Singer/songwriter Taryn Laronge is not only walking the musical footsteps of pioneers like Tori Amos, Sarah Mclachlan and Joni Mitchell, but she is also making some big ones of her own.
When you listen to Taryn’s single climbing, you hear an honest voice and an urgency only found in artists who go the distance and leave a mark in their chosen field. The music business is fraught with so many pitfalls and challenges, and I spoke with Taryn about this in relation to being a woman in what has essentially been a male dominated industry, as well as discussing the nature of her creativity and her views on feminism, activism and her time with The Pariah Project.
TM: Your path as a singer/songwriter has been a journey with some interesting stops along the way. Earlier in your career you were with a band called The Pariah Project and you were signed to the UKlabel Attic records. The Pariah Project was a very avant-garde and pioneering idea and in that sense a wonderful way for you to cut your teeth on experimentation with sound. What did you take away musically from your time with The Pariah Project, in terms of how you approach song writing and recording?
TL: When I worked with The Pariah Project I was able to develop my skills as a lyricist and melody writer primarily because I was able to isolate those areas of the songwriting process. My partner focused on writing the chord progressions and soundscapes while I got to concentrate on writing the melodies and lyrics. In hindsight that really helped me to develop my passion for lyric writing and melody writing and at the time I couldn’t even really play piano . Not the way I can now at least.
TM: There is a strong element in your lyrics of introspection and the striding toward some sort of liberation and understanding of self. When I was listening to your new single climbing, I was immediately struck by how timeless this song is in terms of melody and although I could draw a comparison with others such as Natalie Merchant and Lisa Loeb, you have an urgency to your vocals that is more reminiscent of Tori Amos. When you record, do you just let the feelings take over and carry through each note or do you consciously strive to create nuances vocally on words or phrases to elicit a particular emotional response in your listener?
TL: I would have to say that everything I do and my approach is usually entirely guided by my emotions or some sort of emotional intuition. There is of course an element of a lot of rote and repetitious practice but generally I am able to let go of all that and just focus on the pure emotional moment when I’m in the studio recording. Perhaps I will change my approach over time but this is the way I am currently do it.
TM: Every songwriter is asked this but the answers are always interesting and never typical: What comes first for you, the melody or the lyrics, or is it different each time?
TL: Yes I write songs differently every time. Some times I have written a song starting with a chord progression that I really liked and then the lyrics just came to me as I started singing over the top of the chord progression. And other times I have written all of the lyrics on my computer first and brought them to the piano with me after and just came up with the music to go with them as I start to sing the words and a melody just seems to form too. Other times I have written half of the lyrics or started out with an idea for a title that I know I am completely committed to and I have a few lines of lyrics and then I’ll write the music in a back and forth way as I readjust and rewrite the lyrics to suit the music better. It’s always a combination of one of those three ways so it’s always a bit of a surprise to me too and yet it’s like my intuition is guiding me the whole time in the sense that I always know in the back of my mind which one of those ways I’m approaching the songwriting process.
TM: A lot of performers say it is cathartic to open up to an audience and that the daunting aspect of taking to a stage is more than rewarded by the energy they receive in return. Do you look forward to touring and taking your debut album on the road and if so, do you prefer the intimate setting of a smaller venue or the larger setting of a hall?
TL: Yes I cannot wait to tour and play shows. I cannot believe how much work it is to practice and put in the time to prepare for a task like touring but I am super excited to do it and go on the road. I am going to bring my dog along for his support and company but I look forward to touring very soon also. I’m not sure yet if I like a large venue or a small one but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
TM: You also have a strong activist leaning and socially astute bent to your music. As a matter of fact, when you were singing with The Pariah Project you were involved with an animation project highlighting the death of Reena Virk, a young girl murdered by other teens in British Columbia Canada. Your vocals on this are amazing, so haunting and beautiful, as if you are feeling her emotions in some intangible way. Did her tragic story have any affect on how you feel about the impact of music on others particularly young teens and do you think pop music can still have an impact on youth to create social change perhaps on a subliminal level if not literal?
TL: One of the things I like about being an artist is the opportunity it provides to get your own message out there and then support others whose messages are similar or resounding with yours. To me it’s important to help put an end to violence of all kinds in the world especially violence toward women. When we wrote the song about Reena Virk it impacted me that a group of teenage girls could kill another girl. That level of violence is horrible and we have to put a worldwide stop to it.
TM: Last year you formed your own publishing label, Turkey Tornado Music as well as the record label Tarrynosaurus Records. By doing this you are truly a pioneer reflecting the self belief and courage of the Independent artist. It take a lot of guts to not only take complete creative control of your music but as a woman you must have encountered barriers based on sexist bias even though we have made great strides within the last twenty years. Do you see the exploding indie movement in music as another push forward for women socially and if so, do you think it is a more level playing field without the sexual stereotyping and objectification of record companies who in times past sexualized the promotion of female artists? In other words, when women have power over their own creativity, will this change how we see women in music portrayed?
TL: Absolutely and in my experience it has been a challenge to work with male producers sometimes therefore it took a while to find my balance and the right one to work with. It can definitely be a man’s industry at times and a female artist has to learn her boundaries around what it’s going to take to her own sound out. You have to work in such close quarters with a producer to make an album. Many times I was unsuccessful until I found Joe Cruz who provided me with the right environment for me and one that empowered me and nurtured me without objectifying me. Too, nowadays with the way the internet and social media are, it’s a great time for a female artist to be independent. Also, I cannot give up creative control of my work and I think of an artist like Tori Amos who fought for so many years to get that.
TM: In August of 2011, your recently released single Climbing was chosen for the movie Something Good by Director Ryan Delaronde. In addition to this you have irons in a lot of other fires as well, such as your involvement with survivors of Rape with your song Letters to Juliette and your interest in taking music to inner city kids was of great interest to me personally. Have you ever entertained the idea of dipping your musical toe in the sea of urban sound such as rap, hip hop or soul and would you consider collaborating with artists in these areas of music on behalf of kids living in the projects in Canada or the US
TL: I would certainly be open to collaborating with any other genre as long as I dug the lyrics and melody. It’s always good to shake things up and step out of your comfort zone as an artist.
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