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Friday, May 09, 2008

Blaise of Glory

My interview with Tara Blaise in today's Irish Daily Mail

You might not be able to tell by her classical good looks and refined, half-British accent, but inside Tara Blaise beats the heart of a hardcore rock chick.

“There doesn’t seem to be as much socialising amongst the Dublin music scene as there was before,” she tells me over coffee in the Morrison Hotel. “I went to an album launch the other night and everybody headed home straight after it. That’s certainly not the kind of album launch I’m used to!”

Blaise doesn’t need to elaborate any further on that point, because one look at her resume reveals a woman who has been at the centre of the Irish music business for almost half of her 30 years on earth.

Born in London, but raised in Aughrim, Co Wicklow, Blaise started out as a singer aged 16 when she formed Les Legumes with some school friends, before moving on to be a backing singer with Dublin band The Wilde Oscars.

This was followed by a stint with the band Igloo, before Tara – who then went by her birth name Tara Egan-Langley – was recruited as lead singer with Kilkenny rockers Kaydee when their front woman, Jan Kiely, quit. The band, who were signed by EMI, were groomed as the next big Irish breakthrough on the international scene, but it never came to pass.

However, that setback didn’t discourage this ambitious lady, who this month released her second solo album entitled Great Escape. In fact, Blaise positively cherishes all her time spent in various rock outfits.

“People ask me how to get started in music and I say, ‘Keep doing anything and everything’,” she states. “I did every gig imaginable. I did some awful ones, horrendous. I did gigs where the audience was just my family. But you still have to do the gig. And of course there were the drunken pub gigs where people just talk over you, but it’s all learning. I wouldn’t be here today without that experience. I just don’t know how people can expect to achieve success overnight.”

Great Escape, a polished, radio-friendly album that confidently blends rock and pop, is a record suffused with industry experience, and not just on Blaise’s part. One of the producers on the album is the legendary Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange, who has overseen albums by his wife, Shania Twain, as well as Dundalk band The Corrs, Def Leppard and Bryan Adams.

“It was an amazing experience working with Mutt,” she explains. “He heard my tracks ‘Breathe’ and ‘Make You’ and said he wanted to record them with me. He’s so surprising, because you look at the list of stuff he’s worked on, but he’s the loveliest, quietest, most unassuming person on earth. Having said that, he’s a total workaholic. W hen he’s working on a project, nothing else distracts him. He has so many ideas, but he never insists on putting his stamp on your album. Rather he flatters and complements what you’ve done already.”

Blaise landed that impressive contact through The Corrs’ manager John Hughes, with whom she worked on his solo album Wild Oceans. Hughes then produced Blaise’s well-received debut solo album Dancing on Tables Barefoot (2005). She also credits Kate Bush and Tom Waits as major influences on her style, as well as several contemporaries she met while working the then-emerging Dublin scene in the 1990s.

“There was lots of fantastic music going on then,” she recalls warmly. “There was Glen Hansard and the Frames, Damien Rice was in Juniper at the time and he played with us at a gig in O’Connell St. We were all around at a very exciting time, and we seem to have all endured. You know, there are times when you do wonder, ‘What am I doing? Can I stick this out?’ and we all have.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s been lots of rejection, but it’s about taking that rejection and keeping going. I try to give any rejection, any good reviews and any bad ones the same amount of time to dwell on – I give them a day.

“So for one day I’m allowed to be thrilled with myself or I can be really upset. Because I think if you allow any longer either way, you’re looking for attention or you’re looking for sympathy and both are unattractive. That’s easy to say, harder to do, but I think you have to live that way.”
Blaise has just completed a national tour with Brian Kennedy, and these days divides her time between London, Dublin and Roscrea, Co Tipperary, where her mother now lives (her dad died when she was 21).

“My parents were always really great in that they never said, ‘No’,” Blaise says. “They were always very supportive. I guess they knew I had my head screwed on. And I did go to college as well. I studied Law first, which I dropped out of, and then studied in the Gaiety School of Acting.
“My family always knew that singing was my thing. I’m the eldest of six kids and I’ve been doing this for as long as they can remember, so they’re like, ‘Whatever!’ Nothing fazes them.”

*Great Escape is out now.

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