Tara Nevins Bio

Although a college graduate trained in classical music, when Tara Nevins became captivated by the more elemental sounds of traditional music and embraced a somewhat bohemian lifestyle to follow its calling, her parents approved and supported her decision.  “Wood and Stone,” the title track to her new album of the same name, takes a nostalgic look back at her childhood, the family she calls “the better part of me,” and is in part a tribute to her own “roots.” 

The oldest of three sisters and two brothers, Nevins grew up in Orangeburg, New York in an idyllic setting, yet just twenty minutes north of the George Washington Bridge.  Across the road were a huge field and a horse farm where her father raised horses.  Down the lane, Clausland Mountain, with the Hudson River flowing on the other side, stretched across the horizon.   “My parents moved there from Greenwich Village in New York City,” Nevins explains.  “They were the first of their circle of friends to leave the city for what seemed like the ‘boondocks,’ back then.  My parents always loved loved, loved music and were great dancers too.  So almost every weekend, from Friday night to Sunday night, our house would be filled with their hip friends from the Village ready for a wild time ‘in the country,’ and at  night they’d push back the couches, roll up the rugs, and clear a dance floor –and they’d have these insane parties and dance all night.”

Donna the Buffalo, of which Nevins is a founding member, is known (apparently not so coincidentally) for its pulsating rhythms and their ardent followers, “The Herd,” and also have that “dance-‘til-dawn” attitude.  In many ways, she has recreated her early environment!  But looking back, Nevins recalls how pleased her father was when she chose her first instrument in fifth grade: the violin.  “He said it was a great choice because it’s so versatile; you can play all different styles of music on it.  My parents were both always supportive, but my father was really passionate about my music; he was always ready to foster my musical journey.”

By the time she was a young teenager, Beatlemania had swept the country and Nancy Sinatra had rocked the fashion world and gender-issue attitudes with her feisty rendition of “These Boots are Made For Walking.” “I’ve always listened to pop music,” Nevins says thinking back to those ‘Teenybopper’ days, “It’s been a huge influence.”  At fourteen she got her first guitar, emulating the artists of the day and eventually began making up her own songs.  “By then, when friends would come to the house my father would have me entertain — I’d play the violin or bring out my guitar and sing, you know, Carole King,  James Taylor, songs — and sometimes,” she laughs recalling, “I‘d even get up on a chair and dance in my ‘Go-Go’ boots.”

Although she discovered fiddle music while still in high school (playing tunes like “Turkey in the Straw” when she thought the conductor was focused elsewhere) it was in college that fiddle music really gripped her in “real-life time.” She quickly made like-minded friends who were also into playing old-time Appalachian music and by the time she graduated, was eager to dive full-time into traditional music.  “I started traveling to festivals all over the south playing this old-time fiddle music.  I did that for years and years and became part of a very large community.  That was the most fulfilling musical experience in my life up until that time…and that sort of launched me to where I am now.” Later down the road, Nevins adds, “I made a spontaneous trip down to southwest Louisiana for Mardi Gras and fell so in love with the style of Zydeco they were playing there, I bought an accordion.”

Before Donna the Buffalo, Nevins co-founded The Heartbeats, an all-female old-time band. Together for ten years, they still get together occasionally and guest on her new album.  Now Nevins is also a twenty-one year veteran of Donna the Buffalo (largely sharing the singing and songwriting for the band with co-founder Jeb Puryear and playing multiple instruments—including the accordion) Nevins has just recorded her second solo album, Wood and Stone.   Her first, Mule to Ride, featured her fiddle playing, not her songwriting or singing, and was an“old-time music meets bluegrass kind of record” she felt comfortable producing herself.  “Wood and Stone is completely different,” she points out. “It’s mostly originals—I sing everything.  There’s fiddle on there, but it doesn’t feature it in the same way.  And I wanted a producer this time because I wasn’t sure exactly how to put across what I wanted to express.”

Nevins, having spent much time in the south, considered making the record in Nashville, but ultimately decided “her own backyard” was the better fit. Wood and Stone was recorded in Woodstock, New York at Levon Helm’s studio and is produced by Larry Campbell, a much-sought-after musician/producer renowned for his work with Bob Dylan and still rolling from the success of Helm’s two Grammy- winners, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt.”  “I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Larry Campbell.  I am honored to have had him both produce and play on my record.  He’s an amazingly talented and soulful musician.  He has a very natural, down-to-earth approach and an instinctual insightfulness that I really appreciate; he really “got” what I was after.”

“’Team Levon’ was fabulous,” Nevins says.  “Everyone made me feel very welcome and Levon himself plays drums on two of the songs –‘You’ve Got It All’ and ‘The Beauty of the Days Gone By.’ Justin Guip did the engineering and played drums on most of the tracks, Byron Isaacs was on upright bass, Larry played acoustic guitar and I played fiddle or guitar– the four of us were the ‘core’ band.”  Campbell also played electric guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, cittern, and harmonium and does some double fiddling with Nevins.  In addition, Nevins plays accordion and tambourine.  The Heartbeats join her on a couple of songs and Teresa Williams and Allison Moorer provide harmony, as does Jim Lauderdale, most notably on the touching ballad, “Songbird.”

The intensely personal nature of Wood and Stone is also a branching out for Nevins.  Several years ago, an abrupt ending to her long-standing, largely untroubled marriage left her shaken, fomenting emotions she had never felt before. “I always thought that I would be with one person forever and when that didn’t happen, it just really turned my head around,” she admits.  Her subsequent relationships also incited new awareness and sentiments and these songs, she says, came pouring out as result of those experiences.  “Wood and Stone is a personal expression of these emotional discoveries …these relationships over the last several years that I lost and found.  And in the process…figuring out who I am…who Tara Nevins is, because as much as I fell, I also gained my personal strength and independence back.”

While the album has a traditional music undertone, with threads of old-time fiddle, Cajun and Zydeco influence, Wood and Stone is also laced with a bit of country, a dash of gospel and pinch of pop.  “It’s scary to like your own record,” Nevins says laughing, “but I’m kind of proud of it.  I was worried because it’s a female writing and singing all these relationship songs—I didn’t want it to come across like I had just created a musical ‘chick flick’ …but the men who have heard it so far seem to like it.  I made a disc for this family friend in Tennessee.  He liked it, particularly ‘Tennessee River’ and said he identified with the guy in ‘You’re Still Driving That Truck.’  When he said ‘Well, I can take the Van Halen CD out of my computer now… ‘cause this one’s gonna stay in there for a while’ I felt really good, you know?—it made me smile.”

Straight-forward, natural and plaintive, Wood and Stone is a Tour de Tara, showcasing her considerable talents and offering what Larry Campbell calls her “worldly awareness combined with a fragile innocence” through word and song on thirteen distinctive, heart-felt tracks.

* All Photos by John D Kurc. daxwax.com

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Wood and Stone is available at:
Itunes: http://www.itunes.com/taranevins
Amazon: http://amzn.to/lcEglg

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11 Responses to Tara Nevins Bio

  1. Patrick says:

    Awesome album Tara! I bought the download and plan to pick up the vinyl version too.
    A sure Americana album-of-the-year nominee. Wish we could see you more often in the Midwest:>(

    Peace & Love

    • Grateful Katie says:

      I love you. You’re my hero. I first saw Donna at wakarusa quite a few years back. It was (I believe) at the Sundown Stage. This was when the music caught my ears and shooke a vibration through my body that made me uncontrollably dance. I’ve been completely in love with everything You, and your bandmates have done ever since. When I hit up harvest a few years back you guys rocked it out YET AGAIN, not to my surprise. Me and my GiAnt 4 foot daisey got DOWN. {mayyyybe you remember, a small blonde girl with a huge flower singing every song? } Any how, Can’t wait to buy this album!!!! Thanks so much for being an inspiration in so many ways. You’re my hero miss. PS. You have fans all over, branch out more pleeease, i ‘cant afford to go that far mama.

  2. Arthur cottrell says:

    I listen to all kinds of music, Tara Nevins Wood And Stone has to be one of the most ear pleasing and unique sounds I’ve heard !!!! Wonderful job Tara !!! And to everyone involved on this project…..Awesome work:-)

  3. Pingback: Show #41- Drownin’, Hot New Stuff, Cradles | PT's Roadhouse

  4. Alana Johnson says:

    Love this CD…plan to buy it tonight at a local record store here in Cincinnati.
    Thanks for the great music.
    Alana

  5. patrick merillo says:

    tara what can i say u blow me away one moretime 4 the last 20 years we been chilling with u THANK YOU VERRY MUCH all the music awsome tunes u 4 sure rock my world! peace SAVE THE WILD HORSES

  6. Alvin G says:

    Heard you first on “20 Years After”. I loved “Stars Fell On Alabama” so much I downloaded it onto my PC and IPOD. Wonderful how you performed it!

  7. ben Scheetz says:

    Tara, I always view you and the band on Expressions from Vestal ny on Wskg 46.1 PBS

    I really enjoy your music and look forward to seeing and listening to you and the band.

    Hope to visit Expressions and get your autograph and possibly snap your picture.

    Tara you really seem like a nice person.

    Take care,
    Ben

  8. Coyote Tachai says:

    Tara…This ol’ hippie pothead loves your music and……
    I have a nifty pic of you playin’ accordian that I’ve put up
    next to Russell Means and Willie and Che and The Dali Lama
    with his bro, Norbu. We Rock…Love & Ruckus, xoxox Coyoye :-)

  9. Tom Geren says:

    I just heard Ms Nevins and the group at the Beaufort Music Festival. That was great fun and I have to add I have a bigtime crush on Tara now. And I bought a T shirt!

    Thanks for the great evening.

  10. Marion Schade says:

    hello tara, greetings from germany! i have heard the song ‘stars fell on alabama’ and now i’m in love …! thank you

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