Apr 7, 2023
Tara MacLean | Love Has No Opposite
CONTENT WARNING: This episode of Hidden Track contains multiple references to childhood trauma and sexual abuse. Although the content does not go into explicit details, some listeners may find these topics of discussion uncomfortable.
"Looking back, I am astonished at times by what I have done in search of love, and just to survive."
Over the course of her astounding life story, Tara MacLean has been an international hitmaker; a survivor of horrific childhood abuse; a lifelong student of art, music, and philosophy; a performer everywhere from Lilith Fair to Late Night with Conan O'Brien; a mother; a creative collaborator; a theatre creator; and now an author. At her core, though, Tara MacLean sees herself as... a sparrow.
In the title track to her new album Sparrow, Tara MacLean sings passionately of her need to "trust the wind and the open sky". And, to be sure, she's spent her life navigating a staggering series of soaring highs and gut-wrenching lows. Tara is a songbird by nature; songs are her way of expressing and grappling with life's often incomprehensible joys and sorrows. And her stunning new memoir Song of the Sparrow recounts her heartbreaking, inspiring, fierce, stranger-than-fiction life journey. In the pages of her book and the lyrics of its companion album, she brings us inside moments of horrifying trauma, transcendent triumph, unthinkable loss, and cosmic good fortune. Of what she's learned from walking this jagged road, she writes, "I propose that love has no opposite. It's all love in this messy, sad, heartbreaking world."
From her earliest childhood years in the wilds of Prince Edward Island, she was surrounded by the performing arts and music. Also surrounding her from an early age, however, was horrific sexual abuse. As a child, she taught herself to cope with her tumultuous existence by pouring her heart into writing and singing songs. Her life as a singer-songwriter began as a raw, elemental urge to express and create. However, it set her on a path that saw her ascend onto the world stage in the late 1990s, just at the very tail end of a golden age for the music industry, in the moment of blazing glory just before the online music phenomenon popped that bubble.
In this free-spirited, open-hearted conversation Tara tells us about the dizzying journey she's been on, including a hippie 1970s PEI upbringing; being "discovered" while jamming on the top deck of a ferry; being mentored early in her career by Sarah MacLachlan; playing her songs during touchstone moments of '90s culture, ranging from the Lilith Fair tour to the movie Coyote Ugly; the need to retreat and revitalize after years of working herself nearly to death on the road; summoning the courage to confront the demons in her life; her devotion to family, the loss of loved ones, and being a mother; discovering an urge to share her story on the printed page with this new book; how on this new album, she reinterprets songs she wrote decades ago, alongside perspectives offered in the record's three fresh new songs; and the unforgettable moment that began this whole sparrow's journey, when a 9-year-old Tara stepped onto a county fair stage, and fell in love with sharing her music with the world.