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>TAMARA SCHLESINGER
 

Her debut album ‘From Home to Home’ has just been released in late August 2004 on her own record label Tantrum Records and is doing well considering the humble nature of her beginnings. Combining a rich song writing talent, a healthy appreciation of Ryan Adams and a great batch of folksy pop rock songs under her belt already, I join her in a coffee bar deep in the heart of Soho in London for a spot of banter, back slapping and…coffee.

So when did the whole idea of being a singer songwriter start?
It started when I was at university, in my first year I sang a cover of ‘These Boots are made for Walking’ and it was released on this compilation album for the ‘Lock Stock’ TV series. It was my first time in the studio and I got ripped off, I didn’t get paid or anything. I’d sung in choirs and stuff and that was the first time that I realised that I could sing. The real reason I’m doing it is because I love song writing, singing and performing and if I can do that as my job and not have to work part time I’d love it. I realised at the end of my first year that I wasn’t really into the degree and that’s when I started singing. I finished my degree because I thought I should have one just in case, but in my final year degree show, I’d shot a music video, wrote a song, designed the clothes and projected the music video on the back wall. I’m interested in combining all of this together because I’m still in love with fashion, I could be working in fashion really, but it’s not what I want.

DISCOGRAPHY
Albums
From Home to Home

REVIEWS
Live
Islington Hope & Anchor

Albums
From Home to Home

LINKS
Tantrum Records

 
What are you listening to at the moment?
I love Kathryn Williams and Ryan Adams, I absolutely love Ryan Adams. I’d seen him live at the Royal Festival Hall, he’s like a god. Everyone was sitting down and when someone took a photo everyone was like “ssh!” it was just amazing. I like pop and all kinds of music, but I’d say my influences and who I get inspiration from include Kathryn Williams because I like her melodies and she licensed her music to a major label so she still has control over what she does which is what I want to do, I don’t really want to sign away to a major label, so she kind of inspired me into doing that. Badly Drawn Boy, his earlier stuff, I’m really into guitar so Bowie, early Elton John, I love all that kind of stuff.

You’re quite the musically talented one yourself, what do you play and did you compose all the music that’s on the album?
I play the melodica, the guitar and I write all my music on guitar but I’m not great, that’s why I have two guitars. But not all the parts on the album are composed by me, there were session musicians who came in, but chord wise I wrote the structure of each song except the ones that I co-wrote with my boyfriend who wrote some of the guitars chords. I’ve actually got my second album already written, and my guitar is getting better so now I’m really hearing how I want the drums and the bass to be. That’s why I want to sell enough of this one to get my second one out. I want to record it in January but we’ll have to see what happens to be honest, I really don’t know. I want to add more instruments this time and make it more interesting, there was a limit to how much I could do with the first album, even in terms of arranging songs, and I just didn’t have as much time to develop them because I had to get it done during my time in the studio.

So are you happy with the album you’ve made?
I really am happy with it, but now that I’ve been working with the band, live, things are developing with the songs which probably wouldn’t have happened if I spent longer developing the songs before. I love listening to it; I really do, so I guess that’s why I like it. Some of the songs are written 5 years ago, ‘A little Advice’ was written 4 or 5 years ago, and then ‘'It’s The Way’ is slightly newer, they vary in time, between one and five years, basically I’ve been writing since the start of university, about 90 songs in total but it’s a case of picking the strongest ones for the album.

In your own words what would you say you sound like?
Hmm, pop probably, folk pop. I hate saying who I sound like, people have said that I sound a bit like Mazzi Starr so there’s probably a bit of that on the album, but personally I’d love to be a female Ryan Adams, I’d like to go for that sound in my next album. My boyfriend has got everything to do with Ryan Adams. To be honest I don’t really know how the album is selling, it’s doing quite well, it’s in Virgin and stuff and people are really searching for it because it’s not that easy to find which is really nice that people are doing that. All the money I make goes straight back into the company, I don’t pay myself at all, I don’t pay for the band to move about, but if we’re short on getting the band up to Scotland then I’ll pay for that.

Your live band you tour with, are they mainly your own friends?
They are mainly friends of friends, the lead guitarist Soren played on the album on a few tracks, and Michael (harmonica) is awesome and played on the album and Dionne the cellist is on the album too, but the others all work and the live band was put together after the album so they can’t do it full time. We are all friends so it can be difficult to say to them, ‘this isn’t right’ or ‘change this’ so that’s got to be something I have to get better at because I love being the artist but I’m not very good with the business side of things, its difficult when you’re writing songs and performing and then you have to also manage yourself and your band. I’ve had a few offers in the last few weeks to have my own manager but I’ve reached a point where I might need some help to get it a bit further than where we are.

How’s the second album going to differ from the first?
I think there’s a little bit more to it, it’s more quirky. I think my songwritings developed, so I’m getting better with melodies and my guitar too, its coming together. It’ll still have a similar feel but there’ll be a few more rockier tracks in there, but just probably more instrumentation as well, more trumpets and percussion, and xylophones, just a bit more, that’s what I want.

Where do you reckon you’ll be in a year’s time?
I hope to have recorded the second album in a years time and be in a position to have sold enough of the first to put the second one out, that’s kinda what my aim is. I’ll probably give it six months to see what happens with this one, but I really want to go and record it. We’ll still be touring, looks like quite a few venues in Manchester are quite keen to have us, I’ll do more gigs in London throughout October, then hopefully move on to Brighton and Glasgow. The guys work so can’t just go whenever, so I’m looking to do some acoustic stuff too, just me and Soren the guitarist cos he’s freelance.

Any bad experiences so far with the music industry?
Apart from the ‘Boots are made for walking’ thing, which was a kind of rude awaking really, I trusted people and from then on it was contracts and you know, know what you’re signing, so in terms of that nothing really negative (touch wood). Sometimes someone will say ‘ah so and so is really good at this’ but you don’t really know until they start so you’re going on what someone said, so that’s quite difficult. On the plus side, I’m proud that I’ve even got the album out! It got a four star review in Closer magazine and a 7 out of 10 on Teletext so…the positive is I haven’t really had a negative reaction to the album and the gigs, I just think perhaps there hasn’t been enough exposure in influential places. I think that if the Closer review was in NME or Q magazine, people might actually look for it even more.

Any tips for anyone thinking of doing the same as you?
The hardest thing I’ve dealt with is lack of self belief, so you need good support mechanism around you, family and friends who really believe in it even when you don’t, because sometimes you do stop believing in it. It is all about contacts and who you know, it really is, but if you love music the n go for it, I’ll carry on doing it even if it doesn’t work out, I’ll keep gigging because that’s what I love doing, I’m not going to give up, but at some point there’s going to be a moment when I have to say ‘is this working’. My parents and boyfriend have been amazing, when I’ve said I don’t know if to carry on they’ve said carry on which is important because if they had said ‘come on what are you doing, forget it, what are you doing working in a bar part time’, I would've changed my mind back then’ so its important.

Review by Bevis Man