Sweetness and power: Pacific grad releases solo album
What happens when you combine a passionate poet, an indie folk enthusiast, music teacher, choral soloist and professional theater actress?
Free from the confines and restraints a band name can impose on some, Tara Velarde felt freer to create the album she has always wanted, resulting in the 10- track "Get Out and Walk," a record that showcases her singer-songwriter ambitions.
Velarde, a Portland-based artist, and Pacific University graduate who majored in music education, served as the frontwoman for The Tara Novellas, a group she formed a couple of years ago. Now a solo artist, her new album blends the elements of folk, indie-rock, Latin groove and gypsy vibes.
"My songs feature such an eclectic variety of styles and influences, some have expressed to me before that I need to focus in on one genre," she said. "I don't think that's true — not for myself or for anyone. My personal definition of a truly remarkable artist is one that stands out, not one that sounds like everyone else."
Her roots in music go all the way back to her childhood in Yamhill. She grew up singing with her family; her mother had Velarde and her five siblings go to church camps, where they always sang in harmonies, and that's where she learned to stand up in front of people and perform.
She was home-schooled, and by the time senior year of high school came around, she was trying to decide where to steer her life. At one point, she didn't think she was even into music, which changed when a 16-year-old Velarde was watching television on a lazy day, she said. An Old Navy commercial featuring Ingrid Michaelson, a New York-based indie pop singer-songwriter, aired, with the artist singing "The Way I Am," a break-out hit that put her on the map.
Now, backed by members Joe Deardorff and Steph Landtiser on drums, keys and backing vocals, Velarde is heavily influenced by the likes of Regina Spektor and Brandi Carlile, as well as classic artists such as Joni Mitchell, Judy Garland and Janis Joplin. She's no stranger to comparisons to female vocalists spanning the last several decades, and it's something she doesn't shy away from like other artists.
"My voice is often described as smooth, sweet, and pretty, and it hasn't been until recent years that I have plugged in a new power and intensity. Brandi Carlile was the first female artist that I heard that pushed her vocals to the breaking point, and I was immediately captivated by the effect," Velarde recalled. "I started using it in my own singing and all of a sudden I could achieve a much broader range of emotion and inflection. From one song to the next — and often within the course of a single song — I could draw the audience in with purity and subtlety, and then blow them away by bringing my vocal power to it's limit. This album is a perfect demonstration of that range of vocal command."
Velarde is very happy with the way the record came out. Despite the fact that she's a perfectionist by nature, she said, "Get Out and Walk" taught her to let go, to allow the record to live and breathe and to have a personality of its own.
She's excited to share her work with both old and new fans, and plans to tour in support of the album. Over the course of the last few years she's performed on television and radio, billed at festivals and fairs and performed in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Reno, Boise and more.
Velarde will be back in Forest Grove on Saturday, Feb. 4 to perform a set at the McMenamins Grand Lodge, 3505 Pacific Ave. The free show starts at 7 p.m.
"This record is our biggest album to date. I feel that it is a strong and thrilling representation of our sound, our message, and our style, and I hope that it makes a clear statement about our passion," said Velarde. "But most of all, I hope that listeners are able to connect with the songs and find strength, smiles and solidarity."