HomeInterviewsHappy Mondays with Tara Dente

Happy Mondays with Tara Dente

Tara Dente takes the stage tonight alongside Bone and Marrow and The Clydes for a special Happy Mondays hosted by The Pop Break! The Long Branch based Singer/Songwriter Tara Dente will be bringing her alt. folk sound to the stage at Wonder Bar, accompanied by a full band. Show-goers will be able to experience the catharsis of her emotionally-charged songs in which her lyrics act as a means of self-reflection. Each song pinpoints a significant moment in her life, and it allows us to learn more about her and understand the inner-workings of her mind.

The Pop Break had the opportunity to interview Tara Dente to discover the soul behind the music, from her favorite venues to musical influences, the recurring theme of nature in her songs, her most recent release The Gleaner and an update of upcoming shows and new music in the fall.

As you are based in Asbury Park, what would you say is your number one venue to perform at? Why do you like this venue so much? I don’t know if I enjoy any one particular venue, over the type of show I am performing. My favorite type of room is a listening room, where people come primarily to listen to the music being performed. Any venue can be transformed into a listening room, but they tend to be smaller places, with a more intimate vibe. Any room that is dimly lit, and has some character from years being worn in, these are my favorite places to play.

I love playing Caffe Vivaldi in Greenwich Village. I was invited by Jeremy Aaron on a couple occasions to play a show he hosts called Greenwich Village Showcase, where he invites folk musicians to play for the night. People are there for delicious food and drink and cozy atmosphere, but they’re really supportive of the musicians through the way they listen. You can tell they’re there to hear the music. My roots are in folk and singer-songwriter music, so my songs are not necessarily just to entertain others, although I hope that is a natural byproduct. I feel like my songs are meant to be a conduit to catharsis, self-reflection, connection. Not to arbitrarily fill empty space. The sound at The Saint in Asbury Park, NJ, is always great. I love the character (thousands of stickers all over everything), wacky lights and tchotchkes, newspaper clippings plastered on the walls, and red velvet curtains on stage. When you perform, you can see the faces in front of you. These things all help to make me feel sort of encased by a space, and feel connected.

What is it about artists and bands like Nick Drake, Enya and The Shins that inspires your music? How do these artists influence your songwriting? Nick Drake feels both like someone I knew and also I question how he existed. His music feels perfect to me. I feel connected to his music in a way I don’t to any other famous person’s music. His timeless melodies and intricate, impeccable guitar playing, free song structure, and relatable lyrics make him very accessible. And also so otherworldy. He talked about personal and also societal topics, without grandiosity. I think I was influenced by his finger-picking styles.

I also think that if you’re honest in your delivery, lyrics, and style, the song doesn’t need to be the technically best song, or need to be neat and clean. Honesty can go a long way in setting a song apart from the rest. Enya’s CDs (yes, played on a Sony Walkman), are some of the first I owned and listened to. I used to walk around my neighborhood in Long Branch (NJ) before I was a teenager, listening to her angelic voice, letting the melodies and sounds seep in, just observing my surroundings to my own soundtrack, and daydreaming. Daydreaming is probably what I do best. I think I still owe to her, my addiction to reverb. She lives in a castle somewhere (dope) and has never changed what she does with the ebb and flow of trends and what I imagine were pressing offers to compromise what she does. I really respect that.

The Shins I heard at first in the Garden State soundtrack. “New Slang” is still one of my favorite songs. It’s one of the few I’ll cover. I like James Mercer’s voice, and I’m not sure how much of The Shins songs and songwriting is owed to him singularly, but I like how they throw in unexpected chord changes and chord choices. That has impacted the way I set up my own chord changes/choices. I try to challenge myself not to always reach for the chord that would “make sense” or the first one that comes to me, almost by muscle memory. I also like all the nuances, such as the way they use tremelo (spelling?) and add lots of layered sounds and instruments. It seems the band being formed in NM has had an impact on the landscapes of their songs, with a trippy alternative, south-western vibe.

On a local level, I am a huge fan of Francis Lombardi’s music and his songwriting, and hope to collaborate more with him in the future. I think what all these people have in common is they carved a path for themselves that look and sound unique. It’s hard to achieve that these days amidst a lot of noise. But I think the place you have to start is honesty. What comes out of you from your soul? Not from an algorithm.

When it comes to songwriting, are there any recurring themes that you touch on in your music? If so, what are they and how do they pervade your songs? One of the most common themes/topics is nature. The natural world is inspiring to me because it is a constant (and of course, also always changing). In this context, I mean it is a constant, in that it is not going to project its emotions onto you, it is there every day, and persists. When you don’t know what’s going on, and trends literally turn over by the minute, and stock markets are manic, and people are lost in their own worlds, trees are still trees, that path you always liked to walk in the woods is still there, and birds are still chirping and singing. Being in nature makes me feel better about myself, and about my place on the earth. I think if everyone saw themselves as an extension of nature, and not above it or apart from it, we would have more respect for ourselves, others, and for the planet itself, which is our home.

I am heartened to see people start to collectively give a shit about our impact on the earth. I don’t know how far down the hole we are in our destruction of our resources – I think, pretty far – but I do see people individually starting to take more care in their own lives, and communities make collective choices to make a smaller impact. I hope we don’t underestimate the impact of how individual small choices, together can add up to big impact. Anyway, this is on my mind pretty often. I think also in my songs, I sort of just combine separate rants under an umbrella and can find ways to tie them together and make them rhyme. I write down little thoughts here and there in a journal, and sometimes I use just one as a springboard, other times I’ll use multiple lines that were separate and bring them together under the same roof.

Overall, how would you describe what your album The Gleaner is about? Is there any song in particular that encompasses the meaning of this album? If so, what is it and why did you choose this one? The Gleaner is a collection of songs over the span of multiple years, about breakups, uncertainty, death, and experiences associated with living in a new place. One of the songs, “Blind Pilot” was a result of a writing prompt from maybe almost 5 years ago? Once again, it’s taking a span of time, and tying it together under one roof. The image of a gleaner in the fields, taking what’s left after harvest, came to me and made sense to represent the collection. I felt like a gleaner represented me, as someone who was trying to make sense of my 20’s and all of the events and things that happened and were still happening. You feel defeated sometimes, like the best crops are gone, and you’re left with ruffage under a hot sun. But it’s still valuable, and once you bring it together, you can find meaning.

From your first full length album Leave Your Ghosts Behind to your most recent full-length The Gleaner, how do you think your music has evolved or progressed over the last couple of years? I think my voice has become more confident (thanks to just having greater self-esteem and getting older, and also due to some coaching and suggestions), and guitar playing has gotten better from all the hours put in. My song structure has changed a bit too, where I took the songs for The Gleaner and worked them to be more structured and less free-form, like the ones on LYGB. Playing with a band causes you to consider structure in a different way, to provide a platform for them to do their thing. I think I’m only getting more confident with my voice and my songs, and can do the songs justice, and not hide behind fear or self-doubt. I’m really excited for the next one.

Currently, do you have one song in particular that you love performing right now? What song would that be? I wrote a song recently called, “Enough” (as in, being enough). I worked on it in pre-production, and realized while searching on piano for a hook (sometimes it’s easier to work things out on piano), it actually takes on a really cool sound on piano. It turns into a different song than the original. However, I also love the original version. I’m thinking of maybe having both the full band, piano-driven version as well as the acoustic version on the album. We’ll see.

What is the best part about creating and performing music? It’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Nothing else makes me as happy. When you feel absolutely excited to be doing something, and time becomes irrelevant, and you’ll sacrifice comforts to make it happen, you know you’ve found your thing. Specifically, I love the feeling of sharing a finished song with people. To share with listeners, and also to play it with other musicians who add what they hear in their heads, to the song and create new elements and directions in it, is exciting. Performing is hugely gratifying because it’s validation by fellow humans that what you love the most is seen, heard, felt, and appreciated. That what you did from your soul somehow resonated with theirs. Doing what you love feels like magic. Maybe it is!

From exciting shows to possibly even new music, what’s in store for you this summer and for the rest of 2018? Well I’m really looking forward to recording this next album in October. I’ve got an impressive crew of Chris Dubrow on upright bass, Chris Colon on electric guitar and lap steel, and Santo Rizzolo on drums. It’s been great playing with them. We’re in pre-production now, and are going in mid-October to the label I’m with, Travianna Records’ recording studio based in Willis, VA, for a long weekend to lay down all the tracks. I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

I like having input during the preproduction stage on how to develop the songs where they could unfold more, tighten up, or just need a little tweaking. They’ve been awesome at helping me to steer the songs. I’ll be playing solo at John & Peter’s in New Hope, PA, this Saturday, night July 21st. The next one after that will be on August 11th at the Asbury Park Brewery with a trio of myself, Dubrow and Colon, as part of the Makin Waves Summer Series. My friend and fellow Travianna recording artist, Pi Jacobs, will be touring with her trio from California, and I’m opening for her with the same trio as on the 11th, at Rockwood Music Hall (my first ever Rockwood appearance!) in NYC on Thursday, September 6th. The next day, Friday, September 7th, we’ll share a bill at the Asbury Hotel, in Asbury Park, NJ. For more details on set times, covers and locations, I will be posting to my music facebook page and instagram account (for both, search, “Tara Dente”).



Laura Curry
Laura Curry
Laura Curry is a Rutgers University graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Media Studies. Interviewing bands and writing about music is her passion. She is a frequent concert-goer, whether they’re happening in New Brunswick basements, Asbury Park venues, concert halls in NYC and anywhere in between. Alternative rock is her go-to genre (i.e. Kings of Leon, Cage the Elephant, Foals, The Maine and lots more). When she isn’t writing for The Pop Break, she works at the North Brunswick Public Library, which offers plenty of Fantasy/Adventure novels to quench her love of reading. Additionally, she takes on creative projects from dream catchers and scrapbooks to paintings and jewelry making. She’s always happy to talk about her furry Maine Coon cat Austen and his knack for playing fetch and hide and seek. Just try not to ask about her next career move, because trust me, she’s working on it.

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