Tarra Layne - 10 Questions for You! And, a Performance Review.
Q. Let's talk about the rich culture history of Pittsburgh and how that influenced your music?
A. Pittsburgh, in general, is on the edge of Appalachia which is an absolutely amazing part of America. I grew up from the corner of Ohio, West Virginia and Pittsburgh, and with all the culture that goes on there in general you have that really rural sound and soul. And being in Pittsburgh, you really have a rock, urban edge. So I feel like where those two rivers meet in Pittsburgh, it such a huge melting pot of culture. Since it has that really rural feel of the city, and it has blue-collar values, people grew up conservatively there, it has a huge country influence. A lot of people love country there. You see it in the news. Kenny Chesney and Luke Bryan will come to town and the friggin town blows off in chaos. We have the influences from Chicago, Cleveland and New York, too. So it's really a city, urban vibe, too. I was lucky enough to grow up in an atmosphere where all that meets in the middle. I hear that in my music, too.
Q. How did your music began? Did it start with your parent's record collection?
A. My father was very eclectic. He would make mix tapes for me and send them to me with crazy 80s rock like Erasure, The Escape Club and New Kids on The Block. He wouldn't hone in on the pop music of the day, he would fix in John Lennon, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. It was stuff to get my mind going when it came to the different genres of music. Of course, my mom had her own records: Dionne Warwick, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. I loved it. Whitney Houston. Michael Jackson. She was into pop but my dad was the musician. He was an amazing guitar player and he got my wheels spinning on writing and being an artist.
Q. What was the moment at home you displayed some kind of talent?
A. I always remember singing. My mom said that since I was a baby. My father would practice pitches with me. I have little home videos of me singing. I would sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Star" on the porch steps. I think the most defining moment was with the movie, "The Little Mermaid," it was one of my favorite Disney movies. I played Ariel in third grade. We were watching it on our TV and we had a huge TV you had to turn the knob. I was four or five. We turned the TV off and I was singing "Part of Your World" and I was singing it at the top of my lungs. They didn't know it was me singing. I knew from that time on, I was going to be a singer.
Q. What happened next?
A. I was always involved in music in school. I was always in choir and doing musical theater performances. I was always asking the teacher if I could be a soloist for the recital. That started in sixth grade. I was doing the church stuff, too. When I went on to college, I majored in marketing emphasis and doubled it with classes in the music industry and voice because I knew I was going to manage my own career.
Q. What happened once you finished college?
A. I knew I was going to Nashville. I did have a country influence but I loved 90s R&B. I wanted to be Brandy and Monica. But I also knew I had something else to offer. wasn't really sure about it. I just loved the deep blues. I really wanted to take in that Southern atmosphere. I loved Muddy Waters, Big Mamma Thornton and Koko Taylor. I loved that soulful, gritty sound. That's what I want to bring into my music so I thought Nashville was good place to start because of that. I knew I didn't want to go straight country. So I moved down there and had an amazing experience. I ended up jumping some tours with people. I helped them out with merchandise and seeing what tour life was like. Before Luke Bryan was so big as he is today, I went on tour with him for five days. I crashed on his tour bus and talked to him about music. I got to talk to the record company about what I wanted to do. I kind of lived the gypsy life seeing what it's was all about to confirm my love for it and see the route I wanted to go. I met The Tower of Power, Kenny Chesney and Jo Dee Messina. I'm a crazy networker. I met a guy that was having a private showcase with Jake Owen. We were talking and he said: "we have an extra spot do you want to come?" I said: "yeah!" I have always taken opportunities like that. I had an opportunity to go to New York and meet a publishing company off of Epic Records and sit in with the staff writers that write for Beyoncé and other artists. They actually offered me a publishing deal to come up there and be a staff writer. But I realized I would have to move to New York and give up my artistry to do that. I feel blessed to have the opportunities I have had so far but now it's Tarra Layne full force, it's what I want to do.
Q. What happened when you left Nashville?
A. I moved back to Pittsburgh. It was a year and half later. I was with my boyfriend and he moved back to Cincinnati and I moved back to Pittsburgh. It was a self discovery thing. I had my fill of Nashville. They were trying to take me into a country route and I wasn't ready. I didn't want to do the pop/country thing. I moved back to Pittsburgh and said I'm going to write my own music. I want to put out my own record and that's where "Introducing Tarra Layne" came from. I got a hardcore corporate job which I will never go back to. I went to school for that whole marketing package I did at this job. It honestly helped me with my music. But I lived on that salary and every penny of it went into my music. I ended up releasing "Introducing Tarra Layne" which was produced in Pittsburgh. I just want to get my music my way and not be influenced by everything. Growing up in Pittsburgh, I felt like I could do what I wanted and I wanted to feel that way again. This is who I am and where I was born and raised. Since it was my first original project, it was the first time I ever released anything under Tarra Layne. It was my writing from over the years. Some of this writing was four or five years old. I got all these musicians in a studio and I said: "Let's do it!" If you listen to the EP, every song is pretty different. "Stick Shift King" is gritty, soulful and funky. "Beautiful Day" is soulful but rocky. "Karma" is still in that vein. "Bar Stool" is country. "Makeup" is my pop ballad. "Druglessly" is bluesy and cabaretseque. I really didn't want to go in one vein. This is me. It was a songwriting journey for me and I pulled all my influences together and this is what came out.
Q. What happened after you left Pittsburgh?
A. I was there four years. It was longer than I thought it would be and made some music videos. I continued writing and I had some opportunities in New York, Nashville and L.A. I wasn't sure where I really wanted to go. I won an opportunity to open for Gavin DeGraw and Vanessa Carlton. They flew me and my band out and treated us like rock stars. We opened up for them at Webster Hall in NYC for Origins Rocks Earth Mother Concert in 2012. There was like 2,500 people there. I submitted my "Beautiful Day" video for Origins Skin Care and they wanted something earthy and pop/rock. There were 4,000 people they entered the contest and I ended up winning. It was my first single ever and I couldn't believe it. Origins said they thought it was perfect for their promotion. They used it for a few of their online promotions for skin care, it was an amazing opportunity. I got to walk my first red carpet.
Q. What happened as a result of this contest?
A. I went on through New York and toured. I scheduled a little tour through Pennsylvania, Ohio and mostly through New York. Gavin invited me to play his club. That resulted in management contracts thrown my way. Different publishing opportunities. All last year, I took some time off from the performing aspect of things. I just wanted to sit down and think about who I am as an artist and what I want to do. I went back to Pittsburgh after the last tour. My drummer who was my boyfriend moved to L.A. with his band. We kept talking. I was still in between Nashville and L.A. I wanted to go somewhere there was opportunity and L.A. was that place and diverse. I decided to move to L.A. last Fall. At first, I gave it a little feel and then came back. I packed my car and finally came out in February. Ever since, I got here, it's been amazing. I started selling all my CDs online. I was really touching base with my fans. I've been trying to get to know them and find out what they like and don't like about my music. Where they really hear me. I engage them in that way. They are such a big part of my music. For the past five months, I've gained 40,000 followers on a Twitter with that big engagement. I've been selling my CDs like crazy online. I sign and kiss every single one. I let them name their own price and they donate whatever they want. The fans have been so kind, generous and supportive. They share everything online and tell people when I have a show. They make it fun and rewarding. This next month, we are wrapping up a video music shoot. We're doing a big campaign where we are releasing a single, a video and a single every month from here on out. We are releasing "Cherry Moonshine" this month - the studio version and see what happens. I'm excited about it and it's unique. I don't think anyone, let alone a woman, is doing it right now. It's gritty, carefree, sultry and straight-up rock and roll.
Q. What do think is the difference between "Introducing Terra Layne" and "The Yellow Couch Sessions"?
A. "Introducing Tarra Layne" was a songwriting journey for me. These are all my influences and how am I going to fit them together. With "The Yellow Couch Sessions" the atmosphere was so vibey. It was this little studio. It was super retro. So up my alley. I really wanted it to be a live cut of something and got the boys in the studio. I like that raw rock and roll sound. I think it's definitely more me. It's closer to the Tarra Layne than I have felt. Its bluesier and grittier. It has classic rock, Southern rock and blues and soul influences. We're going to do iTunes pre-sales popping it up online. As far as shows, I'm booking a lot of acoustic shows and full-band shows.
Q. Are you aiming for management and a recording deal?
A. Of course. I'm aiming for the right management and record deal. I've been in some shitty situations just like anyone else. That's why I'm in L.A. I want to give it my best shot. I'm going to be performing as much as possible and I would love to get into a solid booking situation. Of course, a record deal is in the future. I'm not sure if it's indie or major, but I'm going to find it, and not sacrifice anything for my artistry.
A technical difficulty can hamper the dynamics of any band performing live. The challenge is to maintain composure and professionalism in the face of this adversity. Such was the case and situation for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Tarra Layne and her band who recently played an eight song set at The Mint. Initially, her blues/rock/soul burnished vocals were buried, inaudible and it was almost impossible to understand the song lyrics. Despite this problem, Layne and her band soldiered on, overcame this obstacle and eventually all levels were adjusted. From that point on, the overall performance got stronger and felt more potent.
Drawing on her musical influences, the red-headed Layne gave a nod to Grace Potter, Miranda Lambert and Joss Stone to name a few. In her press release, she refers to her music as having a contemporary twist and coined a new term: funktry. The sound reflects all that and is a hybrid of sorts. But in reality, Layne isn't creating anything new but mixing styles together that are enjoyable, catchy, familiar and harkens to time when this sound was a staple on FM radio.
Tarra Layne has released two CDs: "Introducing Tarra Layne" and "Yellow Couch Sessions." Layne performed a few songs from each: "Stick Shift King, "Hit The Ground Running," and "Cherry Moonshine." All were very high-energy and full tilt. The new unreleased, "Man At a Home" was more mid tempo. What made this set stand out was the sheer power, confidence and intensity of emotion
Layne rung out of every song wrapping her smoldering velvety pipes around each one. Onstage, Layne is self assured and has a lot of stage presence. Her five-piece band matched Layne's talent and high level of musicianship note for note. Supported by two lead guitarists Vincent Cole and Pete Recine, Jaron "Huggy" Lamot on bass and Eric Downs on drums, they played with skill, technique and versatility reaching a star status of all of their own.