There is something so refreshing about someone saying what they mean and meaning what they say; Tamar Haviv is one of those artists. Tomorrow, Tamar will release her quirky and cool debut album, You and Me Without Pajamas, on which she is as honest as she is blunt, side-stepping the typical romanticized lyrics we hear on a day to day basis. Prior to the release, she was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for Planet Stereo!
Planet Stereo: Thanks so much for doing the interview. How are you?
Tamar Haviv: Thank you so much for having me! I’ll be honest, it’s been a rough couple of months, lots of loss recently – but I’m looking for the brightness in all things…working at keeping my faith up!
PS: You’re getting ready to release your debut album at the end of July. What are you most excited/nervous about?
TH: I’m honestly thrilled to be releasing You and Me Without Pajamas – it’s been a journey and to have it come to completion and get it out into the world for people to hear is truly a blessing – it’s been one of those projects that I wasn’t sure would ever make it to it’s end – so it’s a pure joy that it came together so imperfectly beautifully – I’m super proud of it and I feel so grateful for everyone that put their energy, love, work, hands, guidance, care into it…and there were so many people that did!!!
I’m not really nervous, mostly hopeful, that it will be heard- I can’t control whether it will be liked but I will be happy if the album is heard- especially by people that I have no personal connection to- the idea of it reaching strangers – is an extraordinary one-
To build energetic connections with people I haven’t met through my music – that my songs could be with them during their days, it’s so out of this world to think about honestly- I mean, I know it sounds very normal- but really – when you think about it- it’s spectacular – that something I experienced/felt/ wrote/ sang about can join a stranger in their day at another time and place and add to their own experience in some way, and hopefully a positive way, is magical!
PS: It’s not even out yet and it’s already receiving excellent reviews from some high profile musicians. How does their admiration for your work make you feel?
TH: It’s feels amazing, I am truly humbled. I gave Amy Ray, who is one of my favorite artists (I consider her a true mentor), a CD after a show she did in NYC recently, and she emailed me (I thought it was mail from her ‘fan mail/tour dates’ kind of a thing, so I almost missed it! (imagine!!!)), but it was a personal note from her with the sweetest encouragement and accolades about my music- I was completely floored- so touching!
PS: What do you hope listeners get out of You and Me Without Pajamas?
TH: [laughs] I just hope they get something- anything at all- be it a happy song to sing along with on their way to the grocery store that helps elevate their mood or a song to cry themselves to sleep with wrapped up in all the longing and sorrows of this world but offers comfort at the same time, by reminding them that they are not alone – we are not alone – and the longing and sorrow come from the love and desire and rrrrrrauuuwww! Music has literally saved my life. I can’t explain exactly how – the purity, the vulnerability of the voice, the vibration of fraility – the words chosen, the art, the poetry; I find so much comfort from the music of others. If anyone could find any of that in my songs- even one person – it would be enough.
PS: Did you have a theme/concept in mind when writing the album?
TH: No, I’m just always writing songs. I kept writing and writing, and the length of the record got longer and longer as originally it was going to be a three song EP, and then a five song EP, and then it kept growing. I just had so many songs I wanted to add. it was like, “Wait, just one more–no, I mean one more , and one more.” In the end, there were so many that I had to cut a ton out as I added new ones! I need to Release b-sides soon. So, I guess you can say, instead of theme/concept – it’s more of a ‘time piece.’
PS: Would you mind walking me through the creative process?
TH: Well, with these songs it was interesting- before this album, I was writing much longer free-flowing poetryesque songs, but while I was working at a music studio in Woodstock, primarily as gopher (I had lots of running around to do, primarily in my 1975 Chevy Nova Flinstone car – the kind where when you go over a puddle you get full of mud), and I had to make all these small runs into town and I had the radio on that only played one station. I started to really appreciate these short songs that were simple and moving and could touch my heart in a very small amount of time without having to over think it. I found there was something gratifying about saying something really direct and raw, keeping things really simple. There was a strength in that – keeping all the elongated lusciousness out of it, even though it leaves things a bit dumbed down. And at the same time, I noticed there were artists coming into the studio that were especially gifted in this way as well. They could write these amazing pop songs–beautiful artists that I had never paid attention to before and who totally took me by surprise, like Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, for one, who has such integrity and grace and is an incredibly gifted songwriter and has a gorgeous voice on top of it. I was suddenly inspired in a way I never thought i would be. It wasn’t a conscious choice, I was just being moved by what was going on around me…it just got in somehow.
PS: I have to ask about the title. How/why did you come up with it?
TH: Ah!!!! Well, it’s a lyric in the title track of the record but to be more specific…it’s about letting go, pushing my own boundaries, compromising, trying on other people’s preferences in order to get closer and understand them and myself better. This is on all levels, clearly not just the pajama level. 😉 This collection of songs really delves into interpersonal relationships of all kinds- all imperfect, tender, awkward, and hopefully joyful and wonderous in some way – in anyway they all had some lasting affect on me.
PS: You’ve said before that you took a very head-on, direct approach lyrically. How has it for you to kind of drop the philosophical/metaphorical mode that most songwriters are so comfortable to slip into?
TH: Well, it’s not like this with all of the songs – some of them I definitely get a bit deeper with but- as I mentioned earlier there was something very freeing in letting myself say things simply flat out. For example, as in, “I like you” because that’s what the root emotion was – the core feeling was “I like you” and whether the subtly that brought me to that place with someone had to do with the curve at their neck or the intonation of their voice – whatever it was – the bottom line was “I like you,” and just giving myself permission to say that without judging myself (which I did do quite a bit in the beginning) felt real and direct. It’s very difficult for me to be this direct in my personal life, I tend to circle around how I feel more and flower things up a bit, so again, this was freeing and almost felt silly and made me feel a bit like I was in kindergarden at times, but in a really good healthy way. It’s kind of amazing how the simplest things can sometimes have the heaviest weight- I was discussing this topic with someone else who interviewed me recently and he mentioned how true this is – like with the Beatles the line, ‘I wanna hold your hand’ – this made me feel much better about my more simple lines! Not that I’m comparing myself to the Beatles, obviously! I just had forgotten that we don’t always have to go so far to get so far, you know what i mean?
PS: In reference to above, how do you feel other musicians could benefit from writing simpler, more direct lyrics?
TH: I think other musicians can purely benefit by not editing themselves or following what anyone else does or suggests- not that they shouldn’t read or listen to the creative processes of their favorite artists/mentors but I encourage people to follow their own paths and stream of consciousness & whatever they dream up/create that THEY themselves would want to listen to – cause hey, if you don’t end up working on songs you yourself would want to listen to, that would be incredibly sad.
PS: Do you have a favorite track on the album?
TH: I honestly don’t – I have favorites but they change at different times for different reasons. I’m really trying here! [laughs] Nope the answer isn’t gonna change. Grrrrrrrr.
PS: Where do you see yourself in five years?
TH: Five years…huh, lets talk five minutes! Maybe the 2 train, but I could just walk or stop for a chai or make that phone call- but I should really try to get home earlier tonight…oh, look there’s my friend on the street! I haven’t seen him in forever!…
PS: Any last words?
TH: Thank you so much for having me, you guys are awesome! Please also look out for my video release of ‘the good has won’ which features the extraordinary being Damien Echols. Damien, also known as one of the ‘West Memphis 3’ 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 is an phenomenal writer and 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!
For more on the incredibly talented (and very witty) Tamar Haviv, please click HERE!
You and Me Without Pajamas comes out July 29th. Pick up your copy HERE.