Tara Henton is a rising star of the UK country scene who I was lucky enough to meet at Tennessee Fields recently after her performance on the Saturday morning of the event. In this interview we talk all things music, including Tara’s influences, how it all started and how a Canadian singer is now making her mark here in the UK.
Hi Tara, can I start by asking how you got into music in the first place? Has it always been a passion since a young age?
I don’t really remember ‘getting into’ music – I think it’s just always been a part of who I am. When I was little, I was forever singing to myself and making up little songs. I loved playing with anything that made a sound. My grandmother played the organ and whenever I would go visit her, I loved to sit and play on it for hours. I started piano lessons when I was 6 and vocal lessons when I was around 10. When I was a teenager, I saved up my money to buy a Yamaha SY-77. I taught myself how to sequence tracks and started writing some of my earliest songs. So yes, I think it is safe to say, it has always been a passion!
And if you had to describe your style, what would you say?
In terms of songwriting, my style is quite broad! I think ‘eclectic’ and ‘versatile’ sum things up nicely. I write a lot of country, but I also enjoy writing in different genres. In terms of me as an artist, I think I’m still finding my ‘style’. I’m a huge fan of 90s country and traditional country, but I also love Americana, folk, rock, pop, and blues. I think this all finds it’s way into my music in different ratios depending on the way the wind is blowing on the day I sit down to write!
You’ve had an interesting journey. Born and raised in Canada, before moving to the UK. What influence has that had on your music?
Honestly, I’m not exactly sure! So many musical influences were floating around me when I was growing up, so that certainly played a huge part in me becoming so musically eclectic, but I’m not sure how uniquely ‘Canadian’ any of them were! My mom listened to Abba, Boney M and Billy Joel. My dad was always playing lots of Merle Haggard, Ed Bruce, Loretta Lynn and Don Williams. My friends in high school listened to everything from The Tragically Hip to Guns ‘N Roses, with a bit of Vanilla Ice and M.C. Hammer in there for good measure. Add to the mix that fact that my cousin and I were absolutely obsessed with Peter Cetera and Chicago, and I don’t just mean one or two songs – I had their entire back catalogue on CD! It’s no wonder that my musical tastes are so varied really!!
In terms of country music, I definitely get my love of traditional country from my dad. My mom got me into line dancing when I was around 15 (good old Diane Horner videos!) so I have her to thank for kick starting my love for 90s country I think. Another important thing that influenced me musically was playing keyboards with a cover band called ‘The Second Hand Band’ in the mid 90s. We played lots of the modern country at that time, but also some Beatles, Elvis, Everly Brothers, and Ricky Nelson, just to name a few. I think playing in the band helped me transition from a classically trained musician to one that was more versatile and well rounded. It honed my understanding of how to work out chord progressions and sing harmony, and even forced me to improvise a lead or two (which I was never very good at, but I tried!).
Which artists have had an influence on your career, country or not?!
Other than those that I’ve already mentioned, I would say that my holy trinity is Mary Chapin Carpenter, Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters. I love the story telling and the truth that is apparent in everything these women have ever written. I could fill the page with the names of others who have influenced me in one way or another, but these three ladies are who I find myself listening to when I really need to reconnect with my soul and remember why I write.
If you could play a dream gig, where would it be? And who would accompany you for a duet?
Ah, that’s an easy one! Hands down, The Grand Ole’ Opry!! And to complete the dream – a duet with Brad Paisley please!
To finish tell us about your upcoming plans and where we can find you on social media?
I’m so excited to finally be at a point in my music career where I am playing and recording my own music. It’s been a very long time coming, but it feels like the stars are finally starting to align. My debut single, ‘Wild Horse’, is currently being produced and I am looking to release it sometime this autumn. It is a lifelong dream of mine to do this, and I’m thrilled that it is becoming a reality!
Title image courtesy of Paul Clampin, London Backline Photography
Article image courtesy of Richard Munden, Purple Promotions Management