Tara Velarde is a singer-songwriter from Portland, Oregon, who recently released her first full-length album, Get Out And Walk. Her voice is often described as “angelic,” and she layers classic singer-songwriter vocals over melodies and beats that smoothly shift gears from one influence to another—danceable, old-timey jazz, introspective, Coldplay-type pop, or the occasional Dylanesque harmonica riff. Her plans this month include a short tour with stops in San Francisco and Sacramento—and one in Reno at 8 p.m., Feb. 24 at Studio on 4th, 432 E. Fourth St. The album is available on her website, taravelardemusic.com.
What does your career look like right now? How much time do you spend touring, recording, performing or writing?
It’s pretty busy. I am a teacher. I teach private lessons and choir in my afternoons and evenings. When I’m not doing that I’m playing locally. We have a circuit of gigs we play in the Portland area. At this point we’re doing an extended weekend tour in the Western United States almost every month.
What kinds of venues have you been playing in?
We pretty much play anywhere. We can tailor our set to suit what kind of situation we’re in. It’s fun to be in a coffeehouse.
So, I know that the Facebook game where you list the records you were listening to in high school is already a few weeks out of date, but I heard such a range of influences in your songs, a little Dylan, a little Coldplay, that I have to ask—what were you listening to in high school?
When I was in high school, the most-singer-songwriter [artist] was Ingrid Michaelson—her voice, her lyrics, her writing style. Dashboard Confessional. My brother was into My Chemical Romance. My sister listened to a lot of Shania Twain. Then there was, like, Queen. It was definitely a mix. They’re not all, I would say, my favorites, but they were all informing my sound at the time.
I can hear a few different types of folk music in there too.
My grandpa is a musician also. He’s from Tennessee. He was always trying to get us to do folk and bluegrass music. [At first we resisted.] Then I noticed my songwriting started gravitating to acoustic melodies …
Who’s the “we”?
I have five siblings. That’s the “we.” My parents are not particularly into playing or singing music, but for some reason my siblings and I played and sang, and we really ran with it. We had my youngest brother picking out harmonies at 3 or 4.
Has being a music teacher influenced your songwriting?
It’s influenced my performance. … I taught elementary music classes for two years. It really helped me with my stage presence in front of a room. When you’re teaching a class of kids you have to be so engaging and so present and entertaining. I’ve been performing my whole life, but [teaching] gave me that crash course.
What are you up to next?
We’re going to be touring a lot, trying to get out to Washington, down to California, Nevada, also heading east to Idaho and Montana. That’ll be a focus for a while. We’re going to be doing some festivals in the summer.