“Visualize a Celt in the Cotton Club.” Chris Donohue - Nashville
The title of Tara O'Grady's third album comes from a bass player in Nashville who upon hearing her sing in the Tennessee recording studio, tweeted the above quote to describe her voice. Voted one of the best albums of 2013 by Irish Voice newspaper in New York, her original songs were inspired by Irish people she met from Belfast to Butte, and everywhere in between. And she throws in a few favorite Irish traditional tunes for good measure. Inspired by Belfast native Van Morrison, her brother Tom O'Grady composed the music for To Be Missing the Sun and La Dee Da, and the featured saxophonist/clarinetist Michael Hashim co-wrote That's What the Miners Would Say, a tribute to the Irish immigrants who died in a fire in Butte, Montana. Tara's Celtic connections are woven through every inch of this musical tapestry, including a tribute to Billie Holiday in the song Gardenia Girl, revealing Lady Day's Celtic bloodlines.
Elizabeth Taylor’s features, Billie Holiday’s voice, Audrey Hepburn’s fashion sense, and a combination of Cole Porter’s writing style with a touch of Nellie McKay’s quirky lyrics. Tara O’Grady is the full package. Featured on BBC Radio 2 in the UK and WFUV in New York, Tara’s vocals have been compared to Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline, as well as modern artists Adele and Amy Winehouse. Hollywood Mega-Star Bruce Willis proclaimed his love of Tara’s voice and band one night in Manhattan when he stormed the stage to sing along with her. She recently completed a book about her cross country road trip sponsored by Chevrolet and was featured as a cover girl on Automotive News’ commemorative edition of Chevrolet’s 100th anniversary, November, 2011. Awarded as one of Irish Voice’s Most Influential Women of 2010 presented by Ireland’s Prime Minister, her debut album, Black Irish, released in August of 2010, is a collection of Irish songs she grew up listening to as a child. But don’t expect any jigs on the CD. She’s swinging it, baby! Black Irish caught the attention of Nashville’s elite, and within a few months of its release, Tara was writing original songs and recording in Music City, Tennessee with the finest musicians in the industry. Her second album, Good Things Come to Those Who Wait, was released in April of 2011.
Her voice, at times rich and deep, at others lilting and wispy, has been compared to the divas of days gone by. Her look is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Raised on Irish traditional music, as well as the sounds of Hank Williams, Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Peggy Lee, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Nina Simone, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, her unique style and repertory combine celtic, folk, blues, and especially jazz.
Born and raised in New York City, Tara spent every summer on her grandparents’ farm in Donegal, Ireland where she listened to her granny Nora singing in her kitchen. Her granny also loved to dance, but Tara had the rhythm of the sounds of the city streets in her soul, so the Irish step dancing didn’t entice her. She instead found her way into the swing dancing scene and realized she’d rather be up on stage singing the songs that the dancers were swinging to. Under the advice of her eye doctor, who wore “really cool retro eye glasses,” she began to attend a weekly jam session with Wall Street bankers who sought jazz on Sundays as their passion on the side. In this alternative house of worship at the Off Wall Street Jam each Sunday for one solid year, Tara learned jazz standards and began to develop her style as an artist. She eventually formed an Andrew Sisters tribute band with some of those Sunday musicians and called it The Boogie Brawds. The “Brawds” were regular headliners at the Irish Arts Center’s Sundays at Seven in Manhattan. Later she formed her trio, The Tara O’Grady Trio, which sometimes became a quartet or quintet depending on the guest musicians. With the release of Black Irish, she calls her band “The Black Velvet Band,” after one of the tracks.
Tara is a sought after recording artist adding her unique vocal stylings to everything from reggae albums to advertisement jingles. She has performed in New York at Birdland, Smalls Jazz Club, Lincoln Center, Swing 46 Jazz & Supper Club, The Astor Room, The Museum of the City of New York, and The Jewish Museum. She has performed with various artists while touring in Ireland, Spain and Argentina entertaining everyone from bullfighters to politicians.