Tamara Stewart is an Australian born, Nashville-based, country singer who is heading to the UK in March to support Elles Bailey. It is a great opportunity for her British fans to catch up with this talented lady who delivers country sounds with a mix of Americana. Americana is a genre gaining traction in Europe; artists such as Jason Collear have been gaining an increasing audience for this style.
Tamara is great to talk to; she is a podcaster, musician, and songwriter—exactly the type of artist we like here.
We began by looking at the journey to Nashville. It is interesting because whenever we talk to American rockers, they always say how they want to visit England to see Abbey Road studios and the stages where the Beatles and Stones performed. But English musicians are desperate to get to Nashville (or Graceland)! As a result, we wondered how long Nashville had been the target.
Tamara- It was 100% a music decision to move here. I come from this really small country town in Australia, and the radio connected me to the world. When I fell in love with singer-songwriters, country music, and what we would now describe as Americana music, it always seemed to come out of this fantasy land called Nashville. By the time I started my first contract and recording deal, I was 25. I made that first trip to Nashville, and it was like coming home for me. Then it was back-and-forth for a few years with touring and doing shows until it eventually made sense to call it home about eight years ago now. It’s a beautiful town, and it’s obviously growing again after the pandemic, but it is a music mecca. I have recorded a few things here now, and the whole experience is worth it. I produce my own records, and I am in awe of the musicians. We have a great music industry in Australia, but for me, I came to grow as a songwriter and to chase the best song I could write. I feel so inspired, and to still be writing songs for a living and still be talking about my music is a blessing.
For a moment, remember that great line from BB King’s daughter, Shirley King: “When you scratch the surface of any great song, you find the blues.” Now, try listening to “Haunted House,” one of our favourites here in the office, and you’ll hear a really strong blues influence there. We wondered if Tamara saw that as well.
Tamara – It’s not intentional. But I am a songwriter primarily, and my influences are pulled from country; probably the country side of blues, Johnnie Ray, and that style. I have collected little gems in my bag along the way! It is interesting with genres, as I often hear singers wrestle with the genre that they put in the mix, but I am proudly country, and I am proud that you can hear those other influences too. I think Americana fits because it crosses boundaries, but for me as a songwriter (and this is true of the blues too), I tell stories in my lyrics. Blues music tells the story of human experience, and I was educated by the blues, and know how important it is for a songwriter not to stay in the same lane.
Tamara is also a successful podcaster. She had a series in 2019 to pair with her album “The Truth, The Music and Me,” and she returns with a new podcast later this month (February 2023), “Heal My Story,” where she will explore the world of healing and creativity, diving deeper into the relationship our creative parts play in our healing journey. This podcast will be released in conjunction with Tamara’s first single from her long-awaited album, “Mean Girl,” which was released on all platforms on February 3rd.
Tamara- I did have a podcast back in 2019, which feels like a million years ago. It came out with the last album. It went really well, but it was quite intimidating to move away from the song and talk because that is such a different beast. But the response was so lovely that I decided to do “Heal My Story.” But this one is different; it is about healing. We get healing messages from songs, maybe subliminally, that can help us heal. I am curious to talk to artists and creatives and discuss how healing is in their art. It has crept more into my writing as I get older and braver. So now I tell more honest stories.
There is a certain sadness in the lyrics of Tamara’s songs, but she never ceases to entertain. Her music is uplifting and touching, but her music tells the story.
Tamara- I think some people will listen to the same song and have very different emotional responses, so I feel the most important thing is about “connection.” If you hear your story in my song, then that will promote emotion. It is strange with the new single, “Mean Girl.” It is a heavy song in many ways, but to me it is a triumphant song, and it doesn’t feel heavy to me. It depends on where you are on the journey. For me, it is honesty that is waiting.
The album Tamara is best known for in the UK would be the 2019 outing “The Truth, The Music and Me,” which was her last main release. We asked her how she felt the album in 2023 evolved from there.
Tamara- My divorce record, but thankfully I only have one. It is interesting; I have made different albums over the years, but I keep experimenting, and no two are in the same pocket. But, from the 2019 album to this new album, there is a natural flow from one to the other. This is what came from that album. The new single “Mean Girl” was actually the last song written for the album, and it was really obvious it belonged here as the single release for this new album. But the story has moved forward with this new material. But the more I talk about it, the more I see this album as the beginning of a new chapter.
So is “Mean Girl” the bridge between the last album and the new?
Tamara- “Mean Girl” was the thing I hadn’t yet said. So it could only have come in the light of a new day. It belongs on the new record, not the old, but it needed to be said on the last record. From the perspective of songwriting, I am proud and blown away by the response to it. It is the connection piece, and that is how I judge what success is like. I was chasing something else when I first signed a record deal, but I look for something different now. I am really so pleased that my album when I was 25 was not the end of my creative story, it was the start, and I have survived in a tough business. I am proud I am still in the business.
Tamara was 24 when she signed her first deal. We wondered how the 24-year-old Tamara would have felt if she had been listening to the new material; would she have been surprised by it?
Tamara- I feel she loved songs like “Fancy” by Reba McEntire and the stories that were really brave. It is telling stories about things you don’t talk about, and, to be honest, I have not thought about this from that perspective before, but she would have assumed that we would have done that. I’m sure she’d be surprised at how long it took me to write this honestly.. She was brave, and she wanted a place in the industry, and that stuff tapered off. But the older, I get, the more I hear her bravery and care less about some of the concerns she had. I think music is the voice for things that we cannot say.
Tamara plays a fairly mean acoustic guitar, and as we began to finish off, we asked whether she wrote whether she wrote on the guitar or piano.
Tamara- My favourite instrument is the guitar, which I have been learning since I was around ten years old. But sometimes I like to break that cycle, and although I am not a great pianist, I will go on the piano. “Mean Girls” was actually written on the piano, and although I will play it live with a guitar, it was actually written on the piano. It takes me to different layers and melodies.
And the album?
It will be out by mid-year. I am in the UK in March and am very excited about that. And the rest of the year is the podcast, maybe some US and Australian shows, and promoting the new album. 2023 is about new songs and new adventures.
By Benny (the Ball) Benson
Mark C. Chambers.
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