Home > Interviews > Tanya Donelly: Part 2

 

Part 1

Part 2


PLAYING OUT


BB: What makes for a good show and what has been your best show so far?
TD: Oh, wow. Ever?!

BB: Yeah sure. I know thereís been a lot.
TD: Whew, wow. Thereíve been a lot of good shows. There used to be a club in England called The Towne and Country. It was this big, big theatre. And I had two amazing shows there. One with Throwing Muses and one with Belly. Recently, or actually not so recently, with the solo stuff I remember we had one really great show in Japan. There are a lot of them. You know I have to say that the
musicians that I choose to play with really blow me away so I always feel really good about shows. Itís really just something so organic that I donít even know that it can be defined. I learned a long time ago that you canít say, ďThat was a great show, letís figure out why and try to duplicate that.Ē Because it has this something that kind of involves a third party, because you have yourself, the audience and then this other thing. For me it has a lot to do with the crowd. I donít know if thatís for better or for worse. I just pick up peopleís energy.

BB: Do you have any pre or post show rituals?
TD: I drink a glass of wine before I go on stage. (Laughter)

BB: Is that for your mental state or does the wine help your vocals?
TD: Purely for the mental state. I have horrible, horrible stage fright. Not to get graphic but I threw up for years before shows. When I was in Belly we toured for eighteen months, and it took a horrible toll on me physically. But something happens. After a while I guess it just got to a point where Ö you become immune to anything in life. But when I take breaks from it, as I do, and them come back to it I still get that terror.

BB: Do you do any interesting covers?
TD: We do a lot of interesting covers. On our last tour we did a Robyn Hitchcock song called ďSweet Ghost of Light.Ē We just did ďLong Long Long,Ē which is a Beatles song and we actually recorded that so itís going on the next release. Iím not so much with the covers, but Iím getting more into it. I want to do that Nina Simone song ďWild Is The Wind.Ē We did it a long time ago.

BB: Tell us about your audience. What are your fans like? Any interesting stories?
TD: I love my fans, I gotta say. Theyíre very good people. Theyíre funny and theyíre smart. I feel like I have a really good rapport with them for the most part. Some of them have become friends, and people that I like to see. Itís a nice community of people because it extends beyond me. One thing about my fans that I really like is that they have developed a community of their own that is a network that started with the Pixies, Muses, Belly, that whole crew of us. A lot of these people are fans of everything thatís come after. Itís a community that almost has nothing to do with the artist anymore, which I really like because I think that itís healthier than if they were only fixed on me, for instance. Itís something that goes beyond what brought them together to begin with. I also like that theyíre not afraid to be critical. Theyíre not mean, but they are honest. Theyíre not sycophants.

BB: Good word. I havenít used that since Junior High.
TD: (Laughter)


THE BOSTON MUSIC SCENE

BB: What are some of your favorite places to play?
TD: Right now? I love the Paradise. I really like the people there. I like the atmosphere. I love ZuZu. I think thatís probably one of my favorite places. Right now ZuZu and the Lizard Lounge are my favorite places to go and see somebody play. Iíve always loved The Middle East. Upstairs and down. Thereíre some really good places to go see bands.

BB: Are there some bands from the past or currently that were some of your favorites to play with?
TD: I love Count Zero. The Dambuilders, back in the day. The Pixies, obviously. There were just so many, early on especially. The Uzis were a band from a long time ago that was great.

BB: How would you compare the Boston music scene to the other cities youíve played in?
TD: Boston seems friendlier to me than other cities. It feels like people truly support each other here in a way that Iím sure happens elsewhere but, maybe not with such a high concentration of bands. And it can be very fragmented; there are definitely different scenes here. But there are a lot of events that bring people together and I just feel like the people are just very supportive here. And for the most part theyíre really good people.

BB: Do you attribute that to the fact that you have been a Boston-based artist for such a long time, or do you think itís just that those other cities may not be as geared to your style?
TD: I donít know really what it is. Iím not saying there is a total lack of competition here, but people arenít as greedy or something. Thereís not really a nasty, competitive air here. Itís more communal.


IN CLOSING

BB: If you could play on stage with anyone alive who would it be?
TD: Oh, Leonard Cohen. Iím crazy about him. Heís a legend. Heís a great songwriter. I think heís the best lyricist of all time. Heís justÖ ughÖ thereís no one like him.

BB: If you could be in another profession other than your own, what would it be?
TD: I think Iíd like to be a teacher. I used to say archeologist or anthropologist because thatís what I started to study before I left to do music, but I think Iíd like to be a teacher.

BB: At what level?
TD: The little ones.

BB: And what would be your least favorite idea for another profession?
TD: Oh god. Hooker!? (Laughter)

BB: Wow, great answer. What do you hope to be doing in music in a few years?
TD: I kind of like where I am now actually. Itís kind of a tight rope balance to see how long I can do it as my ďday job.Ē I like that I still do well enough that I can continue to do it full time, but itís containable. Itís small and I can handle it. When I toured for those eighteen months, it was a little crazy and I didnít handle it well. It could have been the timing, but I think for my personality type a smaller career is healthier for me.

BB: What do you hope do within a year from now?
TD: A year from now, see, thatís the kind of future I can handle! (Laughter) Well, I have this idea to do a series of co-writes with people. Largely people that Iíve worked with before. So Iím contacting and putting the word out with people that I want to do this. One of the ideas, in its concept phase, was to have people deliver a piece of music to me and I will write over it. You know, probably play some guitar, write words and I would sing over it. I also have this project that has been sitting on the back burner, a childrenís record that a friend of mine Chris and I put together. Itís all Boston people that wrote a childrenís song, and weíre going to make that a primary focus to get that out and start spreading the word about that. So thatís my year.

BB: What do you hope people will get out of your music?
TD: I hope people will get something of themselves out of it, actually. I like when people have taken a song of mine and personalized it, and made it their own story. I feel like thatís a really successful song. It speaks to somebody on their own level instead of trying to figure out what it has to do with me.

BB: What advice do you have for aspiring local musicians?
TD: Artistically, as tight as it sounds, when you walk into a room to write a song, close the door and leave every tiny scrap of business outside that door. Donít let the industry into your music. Thatís one thing I would say, on the artistic side. But, another thing logistically is ďDonít Sign Anything,Ē until itís been poured over by an entertainment lawyer, specifically. Thereís no way to overemphasize the importance of that.

 

BB: Does that mean you've had a bad experience?
TD: Oh yeah. (Laughter) Actually I have...

 

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