Check out this great interview I did with singer/songwriter Tamar Haviv! Here music has been renowned and talked about by Sir Paul McCartney, The Indigo Girls, and SPIN Magazine. Her debut album, You And Me Without Pajamas will be released on July 29th!
What was one of your earliest recollections with playing music?
Well I used to just walk around making up songs. I don’t even think I knew that they were songs. (laughs) I would take a lot of walks when I was younger, and I would be like walking around the neighborhood. I was just writing songs. I remember not wanting to get caught being up, but I would be up in the middle of the night writing songs. Like, hiding under the covers and not wanting to wake up my parents. So I used to just always have melodies and lyrics.
I used to sing songs at talent shows and stuff like that. I sang a song that I wrote at a 4th or 5th grade talent show, and that was before American Idol was the cool thing to do. It’s always been there for me. Like, I wasn’t allowed in the band, like the school band. I was never really formal about doing music. I had a really great choir teacher when I was in high school, but I rarely got solos or anything. I was really on the outskirts of things. I was always sort of doing my own thing, and never realized that it was anything.
Around what age did you begin to take songwriting more seriously, and want to pursue a career with it? Do you remember that moment?
Yeah! I mean, it was super late actually, since I’d already been writing and performing without giving it much thought. I think when I was a junior in high school, at my very first concert, I saw Jerry Garcia. I saw Billy Joel, and then I saw The Indigo Girls. When I saw The Indigo Girls, I was like “oh my goodness! This is it!” They were able to just feed me and give me something that converted me and fueled me, and something that I understood, and moved me. I’ve never seen such kind of reflection…I understood everything. I got it. It just came together for the first time. I didn’t know that people performed themselves, I thought they just made albums!
MTV was out there, so there were music videos and stuff, but I didn’t know that you could go and see shows. I didn’t come from like a real “TV family.” I didn’t know that you could go and see people do tours. I don’t know how I was so out of the loop, but I was. It was The Indigo Girls where I just got it. I was like “Wow, I can actually… these two people are giving me so much, and the fact that maybe my music could develop and potentially give other the people the way that they were giving to me…” It was extraordinary and that was the moment.
That’s really awesome! Tell me a little bit about the songwriting process for You And Me Without Pajamas. First off, where does the title come from? How long did the initial songwriting process take for the album?
Well, You And Me Without Pajamas is really about pushing my own boundaries, and being with someone…exploring my own limits, going past my own limits and preferences, and trying out someone else’s preferences, and getting to know and explore someone deeply, and really letting go and surrendering. It was…emotional and metaphorical, and then the obvious title. There’s lots of layers there.
I think the whole album is just about relationships. Human-ness and awkwardness, love and lust, passion and loss, longing, moving forward and backward kind of at the same time.
It’s interesting because before this record, the songs that I was writing were kind of like these super poetic, kind of trip-hoppy feel songs. They’re beautiful! So to allow myself to actually write these more… it feels kind of weird to say this, because I feel like they’re more dumbed down in one way, but they’re also just more stripped down and raw. That was hard for me when I started writing these songs. I was actually working at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY. It no longer exists but it’s the studio where Jeff Buckley recorded. A lot of incredible people recorded there.
I had the pleasure of working there for its last days of existence. I got to work with some incredible artists, and I found some of the players that ended up being on my record. I was making these small runs into town to get pizza or whatever, and I was listening to pop music for the time, really, on the radio. I really got to appreciate these little pop songs that would come on in a matter of like two minutes, and make me feel a certain way. And then I got to work with artists like Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, who is genius and full of integrity. He’s a freaking phenomenal songwriter, but he would write these pop songs, that go very mainstream. But they’re great songs!
I just realized like “Wow, it’s really cool to have a two and a half minute song that just takes you somewhere, that’s also really genuine and complete in some way, and can be on the radio.” And it’s not a six-minute, poetic thing that not everyone understands. It’s also really hard to do though. But between working with artists like him and other artists, and listening to the radio every day when I was running these errands, I think it just got in me. That’s when I started writing a lot more songs that ended up being on this record. It wasn’t really a conscious decision, it was that I was surrounded by it a lot, and I was appreciating it. It was hard because I was sort of, like, embarrassed, to write things like “I like you, you like me!” It was so simple, but it’s fun. I just tried really hard not to edit myself. I said “It’s okay! I can still write the six-minute poetry song, but I can do this too.” It was difficult though, because there were some moments where I thought “Ah, I’m deeper than this!” But I thought that it was okay, and “it’s okay to simplify!”
I understand exactly where you’re coming from in that respect. You write this very, deep intellectual, poetry-like writing, and then it just comes out so simple. One of the things I try to think back to though is The Beatles. I haven’t listened to every single song they’ve written, but the first songs that they came out with were just as simple as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. And then this is the same band that wrote “Let It Be”, which is one of the greatest songs lyrically written in the history of the music we have now (in my opinion).
Yeah! Thank you for saying that! I really appreciate you saying that.
So speaking of The Beatles, what did you say or feel when Sir Paul McCartney gave high praise to your album?
That was really incredible. It’s funny when you say that, because I go back in my mind and replay it and go “that happened!” (laughs). Yeah! It was really wild.
Basically, I’m a massage therapist, and I work in the summer by the ocean in a small town. There is this kind of inside/outside vegetarian place. He was riding his bike, and then he came in. And you know, you don’t want to bother people when you seem them. You want to be cool, but at this point in my life, I was like “you only live once.” (laughs). I had a copy of my CD, which when I’m good I try to. I try to have them in these places because you never know! So I went up to him, I introduced myself, and asked him if he would accept the demo. It was the full album, but it wasn’t mastered yet. After he took it, he was very sweet, and I didn’t know if he was going to listen to it or anything.
About two or three weeks later, I run into him again. I swear, there’s so many places to go in that town.
Where are you living that you’re running into Sir Paul McCartney every day? Because I’d like to live there too! (laughs)
It was this small ocean town in the summer! There’s only so many vegetarian places (laughs). He actually came up to me and said “Hey, I listened to your CD!” And I was like, “No….” And he said, “Yeah!” He started singing back one of the songs. I was like “Oh my God!” It was so many weeks later that he was singing back the song, with the melody and everything! He wasn’t just like “Oh yeah, I listened to the song.” So I was like, “Wow!” He said “yeah it was great!” He went on about it and I was totally touched and moved. I said, “Okay, I totally have to do something about this! Can I quote you?” I wasn’t thinking clearly (laughs) He said “Yeah yeah!” He pulls me outside, and he said: “Terrific Debut; Paul McCartney”. I said thank you so much, and he introduced me to his family. They were sitting out at a picnic table, and we hung out for a little while. It was amazing. He was such a sweetheart. I’m totally humbled and grateful.
I’m so glad you had that experience, that’s so cool! Especially with someone that you look up to, and seeing that he’s a nice guy with a family that just goes out to get lunch or dinner.
Totally! He was so generous. It was so generous of him to give me the time. I mean, I love my friends, and some of them do listen to my record (laughs), but I’ve given my records to friends, friends that I’ve even thanked in my records and they haven’t listened to it yet. It’s okay, I love them! But not everyone will listen to your CD, and that’s okay, I get it! But the fact that he did was pretty amazing.
So the next two questions I ask to every artist that I interview. The first is: what kind of message would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
I mean, music has just…I honestly don’t know if I’d be alive without the music that has gotten me through my life. For me, music has really saved me. I don’t expect that my music will save anyone, per se, but it’s just been a great comfort to me. It’s gotten me through hard times. It’s been there for the good times, too! I guess that I… I hope that my music could be a comfort to anyone, in any way. In feeling with the longing in some of my songs, or the joy in some of my songs, of not feeling so alone, or sharing in the good moments and being able to connect to those moments and sing along with them. I think that would be awesome as well. I guess it’s to provide any comfort, joy or hope, because that’s what music and my favorite artists have given to me. They’ve been there so that I haven’t been so alone and have elevated the moment.
What does music mean to you?
I mean for me, music is vulnerability. It’s not always so much the song or the person, it’s what they’re willing to expose of themselves. It’s how vulnerable they’re able to get and give and show. We spend so much time covering ourselves up with words and clothes and gadgets and everything. I feel like in music and song, we get to see the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. That’s how and where we get to connect to other people. That’s the most beautiful part for me. And also, like the vibration of people’s voices; I connect a lot to that. And the more vulnerable we are, the more we’re sharing. There’s a lot of meaning and soul in that. I think that those are the most generous things that we can share with each other.
Once the album drops in July, what are your future plans? Any tour dates, music videos, anything you’d like fans to know about?
Yeah! I have a music video that I’m super excited about that I’m going to be releasing that features Damian Echols. He was one of the West Memphis Three. He was on death row for eighteen years. He was wrongly accused of murder. Did you know about him?
I feel like I have, it sounds vaguely familiar.
There was a movie released last year called “West of Memphis”, that Peter Jackson produced. Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, The Dixie Chicks, and a lot of people have spoken out and done tours in support, and had been really helpful with getting him out of prison. There were three of them that were wrongly accused of murder. It really helped with getting all of them out. He came out with a book called “Life After Death”. It was released on Penguin last year. He just came out with a new book last week with his wife that he had met while he was in prison. It’s love letters between them.
Damian is featured in my music video, and I’m really excited to release that video! It’s going to be coming out in August, I believe. There’s some other things as well, but that’s one thing that I’m very excited about.
Tamar Haviv's new album, You And Me Without Pajamas, will be available on July 29.
This has been another shameless promotion.