In choosing Revival as the title for the follow up to her 2008 debut, Chasing The Sun, Tara Oram isn’t just summing up the subject matter of the songs she’s chosen to record this time out, she’s capturing the spirit that has characterized her approach to her craft since the very first time she picked up a microphone.
In other words, Oram says; “We’re keeping it country. I wanted to stay true to what I love musically and record songs that hopefully will inspire people. That’s what these each of these songs did for me; either by just making me feel good, or by helping me through something.”
Although Oram insists that she’s lucky to be able to do what she does, few people chase their dreams with the kind of persistence the Newfoundland born singer has routinely displayed over the course of her life. True, luck may have played some small part in her rise to fame, but Oram knows chance is a poor substitute for single-minded dedication and drive.
While many Canadians were initially introduced to Oram during season five of Canadian Idol, Idol certainly wasn’t Oram’s introduction to the stage. “When I was two I started singing in church. My mom said I went up, sang a song and wouldn’t give the mic back.” Gospel music may have been her first love, but Oram never let a chance to get up on stage and sing get past her. At the age of ten, she was hitting Karaoke nights at local pubs four nights a week and by age sixteen had signed her first record deal and released her first country single, the top 50 hit ‘More Than I Dreamed’.
Since then Oram has paid her dues time and again. By her late teens, she was singing professionally with a band called Big Catch and doing a steady stream of corporate dates and bar gigs all across Ontario. After nearly four years with the band, however, she decided to strike out on her own and headed back to Gander to take a job bartending to put some cash away to keep her going for awhile. The fact that it ran out a little earlier than she’d hoped, and that she was forced to sleep in her car for a time, wasn’t something her family found out until it popped out during an interview. “I was never one to ask for help,” Oram says.
Although justifiably proud of her work on Chasing The Sun, on her debut Oram felt she focused mainly on doing what was expected of her. On Revival, she concentrates on remaining true to what she expects of herself. Each track is a personal touchstone for her, she says. “Every song is there for a reason and every one helps put a stamp on where I am now. Musically and personally, it’s a new beginning.” Correspondingly, the songs Oram chose for Revival tend to focus heavily on encouraging listeners to kick the hard times to the curb and pull the best out of every moment – even those that don’t seem like they have much good in them at all.
If that’s a common thread on Revival, it’s for good reason...
Idol may have helped Oram along, but the awards and accolades she’s garnered since are truly a product of her unrelenting energy, her huge personality and an absolute refusal to settle for anything less than everything she possibly could accomplish. And since starring in her CMT reality show, The Tara Diaries, and inking a deal with Open Road in 2008, she’s accomplished plenty. After hitting the top 15 with all three singles from Chasing The Sun, Oram received multiple CCMA, ECMA and JUNO nominations and in 2009 took home the CCMA Rising Star award and the ECMA for Country Recording of the Year. She’s also shared the stage with acts ranging from Marty Stuart to country superstar Taylor Swift, collaborated with A-list Canadian and Nashville based writers and grown as a songwriter in her own right, ultimately co-writing two of the tracks on Revival – ‘Overalls’ and ‘Can’t Get Past’.
As determined and as successful as she’s been, however, there were times she felt she’d taken a wrong turn along the way and gotten so far away from herself that she felt like packing her dreams away for good. “I think at one point I maybe was ready to call it quits, but I knew deep inside I didn’t want to. I just needed a little kick in the ass to reboot myself, and now I know that I want to do this forever.”
That comes across in every line of every song on Revival. Recorded in Factory Studios in Vancouver, and Downe Under in Abbotsford, B.C., and produced by John MacArthur Ellis (Ridley Bent, Holly McNarland, Jane Siberry, Jeremy Fisher), Revival is a freewheeling twelve-song set that says as much about Oram’s musical roots as it does about where she’s headed as an artist. Whether it’s an old time country tune like ‘Pretty Red Dress’, a rough and tumble southern fried rock track like ‘You Don’t Have To Worry’, or her signature take on Sheryl Crow’s 1994 hit, ‘Strong Enough’, Oram has never sounded more focused, more sure of herself, or more at home.
“I just gained a new appreciation for what I do. I think back to when I was a little girl and what I worked my butt off for and dreamed so hard for. Sometimes you lose that as an adult. Real life takes over and you lose the fantasy. I just started getting that back and now I’m in a completely different place in my life. I feel like I’ve spread my wings and really taken control of my career.”
Nowhere does that come across more clearly than on the Dixieland tinged lead single, ‘1929’ (Kaci Bolls, Kent Agee, Joshua Rush). While Oram says it took her some time to ‘get the song’ because it stands out from the rest of Revival musically, lyrically it sums up the album’s focus perfectly. “It’s about not letting the hard times take one hundred percent of your energy, but, instead, putting that energy into what can be.”
Other songs, she continues, spoke to her immediately. ‘Easier Not To’ (Kaci Bolls, Marcia Ramirez), for example – A track Oram had a gut reaction to from the second she first heard Bolls’ performance of it during a songwriter’s circle in Toronto. “By the end of the first verse I was like, ‘I’m going to record that’. That was exactly where I was in my life, and I think it made me realize that there’s always a way out, and I hope it helps other people see that, too.”
While songs like ‘Easier Not To’ and ‘Overalls’ find Oram kicking through the rubble of love lost or fading, rather than mourn those losses, on ‘Cornfield Song’ and ‘What if I Was Willin’’, Revival practically throws a party in their honour; focusing on the everyday pleasures that often slip by us as life gets more complicated, and celebrating the brighter future that making the hard choices inevitably leads to.
On Revival Oram truly put that ethic to work, making the record she’s always wanted to; one that reflects her roots, her dedication to her craft and her certainty that her life and career are on the right track in equal measure.