With her debut full-length album dropping at the end of the month (July 29th, to be exact) we had the chance to chat with singer-songwriter Tamar Haviv about You And Me Without Pajamas, her songwriting process (or lack thereof) and about what inspires her the most. You can pick up You And Me Without Pajamas on July 29th and check out a teaser for the album below! Be sure to keep an eye out for her new music video for "The Good Has Won" coming out soon!
How would you describe your music for any new listeners out there?
Ok, imagine Kate Nash, Ani Difranco, Ingrid Michaelson, Brett Dennen and Nellie Mckay were having a picnic on Leonard Cohen's lawn and then strolled over to the local carnival. I probably shouldn't have involved ALL those people… but, the more the merrier in this scenario!!
Did you grow up in a musical household? How did you get your start writing music?
I didn't grow up in a musical household as in one of those families where everyone played an instrument and sat around the fireplace singing etc - not at all! I was the only one in that sense. But, my father is a huge opera fanatic and began taking me to opera once I was out of the crib. My dad who was flying airplanes for a living, would wake up in the middle of the night with his own melodies in his head - music would have been his other life if he had chosen that sliding door - and his father, my grandfather, who I never had the opportunity to meet had played the violin...
So I'm sure the music thing was passed down to me in that way- But the songs that came to me were certainly not opera, they started coming in when I was quite young - also while I was suppose to be sleeping, or when I was walking around/playing. Melodies and lyrics would come in - I would sing these songs a capella at camp talent shows and elementary school talent shows - this was way before American Idol and all that - peers at the time just thought I was 'weird.'
I didn't understand that I was actually creating something that there was even necessarily a language around - until very late... It wasn't until the end of my junior year in high school, when I saw the Indigo Girls perform for the first time... it was like prayer, like relief, everything suddenly made sense to me - and the possibility of connecting to people through this thing I was already doing and drawn to do honestly burst my chest wide open. Sensational really.
What or who is your biggest inspiration when working on new material?
It's just the people and things going on around me at the time - my relationships, awkwardness, humanness, imperfection - what's moving me or drawing me in, I'll bend into those things and towards them… Or if I find that I'm resisting something I'll know there is a lot of energy in that area to tap into that needs to be released.
But i'm never planning these things - different energies and interactions are constantly happening and I live in the middle of NYC, so especially here - plus I'm a super sensitive person so I pick up on a lot of things, I sense a lot of what’s going on around me - to the point where it get's very heavy and often hurts. Actually recently, it was suggested that I wear headphones on the subway which I have never done before because I have never intentionally wanted to keep people and present opportunities to connect out of my life/experience but, I do get so affected and I feel so much and there is so much heartache - that cutting myself off in that way... Just in these transporting moments has been helpful in terms of quieting my center a bit. But I'm finding it super difficult - I don't want to have to close myself off from having interactions with strangers, from being in the world in a present and full way, you know?
That was a bit of a tangent, eh? All in all, this album is super personal, based on my own relationships and experiences.
What's the hardest part about the writing process? What's the easiest?
Easiest - when the songs come in, they just come in, and it's beautiful… I feel really blessed and connected to a pretty sacred place while that's happening.
Hardest - literally sitting myself down and getting out a piece of paper to focus and transcribe the songs off my voice recorder and work on them in any way - if I was a coffee drinker this might be easier...
So when working on new music, do you start out with a main goal in mind or do you just tend to write when inspiration strikes?
I never intentionally sit down to 'write' music - although, this is a great practice people keep and I would like to at one point - I think it's a good idea. But for now, music just comes in at all sorts of undefined and sometimes inappropriate times - and yes, it can come while I'm fiddling around on my guitar as well but mostly it comes to me while I'm on the subway, walking around, in a meeting, while giving a massage (I'm a Licensed Massage Therapist), right before my phone dies (so I can't hit record), while swimming in the ocean etc...
When writing You and Me Without Pajamas, did you have any specific goals in mind? Any messages you wanted to covey with these songs?
Well, when I'm writing a song, it's about getting a certain emotion out - and sometimes it might take me a bit to work out what that is - the song itself can act like an investigation for myself even... Cause I'll feel that I'm stirred up but sometimes, it can take me a minute to get a handle on what initiated the stirring precisely or what it is in me that got tapped and charged up, it could possibly even be that something reminded me of a past experience or what not, and then as the song progresses, I'll hit an emotional point and it's like "yeah, this is what i'm really feeling, this is want to say, this is what i was coming to" - and then I might look back at some of the previous lyrics and ask myself "ok, is that exactly what you meant? can you unpack that a bit more? get more specific?" And sometimes I don't - but sometimes I do and then I can just hit things lyrically in a way that feels amazingly satisfying.
I wish I remember the original line I had in the song "Pining" - but I remember going back and asking myself some of these questions and then the line ultimately became "fold back your arms so you can't hero this" and it was like "YES!!! that's exactly what I mean!!" It's just so gratifying when I'm able to pin point an emotion through words and make it all fit musically - which definitely isn't always the case.
I think one of the best things about You And Me Without Pajamas is how relatable it is, regardless of who's listening. Was that something that you wanted to be able to accomplish with your debut?
Thanks so much, that really means a lot to hear. That wasn't an intention although of course it's always a general desire to want to connect and be both heard and received - in the way that, I wouldn't be where I am in my life if I hadn't been moved by the artists that blew open my heart and shook my world in the most beautiful ways possible. And if they weren't relatable to me, if for whatever reason I had had difficulty feeling/experiencing their work/art - I don't know where I would be or if I would still be here. I would honestly be a different person without the Artists/Songs & mentors that came before me, I couldn't emphasize that enough.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
This question has been coming up a lot recently and honestly, like for real for real - I don't. I mean, on any given day at given moment I might, but it changes constantly, depending on how I'm feeling.
As an artist, is there anything that you'd like to be known for?
Well, this kinda brings me back to the previous question you asked in terms of what I would want to accomplish with this record …
If this record could elevate someone’s spirit in any way, be it a happy song to sing along with on the most mundane trip to the store, or if any of these songs could be there for a listener on truly a hard days night, when they want to feel that someone else has been there and experienced a similar sorrow, that they are not as alone as they may feel -
If any of the songs on this record could be consoling in love or melancholy - even just to one listener - to me, that would be a great success as an artist. Because that's how my favorite artists have taken care of me.
With You and Me Without Pajamas coming out on July 29th, do you have any big plans coming up? Anything that you can share with us?
YES! Please be on the look out for my video release of "The Good Has Won", which features the extraordinary, being Damien Echols. Damien is a phenomenal writer who is also known as one of the "West Memphis 3". He was wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit and was on death row for 18 years. Thankfully he was released although is yet to be exonerated.
He recently released his second book written with his wife Lorri Davis through penguin called, Yours For Eternity: A Love Story On Death Row -
I am grateful to have him in my video and excited for you to see it!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you some much for taking your time out to talk to me Prelude Press! Your online magazine rocks ! Thanks so much to your readers and all my most super fabulosa wishes your way!!! x