A Conversation with Emily Blue of Tara Terra

We got to speak with Emily Blue, the frontwoman of Illinois-based Terra Tara. Her debut solo record, "Another Angry Woman" blends pop and rock sounds to examine issues within contemporary feminism. The first single, "No Pain" demonstrates her abilities as a vocal and lyrical powerhouse.

Proceeds from the single and subsequent video will go towards RACES.

“Another Angry woman” is your debut solo record, what is it like making a solo project v.s. collaborating with a band? Can you explain the title?

Making a solo record is definitely more nerve wracking. With a band, you have so many other people to bounce ideas off of, and an instrumentation that you become familiar with. With my solo work, I was forced to rely only on my own vision for the songs. I had to arrange them, choose specific sounds, and be confident in what I was doing. It was a learning experience, for sure.I can apply the knowledge of production and arrangement to every project I do musically.

The title “Another Angry Woman” comes from the way I’ve heard people describe women who are upset about the inequality in the world. It’s an expression that so often dismisses and belittles women’s experiences. When I thought about my record and how specifically, it refers to sexual abuse, gender, trauma, etc, I asked myself, what’s the first criticism this work will likely receive? What is the first way people will completely miss the point of these songs? And that’s how “Another Angry Woman” was born.

Who are some of your musical or artistic influences?

This sounds like sort of a cop-out, but everything I hear influences me. I love to listen to the radio in the car because I never know what’s going to come on -- it forces me to take in so many different genres of music in one sitting. I find myself noticing things in a song that I like, especially production-wise, that I can later apply to my own music. More specifically, my all-time favorites are folk/bluegrass singer-songwriter Gillian Welch, the band Yuck, Regina Spektor, Fleet Foxes,  and Norah Jones.

When did you start playing music?

I started playing music when I was probably five years old. I don’t remember the exact age, but I remember I was put into piano lessons very early on. I wrote my first real songs when I was in middle school, and fell in love with it. I’ve always loved to write and express myself -- as an only child, it was very easy to get lost in writing. I also played flute in band / orchestra during my high school years, which gave me experience with a more formal musical atmosphere.

What’s your first memory of performing?

My first memory of performing is actually a pretty funny one -- I was six years old and had a vocal solo at our church’s Christmas concert. When it came to the moment when I was supposed to sing verse 2 of “Away in a Manger,” I completely froze in front of the entire congregation and forgot all the words. I never really sang in public again until I was fifteen, because I was so mortified. Luckily, I’ve gained enough experience on stage now to completely counteract the fear, but I remember that like it was yesterday. People still told me I did a great job afterwards, even though I didn’t sing a word.

How did you get involved with RACES (Rape Advocacy Counseling Education Services)? What has it been like to work with them?

I’m not actually affiliated with RACES per se, but I have recognized their importance as a student from UIUC. They are a rape crisis hotline available 24/7 and offer other services for survivors as well. Some of my very good friends volunteer for that organization. I’ve seen the compassion and care that they have for survivors and wanted to do what I could to help them in their time of need. It is honestly atrocious how little funding they receive -- our entire community has snapped into action but it’s not nearly enough without an adequate budget.

How did you go about finding participants for your video?

I put out a couple ads on social media, requesting survivors who wanted an outlet to talk about their experiences. The response was very enthusiastic -- at one point, I actually thought we were going to have too many to fit in the video. It just goes to show how many people have gone through sexual abuse or assault, and how necessary it is to listen to them and believe them

Has this project allowed you to connect with other survivors?

Absolutely. It reminded me of the way I felt at “Take Back The Night”, which is a protest that our town hosts every year. Both that, and the video showed me how necessary it is to feel the support of others around you. It made me feel very connected because these people understood the specific pain I carry, because they carry some of the same burden. Many of the survivors in the video (including myself) were very nervous or anxious about the experience, but said it was empowering to them and helpful to their healing process.

What are your thoughts on the idea that music itself can act as a healing space?

It is my personal belief that pop music can change the world. I include the descriptor “pop” because of a few reasons -- I make pop music, one. Two, pop music is some of the catchiest and most readily accessible music there is. There’s this idea that because of that, it can’t possibly contain any necessary or meaningful message. So with this record, I wanted to counteract that idea, and use pop music as a vessel to carry all of my feelings and emotions. It’s helped me heal and cope with some of my experiences, and I think it can help others heal as well. Also, the fact that this record is a non-profit endeavor gives me confidence that music is a viable tool for social change.

What are your thoughts on the overwhelming prevalence of slut shaming in everyday conversation?

It’s disgusting. I do not condone slut shaming in any way, shape, or form, because it is inherently a violent act. In my life, it has made me feel shame when I shouldn’t feel shame, and carry unnecessary burdens.My policy is, if the sex is enthusiastically consensual, safe, and healthy, then the only person who should be ashamed is someone that has a problem with it.

My other policy is, never shame someone for what they are wearing. Whether someone is wearing a revealing dress, a burka, a garment that goes against the gender binary, what-have-you, policing what someone else wears can damage a person’s self esteem and put them in a position of danger. Body policing is so often used as justification for violence.

How did you start getting involved with activist spaces? Do you have any tips for people who want to get involved with social justice but might not know where to start?    

Champaign-Urbana (my hometown) has so many amazing people, a diverse and passionate music community, and a passion for social justice, so it was easy to hop on board. I personally love to host benefit concerts or involve music in any way that I know how. What I would recommend for other people wanting to get involved in social justice is listening and learning -- I learned the most about social justice from people that were being oppressed. I have the privilege of being a white, cis person, so I have a lot of listening to do in terms of racial equality, for example, or trans visibility. Then, I would recommend using your specific talents and abilities to bring awareness to your cause! You can always use your skills for good.