Tara McDonald: the tigress of house music | Features | MN2S

House music vocalist, DJ, radio presenter, songwriter, TV star and model Tara McDonald is a veritable polymath in today’s terms. She’s had over twenty tracks in Top 10s across the world, been called “a tigress on stage” by collaborator David Guetta, twice been voted ‘Best Voice Of The Dance Scene’ at the Fashion Awards, released a single with Snoop Dogg, posed for Playboy and featured as voice coach on ‘The Voice’ in Belgium. And that’s just scraping the surface of her impressively varied and prolific career. We sat down with the platinum-selling artist to find out more about how she got to where she is today.

You always seem to have so many different things going on. Do you thrive on being busy and facing new challenges?

I’m not very good at sitting still, there’s just too many things I want to achieve in my life and I’m aware that life is short. I’m always open to new challenges. Something that can seem scary at first can soon become the norm. I like to grow and keep pushing myself. I just can’t stop singing and love writing songs for myself and others artists. This is something I hope I can do for the rest of my life!

Where did it all start for you? Did you always want to be a performer?

One of my earliest memories was wanting to sing. It all started when my dad gave me a microphone when I was about 4 years old and I was obsessed with it. Hearing my voice coming through a speaker was like a weird kind of magic. I was always putting on shows for my parents and writing little songs in my bedroom, but it wasn’t until I got really badly bullied at school at my mum decided to take me to an a performance workshop in a local town hall.  The guy that run the night told my parents that he thought I had talent and suggested that they take me to an audition for the musical ‘Les Miserables’ in London. I auditioned for a part in the West End show and got the job! I was 9 years old and it was an incredible start in the entertainment business.

How did you go about getting yourself known?

I did everything I could to get out there!  I was a child ambassador for UNICEF after winning a child’s singing competition for Europe and made my first single at 12. After performing in various musicals and shows in my teens I got tired of playing a character; I wanted to discover myself as an artist. I was doing many different jobs in music back then, backing singing for pop and rock artists (Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Roger Walters, Thunder), I was also a session vocalist. One of the highlights for this was performing additional vocals for Massive Attack on ‘Butterfly Caught’ on the Jagz Kooner Remix.

I was also writing songs for signed pop artists. My first signed song was for the boy band D Side and the track went Gold in Japan. I was also backing dancing for pop acts too! My time off was spent in nightclubs for the culture, the fashion and of course the music. It was in these clubs that I started writing songs over the instrumentals that I liked. My goal was always to make my own music and to be an artist, I took the long way round to get there!

If you could go back to those days and give yourself some advice knowing what you know now – what would it be?

Don’t worry so much; just go for it!

What was your first big break?

Singing ‘Chase The Sun’ live with Planet Funk at Privilege in Ibiza for the MTV Dance Festival alongside Faithless and Basement Jaxx. This was an incredible evening and I was an unknown at the time. Having a video from MTV of my performance helped me secure my vocals being used on the Axwell ‘Feel The Vibe’ record, I had co-written the song but the label were unsure to have me as the featured vocalist as they felt I didn’t have enough experience and was an unknown, so I showed them the video and that was my first big break. After this I had a call asking me if I wanted to make a record with Armand van Helden and of course my answer was YES! So we released ‘My My My’ together which was my second big hit in the UK.

What have been your favourite projects you have worked on over the years?

There has been so many amazing things, from signing my album deal with Mercury/Universal in 2012 and getting the chance to work on my own music. Being chosen as the face of last year’s Gay Pride In Paris was also such an honour! My first residency in Ibiza, writing the anthem to Tomorrowland festival and performing ‘Give Into The Night’ on the main stage there with Dimitri Vegas, Like Mike and Dada Life – our Beatport No.1.

Working as an assistant coach on the TV Show ‘The Voice’ in Belgium was a great challenge for me and something that I really enjoyed. I never saw myself as a teacher before and this was a great opportunity to pass down some of the knowledge I have gained over the years of performing. Performing my live stage show at the first SeaDance festival with Exit Festival last year was just incredible! Creating my own weekly dance music radio show called ‘I Like This Beat’ has been a lot of fun. It’s been great watching it grow and we are now celebrating our 100th birthday episode. The show started on FG in France and is now weekly in 40+ countries, 50+ FM stations, on Emirates Airlines and is available as a podcast on iTunes, DJ Pod and Mixcloud. I feel very blessed!

You are a big deal in France in particular. How did you become so popular there specifically?

I can really thank David Guetta for that I guess. We’ve made three records together so far and appearing in the video shoot for our single ‘Delirious’ really helped people notice me. It wasn’t released here in the UK but was a massive hit all over Europe. David really likes to collaborate with artists and he also likes to share the spotlight, so we performed together live on different TV shows and big events across Europe. I learnt so much from working with him.  He’s one of the best!

When I originally made my first solo record ‘Give Me More’ (#10 in the French speaking Radio Airplay Chart) I was funding everything myself and didn’t have a record label – just my faith and a great team of people around me. We sent the track to NRJ (Europe’s biggest commercial radio station) and they started playing the track immediately. It was a really exciting time and I chose to sign my album to Mercury / Universal as I felt that label understood me best as an artist. They give me freedom to create.

My second solo record ‘Shooting Star’ featured the platinum-selling French speaking artist Zaho and was one of the biggest radio records in France in 2013 (#18 French Speaking TV Airplay, #5 France, #16 Belgium, #4 French Speaking Radio Airplay) and I released ‘Vay K’ with Snoop Dogg earlier this year as well (#20 French Speaking Radio Airplay, #18 Belgium, #21 Switzerland.)

What have you learnt from collaborating with various different stars like Snoop Dogg and David Guetta?

David really showed me the pop star life that comes with music. Making TV and radio interviews, live televised performances and making music videos were all new experiences for me. Even though I had already made two hit records, ‘Feel The Vibe’ & ‘My My My’,’ I was more known in the UK than abroad. Working with David changed that and I started touring worldwide.

Working with Snoop Dogg was also an incredible experience and Americans work very differently from Europeans, so that was an interesting lesson in the difference in culture. Snoop is so slick and professional. It was a dream to work with him. He’s a living legend! The song was one of the biggest tracks on French-speaking radio last year and has just been remixed by Laidback Luke which will be released worldwide this June and it sounds epic. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!

What was the experience like of being in Playboy? Did you have to give the decision to do it much thought?

When I got the call from Playboy France to be their cover girl, to be honest I thought it was a joke at first as I’m the opposite of a Playboy bunny! Before accepting the offer I did spend a few days mulling over whether or not to do it and in the the end I thought – fuck it! What have I got to lose? I saw it as another positive life experience and also I knew that French Playboy was more about the art than porn, so I knew the pictures would be tasteful and fashion-forward. The theme was ‘music is fashion is sexy’ and my shoot was the style was a cross between a modern Bettie Page and Andy Warhol. Who could say no to that!? Apparently it was the biggest selling issue of the magazine to date, so I must have done something right!

Who have you been working with in the studio recently?

Well I’m working on my own album project mainly with Duvall (he’s from the UK band Disciples) and I have new two releases for myself ready to go for this summer – one featuring Tefa (The French Dr. Luke) which is part of an album called ‘Touche Pas à Ma Zik’ (‘Don’t Touch My Zik’) for the TV talk-show ‘Touche Pas à Mon Poste’ (‘Don’t Touch My TV’) which has viewing figures on 2.5M people daily). Other artists on the album include Ariana Grande, Cris Cab, Shaggy and Black M. My third solo single is called ‘Girls Just Wanna Funk’ and I can’t wait for people to hear it!

I am also co-producing a new artist that I’m co-managing called Jay Style (NRJ Radio DJ) and were finishing off his debut release at the moment. When I have free time I’m working on other interesting writing projects together with my publishing company Give Me More Music and I have recently started DJing as well which is so much fun!

Are you going to be doing more TV work going forward?

The only TV stuff planned for now are live performances of my new single, but I would never say no! I’m always interested in exploring new opportunities, so watch this space! The next priority for me is to release my next single, do loads of promo, keep touring the world, having fun and making new music!

Click to enquire about Tara McDonald via MN2S booking agency.

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