Tara MacLean brings beautiful silence to Schuba’s on Sunday
Her first live performance in front of a paying crowd was opening for Sarah McLachlan at a special Nettwerk Records anniversary show.
Nothing like starting at the top.
But things like that happen for Canada’s Tara MacLean. Witness the way she got her record deal from Nettwerk: MacLean was signed because one day, some label executives overheard her singing on a ferry. She and some friends were minding their own business simply entertaining themselves. Nettwerk thought she was good enough to entertain others.
"They came over and asked if it was my song that I was singing," MacLean remembers. It was, and the label wanted to hear more. "It seemed to be sort of a sign that I should pull all of my material together. I put it on a tape with my ghetto blaster, sent it to them and they signed me."
That was over three years ago, when MacLean was only 20.. Nettwerk nurtured the young artist, developing her demo tapes and pairing her with a producer who took her gentle guitar-strummed songs of love and alienation and backed them up with lush, full production.
The eventual result was Silence released early this year, which drew comparisons to Sarah McLachlan, among others (the album was given a 3˝-star review "Pop Stops" column on Jan. 30).
Certainly Sarah McLachlan has had a strong influence, if indirect, on MacLean’s success. MacLachlan’s drummer played on Silence, and MacLean started her public career playing the aforementioned opening slot for McLachlan. In 1996, during the first Lilith Fair show that MacLachlan orchestrated (long before it became a nationwide tour) cuts of Silence were piped in over the sound system between the live performances of Lisa Loeb, Paula Cole and McLachlan. This past summer, MacLean joined the Lilith Fair tour as one of the live acts, performing on the side stage for two weeks. She also spent time opening shows for Lilith veteran Paula Cole on a separate tour.
While MacLean’s power as a singer-songwriter is enormous (scores of people who had previously never heard of her lined up to buy her CD after she opened Cole’s Park West show earlier this year), she hasn’t achieved the kind of radio exposure of McLachlan and Cole.
But Nettwerk is hoping to change that.
MacLean is closing the year by taking to the road again promoting Silence. She played a show at Chicago’s Schuba’s last Sunday, which she will reprise this Sunday night with Indiana singer-songwriter Kim Fox.
And next week will also see the release of If You See Me, a five-song EP of remixes and live recordings of three songs from Silence and two new songs.
Silence is a beautiful record, filled with deep strings and magical percussion and concertgoers will find her stage show is equally moving.
"When I’m on stage, I can feel people looking and thinking, ‘Another girl with a guitlar —just what we need.’ I want to walk up there and show that there’s something special about me. So the first thing I do is go up there and try to have no pretensions, no walls up, because my deal is that music is for opening up people. At the end, when I’ve given them everything I could, I feel this incredible sense of satisfaciton. It’s the highest high that I could feel, next to having actually created the song."
MacLean will play Schuba’s, at Southport and Belmont in Chicago, Nov. 16. (773) 525-2508
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