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Sunday, 17 April 2022 12:43

Ten Questions for Tara Minton, Jazz Harpist and Vocalist

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Vocalist, harpist and composer Tara Minton has recently released her brilliant album Two For The Road with bassist Ed Babar and is busy touring the world and soaking in some incredible reviews. Based in London, she is currently in her hometown Melbourne, Australia preparing for some exciting performances and it was a great pleasure to catch up with her while she was there.


1.Your new album Two for The Road has been going down a storm! How has everything been for you since its release?

Thank you! Ed and I are blown away with the positive response to the album. We were invited to play live on BBC Radio 3, which was most exciting, and received some nice invitations to perform the record at clubs outside of London. It's a beautiful way to share our music with new audiences and play with local musicians. 


2.You are going to be performing in Melbourne, Australia shortly – how excited are you to play in your hometown?

I am so excited! I'm performing 'Two For The Road' at the Melbourne Recital Centre on the 9th of April with my very dear friend, Owen Downie on bass. It's a dream to play the MRC. I'm also performing 'Please Do Not Ignore The Mermaid' at my Melbourne jazz home, The Paris Cat on the 16th of April. I'm joined by Owen once again, Kieran Rafferty on drums and Andrew Patterson on piano - my first ever jazz teacher/mentor. I'm proud of the progress I've made in the last few years and am so pleased to have the opportunity to share these records with a home crowd.


3.I am sure harpists get asked this all the time but travelling with such a large – and beautiful – instrument, must be hard. What kind of preparation and work does it take?

I have a harp in Melbourne luckily and a friendly community of harpists who have been helping me out with lifts (I no longer have a car in Melbourne!) I don't fly with my harp - the cost is prohibitive and I'd be a nervous wreck worrying about its safety. 

4.You have obviously found an incredible musical partner with bassist Ed Babar. How did you start working together?

I'm very lucky to play with Ed. He is both a wonderful musician and a very dear friend. We met at The Ashtead Jazz Club in July, 2014 - he was in the house band and I was invited as the guest artist. We've been playing together ever since and have grown together as musicians and friends. So many opportunities I've pursued have been at the encouragement of Ed. I owe him a lot.


5.Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

Absolutely. When I'm writing songs, I almost always write lyrics first. I let the inherent rhythm of speech dictate the structure of the music. I read a lot and love language, so I can spend a long time with words before I've composed a note. Over the last couple of years my compositions have become less conventional; more impressionistic and through-composed. I still write lyrics, but I've also been using my voice as an instrument (like Norma Winstone) and composing pieces with no vocals. For this type of writing, I am usually captured by a sound that I want to explore and then melodies start flowing out of me. The mermaid record began with an exploration of the locrian natural 9 and whole tone sound worlds and developed from there. 


6.The album cover features a stunning specially commissioned piece of art by Paya Lehane. Can you tell us about this artist and how her work captured you?

Paya is a dear friend of mine and wonderful musician/composer in her own right. I have long been a fan of Miró and Kandinsky and Paya's art has a similar whimsical feeling. Paya has captured Ed and I in abstract but there is real depth and insight in the way she's chosen to portray us; the features she's augmented or obscured. I am all admiration and a true fan of her work.


7.Travelling is a key component to your work in many ways. When did this become an inspiration for you?

I went on exchange to Jakarta, Indonesia when I was 15 years old. The experience of existing in another language and living inside a culture so foreign to my own had a profound effect on my world view. I look back on that time as one of the happiest of my life and jump at the opportunity now to be a foreigner and receive other cultures and ideas. I think that is at the core of why I love playing music and why travel is so integral to my art. 

8.Other than your upcoming performances in Australia, what are your gig plans for the rest of the year?

When I return I have shows booked at The East Grinstead Jazz Club, Norwhich Jazz Club, Winchelsea Arts, Karamel, The Jazz Cafe with BARE (Blues and Roots Ensemble), Rockingham Folk Festival with Faris Ishaq, SpiceJazz Soho, a lovely show in Switzerland with Tommaso Starace and my first ever Prom with The Australian World Orchestra. A full gig list is up on my website:


9.The harp seems to be getting some wonderful – and overdue - attention over the past couple of years. Why do you think that is?

There are a number of harpists pushing boundaries and producing truly great work at the moment. Artists like Björk and Florence Welch (and in the jazz world, Edmar Castañeda) have brought the harp to mainstream audiences, so it doesn't seem so outrageous now for me or Alina Bzhezhinska or Charles Overton, Brandee Younger, Riza Printup, Eleonore Nuibo, Stina Hellberg Agback, Pia Salvia, Lara Somogyi, Remy Vankesteren... (I could go on!) In the harp world, Park Stickney has reigned supreme for decades as the authority on jazz harp and has paved the way forward with his own recordings, teaching and research. 


10. Working in the Creative Industries can be very challenging. What do you do to stay focused and reasonably stress free?

Oh goodness! It very much depends on when you catch me. Sometimes I fail miserably at remaining stress free. I run and practice yoga, enjoy cooking nutritious food and have got really into gardening these past few years. I think my hack though is using google calendars to colour-coordinate my schedule - practice, gigs, teaching, exercise, social. Seeing it all laid out helps me to feel in control and prepared and lets me see if I'm taking on too much.




Photographs: Courtesy of Andrew Porter Music Photography



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