?
I had been writing and recording for myself and other artists for a while before I got the confidence to release something on my own. It was a challenge for me to develop authentically as an artist when I had other people in the industry telling me who they thought I should be. It took time to develop autonomy over my own vision so that I could learn how to kindly and respectfully say no to something. I learned how to offer alternative solutions, and work with the people that were on the same creative wavelength I was when possible. I overcame the idea that I had to be someone else’s version of a female musician. It allowed me to show up to each situation more excited, more prepared, and even more creative than I ever thought possible.
What’s next for you?
New music is coming! I’m writing and building on the musical world we created with “The River” and “Play With Fire.” My dream is to work with some of some of my favorite musicians and use more folk instruments to take this sound even further… Stay tuned.