Q: As I mentioned before, there is some kind of indefinable rhythm and movement to your modelling work, like music. It leads us nicely onto talking about music and your projects with your band Hindu Doggie as well as your own solo work. First of all, what does music mean to you? Has it always been there in your life?
T: Music is my comfort, my lover, my love, my abandon, my heart, my soul. It means everything to me and I would be no one without it.
Q: Starting with your band Hindu Doggie if I may. How did the band get started and who is involved?
T: I met Josh James Gahris in a studio only 9 months ago. I was actually there to take photos, but it didn’t take long for music to come up. I wasn’t in the best place in life and I basically said to him, “Hi. I am miserable and I need a friend. You’re hanging out with me because you’re the only person here I can talk to.” He was absolutely open and supportive from day 1.
The first time we hung out, he picked up my guitar and I sang. When we first jammed in front of other people, they thought that we were playing full, rehearsed songs, which I think was the first inspiration we needed. The band happened rather organically. He sort of started bringing instruments over to my apartment and setting up to record. Our first song was Tao Te Ching, which was just kind of an intro-experiment to see what we were trying to do. The more guitars or midi’s or mics that found their way, the more we played. I don’t know what most people do when they hang out, but that came really naturally to us.
Then we’d record and listen to it consistently in the car or on my phone, then we’d change one thing, listen to that mix for another week. It wasn’t something we were “trying” to do, so we weren’t in any rush to create something.
The greatest thing about Josh is that we think the same way. If we say, “let’s start a band!” we’ll start a band. But we don’t really talk about it. It just happens. By August we had around 5 or 6 sounds done. Right now it’s just a matter of picking what to do put out when, and we still write every day.
Once we realized that we could do covers, too (we have both a Britney Spears and an Elvis cover on YouTube), I think we were sold on the idea of going public with the band.
We débuted ” New Body” on 11/11/11.
Q: I know artists hate categorizing themselves, but how would you describe the bands brand of music?
T: I always say “Progressive Pop” because it’s like “…whatever that means…”, which is exactly what I need in my mind to really embrace this project.
Q: Where do the songs come from? Is it a vigorous writing/composition process?
T: We do whatever feels right, I think. There are a lot of songs we’ve put on the back burner because you just know it doesn’t feel right just yet. It’s good, but it’s not what I’m trying to say right now. I think that every song we put out is a build up of a larger message that even we won’t know until it’s over. We have ideas pretty much every hour of every day. I think we will be making music for a long, long time.
Q: Listening to the pieces there seems to me to be a spirituality that accompanies the tracks. Was there a particular mindset within the band when creating the songs like “The Orchestra” and “Tao Te Ching”?
T: The craziest thing is, we’ve written these songs while travelling through dozens of states. We’ve exchanged tracks when I’ve gone back home for the holidays. We’ve added things in California to songs that we wrote in New York. Some of what we have is what Josh had recorded years ago that I just wrote lyrics and melody to. Other tracks are ideas I have come to him with, or things that inspired me that we built up together. Or if he’s at work, I’ll call him and say, “I just recorded something over this song we haven’t touched in 6 weeks. You HAVE to hear it I’m so excited!” I think it’s a real, true collaborative process.
Q: “New Body” seems to me to be a bit of a celebratory anthem. Would you agree with this, or again, is the music of Hindu Doggie up for interpretation?
T: New Body was the first song that we wrote in California. I think it’s definitely a positive message about my reflection of my road trip and what I felt like I was doing in order to grow. It’s sort of my advice, I think, to the other artists and musicians and friends I left behind who I know want to “get out”, so to speak. After awhile it felt sort of like a letter home from summer camp: don’t worry. I am having fun and even though I’m a little overwhelmed and I miss you, it’s fun and I’ll be home when the sun goes down.
Q: I have recently been introduced to your work as a solo artist as well. It definitely showcases yet another dimension to your style and musicality. I’m sure you’ve been singing all your life, but what made you take the plunge and promote solo material in the first place?
T: I took a recording class when I went to Bennington College, and I was lucky enough to be taught by Julie Last, who was one of the first females in the music industry and was extremely encouraging to me about my lyric writing especially. She encouraged me to learn to play piano and write at the same time which definitely put me in the mindset to pursue song writing. I’m pretty horrible at it, but it does inspire me :) I recorded my own stuff during those classes. I did some demos here and there - I worked with Jamie Siegel (of JRock Studios, who is incredible!) on Visual Exchange. Enemy was a session song that they shopped to Lady Gaga and I think Rihanna, but neither of them wanted to use it for their albums, so I got to own and distribute it since I worked on it, which was pretty great since I also got paid to do the session work. I have been truly lucky in that regard.
Q: As mentioned before, there are many dimensions and qualities to your voice. I hear some musical theatre in there, a bit of rock chick, some soulful lilts, as well as a myriad of nuances particular to you. What are your musical influences? Who did you grow up listening to?
T: That’s so great that you mention musical theatre because I would be no where without it! I did shows every year until I was maybe 20 or 21. I grew up listening to a lot of classical music, musical theatre, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Julie Andrews. Man, are those some voices not to be dismissed! I think it was extremely influential growing up with musical influences of people who transcended genres. It was nice to be able to listen to Frank’s holiday album and also see him act in Guys and Dolls. Around 9 or 10 I think I got into an Alanis Morisette phase, which turned into a Fiona Apple obsession, who is probably my biggest influence aside from Regina Spektor and Billie Holiday. Right now I rock everything from Mozart dubstep remixes to Sammie Davis Jr. I’ve been supporting some really great local California artists too: Kreayshawn is my girl.
Hindu Doggie has been interesting because Josh’s biggest influences are bands like My Morning Jacket and Radiohead. He’s also worked with Muse and The Deftones in the studio so I think that influences the band’s sound tremendously.
I think those of us in our early-mid 20’s are a product of everything from our parents blasting Mozart while we were in the womb, The Stones when we were 3, Nirvana at 5, to Britney Spears at 11, and now we’re all swimming around this mishmash of musical bi-product. Through it, even the Pop music is finding its own voice. It was really nice to hear bands like MMJ and MGMT on the main radio stations while on the road in the South. I think people’s minds are adapting to new sounds; it’s wonderful.
Q: Where and when was your first live performance as a solo artist? How did it go, and were there many nerves for you?
T: I sang for the first time in front of other people on my own when I was 7, so I barely remember that. But I was cast as “The Narrator” in the community theatre project of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when I was 12. Getting the lead role at the age of 12 in a community theatre production with adults was probably where the nerves came in. They took me in a back room after call-back’s and said “There are 25 year old girls and 40 year old women who want this part, and we’re giving it to you, and people are going to hate you for it, and we don’t care.” They never really asked if I cared, and they were pretty much right. 4 months into gruelling auditions where everyone was stabbing me with their eyes was un-fun, but it prepared me for the mindset that I now have and that’s shaped a huge part of me: STOP caring. I went out there on opening night, and I opened and closed the show with my voice, and they sold out every night. I think it was half a ploy on their part to get people to come to the show, but it truly did shape the way that I thought, and I don’t think I’ve ever truly been jittery on stage because of it.
Q: As well as all these wonderful traits you’re also a writer of poetry and prose. Does this attraction to the written word help with your musical expression? Do you find it easy to write your own songs, or is it more laborious than people imagine?
T: It’s really not hard at all. I think I have a lot to say, and I’ve been blessed with feeling like I have a tremendous amount of ways to say it. I think they all feed into each other. Would I write music if writing wasn’t easy for me? Probably not. As much as I like a challenge, I’d probably find some other way to express myself.
Q: What are your plans for live performances in the future? Can people catch you on stage anywhere soon?
T: 2012 is all about live music!! We’ll be updating on Facebook and YouTube and Soundcloud for sure.
Q: You have so many creative outlets it seems, but what medium or form of expression gives you the most pleasure? Is there a career path you’d like to focus on 100% or are you enjoying the variation in your working life at the moment?
T: I think the only time I’ve ever truly “failed” in life is when I was trying to only focus on one career path. Just because you are born into a society that says you must do this and that with your life, that doesn’t mean you’re emotionally or even biologically built to do that thing. I did the 9-5 thing for a decade already; I’ve been working since I was 14. Being “out of work” was not an option. Well, now it’s what I thrive off of. I like that my pay doesn’t come in the form of a mass check, I like that every day is different, I like that it finally doesn’t feel like there’s enough hours in the day, I like travelling. And if I can find more things to do with my time, bring them on! :)
Q: What projects have you got coming up in the future be it modelling, writing, music, painting…?
T: Right now I am finally feeling settled enough to decorate my apartment, so I’ve been painting a lot. Hindu doggie is going to release a cover and a new song this week. I will be in a scene with Mark Ruffalo in “Thanks for Sharing”, as well as featuring in “Culture Magazine” in January. I have a huge set of modelling photos and a series that I did with my dog in New York that I’m super excited about. I’ll be scanning film photos, taking Selfies, writing until my pens burst, painting canvas, tripping over microphone wires and singing my heart out for a long time to come :)
Q: What are you hoping 2012 has in store for Tara Mackey?
T: Love, life, & light.
Q: Could we please finish with Bernard Pivot’s well known questionnaire?
What is your favourite word? Road.
What is your least favourite word? Beef.
What turns you on? Intrigue.
What turns you off? The Blues.
What sound or noise do you love? Ooo-AHH.
What sound or noise do you hate? Eee-AHH.
What is your favourite curse word? Derp.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? History Teacher. For sure.
What profession would you not like to do? History Teacher. For sure. (It’s my greatest realistic dream job, but I think I’d hate it in the end…)
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “Well, wasn’t that fun!”
It’s been my pleasure to being you this interview with Tara Mackey. I am extremely honoured to be able to say I’ve talked at length with this remarkable woman, about her work, career and inspirations. I hope I have introduced some uninitiated individuals to the majesty of Miss Mackey. Please show your appreciation by checking out her blog, and do yourself a favour and follow. You’ll be tantalized and enthralled by what you find.
All images used in this piece were provided or approved by Tara herself.