Feature Friday: Tara Shannon
Tara Shannon is using her music as a vehicle for positive change in the world, seeking to help as many people she can while on her musical journey. The indie pop country artist recently released her album Unfinished, and there’s a good story behind that title…
In 1997 Shannon debuted her very first album Me to You, and found herself with a record deal on her lap. But with three small children at home, she had to make a choice: “I was chasing this elusive thing called the ‘record deal’ but I had no idea what it meant.” Once it was at her doorstep, and she came to understand exactly what the deal entailed, she realized she couldn’t raise her family and fulfill what the record company expected of her. Extensive touring and recording would take her away from her young children for long periods of time. She turned down the deal and focused on raising her growing family. But music was always something that kept a hold on her. And nearly 20 years after after her first record, she got down to “finishing the unfinished, finishing this thing that wouldn’t quiet down.” She released the aptly named Unfinished earlier this year.
Shannon’s neighbour and friend Jonathan Pitre was a major inspiration for the album. Pitre, who lives on the same street as Shannon in Russell, Ontario, suffers from a rare and painful skin condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). When the neighborhood rallied behind Pitre by raising money to send him to see the Northern Lights, Shannon decided to use her artistic/musical talents to help him. Shannon’s 2015 single “Butterfly Child” is the result of those efforts, all proceeds of which have gone to Pitre’s treatment. Through the praise that the song and message has received, Shannon has helped raise awareness for Pitre and EB — “the worst disease you’ve never heard of” — around the world.
“Charity work is always at the forefront of what I do with music”
The success of that effort fanned a passion in Shannon for using music to help others. Part of the proceeds from her latest album will go to the Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition, which provides services for women and youth, specifically for mental health programs. Most recently she performed at the Country With Heart benefit concert in Nashville hosted by Bobby Marquez. On June 3rd she performed at a fundraiser in Russell with André-Philippe Gagnon, one of many local initiatives that she’s been involved with over the last few years. Keep your eye out for Shannon this fall as she will be performing and touring with some major fundraising initiatives.
Beyond fundraising, Shannon is focused on helping other artists in the Ottawa community share their music and build their careers. Moving away from the traditional record label format, Shannon’s Willow Sound Records focuses on mentoring and community building local artists. “One of my favourite things to do is coach, and guide and help artists discover the depths of their talents,” Shannon told us. Willow Sound Records offers publishing, songwriting coaching both here and in Nashville, business coaching, and performance coaching. The label hopes to help indie artists navigate turbulent times in the music business by supporting artists, rather than simply “managing” them as traditional labels used to do. Recognizing that the support structure of traditional labels has changed, and indie artists often have little cash to access services to help them get ahead in the competitive music business world. “It’s so cliche, but together we’re stronger, truly, especially with the indie DIY version of the music industry we have now.”
The second single from Unfinished, “Take this Rock (and Roll)” was released this week. The music video was created by the L.A.-based award winning filmmaker/animator Brendan Huza (Alanis Morissette, Aretha Franklin), Shannon’s childhood friend!