Music interviews Women in Music

Interview: A timely chat with The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman.

Who is Canadian singer songwriter Tamara Lindeman? Well, I recently set out to discover that for myself thanks to her good friend Terra Lightfoot who recently recommended I check out her band The Weather Station and their song Thirty; which was incidentally my introduction to Lindeman’s world, especially her infectious melancholic voice and folk rock leanings. That said, I soon discovered that there was quite a lot to like about her. For instance, if you ever get a chance to hear her talk about herself and her music, you will soon discover there is nothing at all pretentious about her. In fact, her honesty and sincerity is quite refreshing, something that I believe is unmatched by some of the bigwigs of music. Maybe Tamara’s candor has everything to do with being raised in rural Ontario or the fact that Tamara had found her happy place, after a prolonged period where things like deep anxiety really troubled her. But if you’re not quite convinced, those fans lucky enough to have met her or seen her live shows will certainly vouch for me.

Talking about shows, Lindeman is actually currently in the middle of a tour and she arrives here in Melbourne next week, to begin her Australian leg of The Weather Station tour. That said, somewhere recently in between EU shows, I was lucky enough to catch up with Tamara to ask her some of the burning questions on my mind. Here is some of what we talked about.

Tamara, do you draw a sharp distinction between much of your private life and as a performer? I guess, what I am trying to say is, you don’t seem afraid of letting your audience see who you are?

No, I don’t draw much of a distinction, and perhaps I should.  I think of music as a personal space, almost more personal than a one on one conversation – a direct space between people where you might share things you might not share in a conversation, or in a social space.  To me, that’s what makes music good, and worthwhile.  As a place to bypass conversation, social norms, or even things you think you’re supposed to feel or say.

The second track of your latest album called Thirty is a great example of your openness. I believe, we are sometimes supposed to question things about ourselves in order for us to grow. Do you agree?

Yes, of course.  My songs are all the result of me questioning everything in myself and around myself.

Do you see songwriting as a form of cathartic release?

Sort of. I would like to have a greater distance from it, but the fact remains that I do work through things through writing about them, and it’s often only after I’ve written a song that I feel a sense of completion around the emotional knot the song came out of.

In your deep drive to create credible and at times complicated music, what truly keeps you going? 

I just wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t believe in the music I made.  In between All Of It Was Mine and Loyalty, I lost four years trying to write songs that everyone in my life told me were good, but I knew in my heart weren’t good enough.  Even though I had a record finished that I could have put out, I just couldn’t do it.  The songs have to have some level of complication to them, some reason to exist, something unusual they’re expressing.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth spending my life chasing this ephemeral thing.  Every aspect of being a musician is exceptionally difficult and there is almost no money.  You have to believe in what you’re doing.

Can you tell us something about the artists that inspired you to become a musician?

Perhaps the most direct influence on me to become a musician was the band The Books, whose music was hardly music at all, more a collage of found sound and strange recordings.  As someone who didn’t yet write songs and couldn’t play well on any instrument, it was that non-music music that led me to the idea that I too could make music, because it broadened the idea of what music was.

I was also inspired by the Torontopia movement of the early ought’s, which was predicated around this idea that anyone could make music, anyone could be in bands, and that it was normal and indeed great to, as I did, join a band on banjo (with my mediocre at best grasp of the instrument) and melodica (which after all, almost anyone can play).

The song You and I (On the Other Side of the World) stands out as one of my favourites on your self-titled fourth album. If you had to pick one song from the album as your favourite, which one would it be? And why?

Probably Thirty.  It’s had the strongest life outside of me, which is always a wonderful thing.

The addition of strings to the album is something that surprises me.  What can you tell me about how you came to the decision to include these arrangements and why?

It was always a part of the plan for me – a part of how I imagined the record sounding.  I really loved adding strings because I was able to exert total control over them, and create melodic and harmonic passages that I couldn’t have created any other way, save by singing all those lines.

I read that you once said that you can’t remember a time when you didn’t sing. I quite like your infectious voice even though you feel it has its limitations. Why do you say that? You strength definitely lies how you deliver your bold lyrics.

I don’t have a super strong or loud voice – I can’t belt things out.  I think because I have that limitation, I’ve really focussed my singing on expression – on how many colours of feeling I can run through my voice, how I sing words, when I sing them, phrasing.  All the singers I love most are singers who maybe don’t have the best voice technically but have wonderful expression in their voices – that to me is the goal.  I’ve heard enough American Idol voices.  I don’t need to be impressed – I want to be moved.

How did you come to learn and play guitar? I notice you like to finger pick too?

I learned bluegrass banjo when I was 19, and then clawhammer when I was in my early 20s.  Really I mostly picked up guitar because I started writing songs and going to open mic nights, and it was pretty hard to accompany myself solo on banjo.  But from the beginning I basically just treated guitar as though it was a banjo – transferring over banjo tunings to guitar and then just adding in the extra strings.  On ‘All Of It Was Mine’ my guitar playing was still so limited that every song on that record only uses four strings.  I’ve gotten better since then.

I recently interviewed Terra Lightfoot and she had some amazing things to say about you. One of the things she mentioned was how you both made your records around the same time and how it was fun “to be women in charge of our craft”. Do you think we are in general moving forward enough with the validity and respect women in music deserve? 

I think we’re getting there.  Things are definitely changing.  I still note though, every time I’m asked this question, that while there are plenty of badass female  musicians touring and making records and being front people, and achieving great success, there are still relatively few female drummers or bass players or guitar players, and almost no female front of house sound people.  Then when you get into the people making the records – audio engineers, mix engineers, studio engineers, mastering engineers, there are almost no women anywhere.  At all.  And most labels are still run by men.  So while women are starting to be successful making their art, the gatekeepers remain men.  Not until we have lots of women in positions of power at labels and at radio, and women recording and mixing and mastering records, will there be true gender equality.

Tamara, if it’s ok, I’d like to ask you finally the same question I asked Terra recently. What music excites you and why? Even better what are some of the music artists you are listening to currently?

I’m into a couple records friends have put out – the new US Girls record and the yet to be released Jennifer Castle record.  I’m also into lately a lot of African music, ie. Hailu Mergia, The Funkees, etc.  Also digging on this Dion record that just got put on the web, ‘Born To Be With You’. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 9.46.09 AM.png

The Weather Station’s latest album is available in all good record stores and digitally. For more information on Tamara Lindeman and her band The Weather Station you can visit their website. You can connect with The Weather via their Facebook page. Follow them on twitter. Follow them on Instagram. Watch them on You Tube.
The Weather Station Australian Tour Dates:
Friday May 11 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, Australia {Get Tickets}
Saturday May 12 – Forum Theatre, Melbourne, Australia  **SOLD OUT**
Monday May 14 – The Gov, Hindmarsh, SA, Australia {Get Tickets}
Wednesday May 16 – The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD, Australia {Get Tickets}
Thursday May 17 – Sydney, NSW, Australia {Get Tickets}
For more information on The Weather Station’s US and UK tour dates in late May through to the end of August click HERE.
Photo credit: The header image of Tamara Lindeman is courtesy of Heartstop Music and photographed by Shervin Lainez. It cannot be used without their expressed permission. I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.


1 comment on “Interview: A timely chat with The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman.

  1. I really like the songs you included, especially “Thirty.” And though her vocals may not be strong or loud, they’re sublime – so clear and lovely, and filled with subtle yet powerful emotion, sort of like Joni Mitchell’s.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: