Monday, January 15, 2007

the instant interview: tara jane o'neil

After performing with a number of indie rock bands (Rodan, Retsin and The Sonora Pine to name a few), musician and painter Tara Jane O’Neil went the solo route. When we spoke by phone on April 29, 2006, TJO had just finished mixing her next record, In Circles, and was about to depart for a tour of the East Coast. Up to date TJO info can be found, theoretically, at her website,

You grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, you spent some time in Brooklyn and now you’re in Portland. Is there any place that you haven’t lived?

Actually I’ve lived in lots of places but I’ve never lived in a Dakota or Oklahoma. But yeah, I’ve done some Southern stuff, some Northern stuff, some Western stuff. My parents raised me to be nomadic.

What’s the last book that you’ve reread?

That’s easy. It happened two nights ago. It’s called The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Are you one of these people who have emotional attachments to their instruments?

I definitely have emotional attachments to my instruments. In fact, last year I changed a couple of instruments that had been with me for years because our relationship soured. I was calling them haunted. I had haunted instruments. I had to ditch those. But there’s one guitar that’s been with me for about ten years now. I love it. And I don’t often get to bring it on tour because I fly a lot and it doesn’t like to fly. It’s a sensitive guy, so he’s not coming with me on this tour which is too bad.

Art and music. Is that like a 50/50 thing? Would you be off-balance if you only did one and not the other? Are they both necessary for you to be a happy person?

That’s a good question. Yeah, they’re both necessary for me to be a happy person. The way I get to spend time with them depends on my schedule. Like over the winter I had a couple of art shows so I was doing lots of work on that, and then it was time to really get into this record and start recording it and finishing up the writing, so I haven’t had the opportunity to do any drawing or painting in about three months, three and a half months, and that’s too long. I totally feel that void because they do occupy different parts of me. There’s a different kind of joy I get. It’s kind of like eating food. You get different joys from different foods, right? And they have their own distinct qualities. So yeah, I’ve been missing the drawing but I suspect I’ll be doing some of that on the road.

While we’re on the subject, let me ask you a food question. You’ve been falsely accused of murder, and it’s happened in Texas which means that there’s no way that you’re not going to be executed. What would be your last meal?

I’m not sure of specifics, but I know it would be something that I never eat. I’m a vegetarian and I eat pretty healthy. Like I eat whole foods and spend too much money on them. I’m conscious of what I put into my body. But if I was about to die I’d probably go for something crazy, like a bratwurst. Something to make me feel as dirty on the inside as I’m perceived to be on the outside. I figure if I was in fact a murderer and had some kind of deliberate thing about it, I’d probably carry on the course of my regular life up until the end. But being falsely accused, it’s like going on a bender or something. Some kind of weird injustice to yourself to match the injustice from the outside.

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