Sound Seekers: Tara Holloway Nails It with Little Ghosts

Tara Holloway, the powerhouse vocalist with the perfectly raspy voice, has put together an album that showcases her many dimensions. On Little Ghosts she sounds pained, mischievous, whimsical, awesomely raging, sage, and saucy. The new album — recorded at Ottawa’s Bova Sound and to be released in late February on Vancouver label Light Organ Records — has a bit of blues, a bit of folk noir, and a ton of charm with plenty of top-drawer offerings.

Holloway, 34, has toured and couch surfed for years (she once claimed “the iPhone is my home”), frequenting B.C., Tennessee, and California. She has spent most of her adult life on the stage and as a result is a natural with the chatty stage banter. It’s fascinating to watch her go from being potty-mouthed and gregarious to plaintive and pained, as she starts into another tune with those killer pipes. At times she brings to mind another redhead who put the capital on the map. Holloway’s album has all the hallmarks to blow up big. Could it be another Failer?

Her label budgeted nicely for the recording of the new album, allowing Holloway to fly in musicians Dony Wynn (drums) from Austin, Tx., and Jon Tiven (sax, sitar, organ, harmonica) from Nashville, Tenn. Knowing that decent record deals are rare these days, Holloway wanted to get the album done right and made sure not to compromise on any of the details. “I feel proud of this work. I focused and checked in with my gut at every single turn,” she says. “My nickname in studio became Boss Lady,” she laughs.

Ahead of Holloway’s hometown album release party at the NAC on February 24, we asked her to give us a spin through her new album track by track (including our faves “The Dance”, “Red Light”, “Radio Station”, and the title track). Here’s Holloway in her own words.

1. This Life
This song was co-written with label mate Kevvy Mental (Fake Shark Real Zombie). I met him for a blind date writing session and we worked on a song idea I had, which became this track. He is so fun to work with.

2. The Dance
I took many trips to write with people I love for this album, and many demos emerged. This song came out of a writing session with Colin Janz, the yin to my yang. (We wrote four songs together for this album!) At one point we were working to find a bridge for one song, and then he played this melody with a harpsichord sound and I was like, ‘Did you just write a new song?!’ We feverishly closed the other session to begin writing what would be “The Dance”.

3. Off the Wagon
I lucked out and had two songs on the TV show Dallas 2012, and both scenes involved Sue Ellen falling off the wagon. My dad suggested that I write a song actually for Sue Ellen about falling off the wagon. I was in Nashville with my friends Jon and Sally Tiven, a writing duo I love to spend time with, and it seemed like the perfect time to pull out this song idea. Thanks, Dad!

4. Red Light
This is an oldie! I recorded this song several different times, but it was never properly released, so I decided this would be re-recorded one more time and it would stick. Brian Simms guests on this one. He has played lead guitar for me over the years and always killed this one so hard. I love what he does on this song.

5. Nakedness
This was a lovely experiment that I would be happy to take part in again. Stephen Kalinich wrote songs for the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson and is a great modern American poet. He and Jon Tiven like to go back and forth with lyrics and song exchanges. Long story short: This came in three parts: Jon solely wrote the music, Stevie solely wrote the lyrics and I solely wrote the melody.

6. Radio Station
This is another older song that never got released, but one I have played for years. The story here is actually a flipped version of something I experienced many years ago. I was cheated on sort of, and while I was writing about that, I decided to come at it from the other woman’s point of view — since I had experience in that area too. To be clear, I never dated anyone who was married! I just like to write from different points of view.

7. Little Ghosts
This song is about quitting people and things, but they don’t just go away, they’re in your head — those remnants that stick with us for a long while after the relationship is over. For me, this song is about a major relationship in my life that had to end because there was not enough respect coming back to me. The admiration started out mutually and changed into an uneven partnership.

8. A Matter of Attack
That horn section, the electric sitar, the Hammond organ, and that guitar solo. Jon Tiven is the shit.

9. A Long Fall
This is a song written by my dear friend Marina Manushenko. We recorded this song together 10 years ago and I wanted it to see the light of day.

10. Re-Run
This is a song about having the same relationship problems over and over in different relationships. It’s about the lessons that we don’t learn and so we need to experience them until we do learn. People hate when I describe this song on stage, so I don’t. It’s just one of the things we don’t want to think about.

11. Stars
I wrote this song years ago with my friend Bill Farrant and I’d say it’s the lightest track on this album. Phew. I needed something light.

12. When You Get Older
I wrote this song about being an adult, but filled out the verses with a more youthful perspective, with the concept of thinking ahead to when you get older.

13. Hello to the End
This is the first thing I started writing when I began working on this album. I began with every songwriter’s fantasy of a week away in the woods in a cabin by myself. Yesss! And it was perfect. I brought up a ton of booze, a ton of food, some easy-light firewood, lots of smokeables and every instrument I own, every amp, and every recording device I own — even every notebook I’ve ever written in. I got to the cottage, moved all the furniture in this rented place, set up a fun space to work, and wrote day and night. Six days later I came out with a sense of myself as an artist. It had been a few years since I really sat down with me and wrote songs without any other opinions.

Tara Holloway’s album release party at the NAC is on Feb. 24