"I always dreamed of being on stage" - Tara McDonald

Assistant coach on The Voice, host of her own radio show, child ambassador with UNICEF; Tara McDonald is not a regular vocalist. Singer-songwriter Tara goes OnRecord to talk about working her way up in the music industry, her latest single “Money Maker,” journey as an artist, love for Bollywood and more!

From working as a backup dancer to discovering your passion for
music, how has your been journey like?

Everything I’ve done in my career has been leading up to the moment I’m in now as an artist. When I was a backup singer or dancer for rock and pop stars, my end goal was always to write my own songs and perform them. I learned so much from working with Bryan Ferry and Eric Clapton. I took every route in this business, started songwriting for other acts and this is what led to my first breakthrough. I was asked to write a song for Axwell called, “Feel The Vibe” and the record company ended up keeping my vocals and my song. I always knew what I wanted but didn’t have the connections to get there straight away, so I took every opportunity that came my way. I would say my career so far has been a real roller-coaster and hasn’t been easy but nothing worthwhile ever is! You probably don’t know this but I even worked for free at EMI Records as a teenager, mostly making tea!

If you’re asked to describe your music in one word, what would it be?

Freedom! As making music is an expression of freedom and it’s the best feeling to be free, free of doubt, free of fear, free to express myself.

Congratulations on your latest hit “Money Maker”! Tell us something
about the songwriting and production of the track.

I loved every minute of making this record from start to finish.  I really wanted to make a track based on a loop. My producer Moox sent me 10 different hook options and one grabbed my attention straight away. It had me jumping up and down on the street when I heard it. I was in Paris at that time.

We immediately got into the studio and started jamming. The writing session was really like a party, we were dancing, laughing and twerking and that’s where the idea of shaking your money maker came from! It was an easy song to write, it was almost like the song wrote itself.

Lyrically the song talks about freedom through the expression of dance, dance like no one’s watching, a moment for yourself, total liberation, feeling confident and living in the moment.

How was it working with Zion & Lennox on this sick track?

The best! I met up with Zion & Lennox whilst I was touring and played them the track, they loved it and were like – let’s do it… now! I was over the moon as I had wanted to work with them for a long time. They have an amazing vibe and their vocals and writing brought the track to a whole another level.

We made the music video in Miami with a female director, actually, I wrote the video treatment. The story follows rags to riches story about a girl who’s broke, she wins the lottery and shares the money with her friends and neighbors. Zion & Lennox were amazing on the shoot, it was like one big party. They are real professionals, respectful and brought incredible energy. They are fireballs!

In your opinion, how is “Money Maker” different from all your other

Money Maker” is 100% a turning point for me. It’s the first time I’ve
experimented with Reggaeton Latin music crossed with dance and pop
for my solo project. I really want to bring different cultures together. We actually made the record two years ago and it’s crazy that now this Latin sound has become a trend and Latin music is taking over the global charts. I really love collaborating and experimenting, so you can expect more culture clashing records from me in the future!

You’ve been in the industry for almost two decades now! What are some of the biggest lessons, you’ve learned along the way?

I’m someone that worries a lot, I have a lot of nervous energy, but I’ve learned to embrace the fear and do it anyway! I never felt like I was good enough and then I realized that everyone feels like this. I’ve learned to enjoy the ride a lot more and not get so stressed about big events. I’m only human.

I actually started performing when I was nine in London as part of the cast of Les Miserables and even though I always dreamed of being on stage, I was so nervous that I didn’t enjoy the performance. I had to change my state of mind because I knew even then that performing would be my life. Now my favorite place is on stage. Always believe in yourself, follow your own path and passion, and get a good lawyer!

If you could go back in time, is there anything you’d change or like to
do differently that would influence your career?

A lot of people don’t realize this but at the beginning when I was writing and featuring on dance records with Armand van Helden or David Guetta, I was still very much on my own with no manager. I was doing everything alone which at times had me feeling completely overwhelmed.  If I had found someone I could trust at that time who knew the music business, I would have started my solo career much sooner. I have no regrets as I made the best choices I could in that moment. I’m not interested in looking back, now is the most important time.

Your discography is as eclectic as it could be. How different is it
collaborating with a rapper like Snoop Dogg compared to electronic music artists like David Guetta or Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike?

For me it’s the same, it’s all about the song and the vibe. The songwriting process is kind of the same. The main difference for me is whether I’m writing for my solo project or for someone else’s project. When I’m writing for myself, I have complete control over the track, this is the main difference. I was obviously really excited to work with such legends. They gave me the freedom to create and follow my instincts. I’ve been a fan of Snoop Dogg since I was a kid and to have him collaborate with me was crazy. Means my songwriting is not too bad! I will always have a special place in my heart for David Guetta, he is one of the nicest guys in the business.

Your song “Feel the Vibe” with Axwell is completing 10 years, just in time for the leg of Swedish House Mafia’s reunion shows! How excited are you about the group performing together again?

10 years??? Oh my gosh! The time has rushed past. I’m still proud of
this track and still love performing it live. Good, they are back, it’s great for dance music! I’ve missed them, they brought the rock ‘n’ roll back to the genre and have so many anthems. I’m excited to see what they do next. I’m so happy that “Feel the Vibe” is part of this legacy!

Are there are any other genres outside of dance music that you would like to try to experiment with? Maybe Bollywood someday?

I’m always excited to try new experiences and styles! I would love to collaborate with an Indian artist and be in a Bollywood film!  My ex-boyfriend was Indian and I used to watch old Bollywood movies with his mum all the time in London. I’m working on my album now and the idea is to create a “pop world music” bringing different cultures and musical styles together. I’m open! Just ask!

You’ve been a child ambassador for UNICEF and were also the host
of the Paris Pride. How important do you think it is for artists to use their platform and their voice to raise awareness about important issues?

I was 12 when I worked as an ambassador for UNICEF, it really changed my life and opened my eyes to the world we are living in. I grew up in a tiny village, we had no shops and was a farming community so my outlook on life was limited. Suddenly going to Africa, bringing supplies to schools, and meeting children from other countries around the world shaped my vision. One school I visited was built by the teachers, they were so passionate about education, something that I had taken for granted.

Traveling has shown me that all people are fundamentally the same. We want to be loved, respected and protected by laws. Most of my close friends are gay and I want them to live in a world where they are safe and are protected by the same laws that I have as a straight woman. I worry about them as even in the UK there are still homophobic attacks, that’s why it’s important I speak up. 

To wrap up our conversation, what’s next for Tara McDonald as an
artist and as a supporter of gay rights?

I haven’t been as active campaigning for gay rights as I’d like to be
recently, because I’ve been working on my solo album. This doesn’t mean I no longer care about the issue, but the further up the music
industry ladder I get the more good I can do. It’s a balance of giving time to go for my dreams and being socially responsible. But I do talk about issues that concern me in every interview I do. I’m not just interested in gay rights, but equality in general, for humans and animals alike. I want to live a compassionate life. Haryana in India is leading the way with their new law declaring animals as a legal person, love that!

Now my album is ready, I’m dying to share it with you and I have some
incredible artists featuring on my project. A culture clash taking
inspiration from all over the world. I spent the last two years in the studio pouring my guts out with cabin fever! So now I can’t wait to get out there and perform them live. Can’t wait to meet my Indian fans. Finally!

Can’t get enough Tara McDonald? Listen to newest single “Money Maker” and her complete discography only on JioSaavn.