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NY Times Arts & Leisure Interview: Shaina Taub "Looks Poised to Break Out"; Multi-Faceted Artist Delivers a Tour de Force of Musical Styles and Instrumentation; New CD out 12/16
(Published: December 03, 2015)

For Immediate Release November 30, 2015

NY Times Arts & Leisure Interview: Taub "Looks Poised to Break Out"

Multi-Faceted Artist Shaina Taub Delivers a Tour de Force of Musical Styles and Instrumentation with Compelling, Poignant, Often Witty Lyrics

Extraordinary Young ‘Soulful Folk' Songwriter/Performer Infuses an Old-Time Revival Quality to Some of the Tracks, as They Build to a Multi-Voice, Cathartic Crescendo; Ensemble of 26 Musicians Join Her to Bring Project to Life

Recently Made Solo Debut at Lincoln Center

Profiled in a New York Times Arts & Leisure interview, below, songwriter/performer Shaina Taub delivers a tour de force debut on ‘Visitors', a compelling new album in which she showcases an array of musical styles/instrumentation, anchored to her intense, philosophical and often witty lyrics. In his Snapshot interview, The NY Times' Andrew Chow says Taub seems "poised to break out." Highlights on her upcoming album include the title song, unnerving in its simple accordion accompaniment; focus track ‘When' (premiered below via Huffington Post,) is timely social commentary, a graceful rumination on gun violence, which builds to a cathartic, multi-voice crescendo -- reminiscent of an old-time revival event; ‘O Luck Outrageous' is the poignant, poetic centerpiece of the album, and ‘Hometown Fire' reveals Taub to be an epic storyteller. Often compared to Regina Spektor and Carole King, Taub and her ‘soulful folk' style draw inspiration from such seminal artists as Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Lauryn Hill, Randy Newman and Laura Nyro.

MUSIC - SNAPSHOT - Shaina Taub Finds Inspirations by the Score
NOV. 29, 2015 Print Edition By ANDREW R. CHOW

The musical world doesn't seem quite so huge when in the hands of Shaina Taub. This 27-year-old singer-songwriter has a knack for bridging the gap between genres and forms: She has sung jazz-influenced pop at Lincoln Center; written and arranged for theater and "Sesame Street"; and, fittingly, was the first signee of a venture between Razor & Tie Music Publishing and Ghostlight/Sh-K-Boom Records for songwriters who work in both pop and theater.
Ms. Taub - whom Stephen Holden described in The New York as among "a breed of performers who, apart from being artists, are gravitational forces around whom others cluster like filings to a magnet" - looks poised to break out. Her politically pointed debut album, "Visitors," arrives in December, and she'll perform original songs in the vaudeville-style "Old Hats," which returns to the Signature Theater in January. (Nellie McKay occupied a similar role during the first run.)
Meanwhile, she's working on a Shakespeare in the Park production for next summer that she can't say much about. During a phone call from India, where she was attending a friend's wedding, she did have plenty to say about the art of genre-hopping. Excerpts from that conversation follow.

Q. Are you writing songs in India?
A. When I'm traveling, it's less music-based: I'm often journaling a lot. I was in Israel earlier this year and wrote a song about it. But it's more sort of furious scribbling. I have these giant text documents of so many lyrics. I'll just go through and distill and distill.
"Visitors" begins with the song "When," a commentary on gun violence. Does protest music still have the power to motivate change?
Absolutely. The rage we all feel, and the hope we all try to hold onto, is crystallized through music as a healing force that allows us to take action. We've watched it happen in so many generations.
How do you describe your own music?
I have a ton of soul, jazz, funk, gospel, even Broadway influences. I love groove, and I love storytelling. So groove-based storytelling, maybe.
Does genre matter when you're writing?
No, I'm never thinking about that. I'm inspired by so many different places - there's a voicing of a chord in a Stevie Wonder song that I'll be sort of obsessed with, but there's a certain kind of poetry in a Joni Mitchell song, or something from an old cast album. Early on, I thought I maybe had to define myself by genre. I then realized, no, there's no need. What I love about a Sondheim song is also what I love about a Paul Simon song, or a Ben Folds song: A great story being told transcends any genre or context.
How have you evolved as a songwriter?
I've grown more interested in finding ways to fuse very mundane experience and very profound experience. I'm also very intense about rewriting.
You've written and will perform songs in Bill Irwin and David Shiner's "Old Hats." What has that been like?
What's so deep and soulful about their comedy is it's all based on the absurdity and sadness of human experience and how funny that can be. I'm inspired by that balance: writing a doo wop song about dying and trying to find ways to juxtapose happy music with more intense subjects.
What's coming up next?
I'm writing a musical adaptation of a Shakespeare play for Shakespeare in the Park. It's a full-on musical where the songs are contemporary language, set in a city where there's constantly parades and bands and buskers. They encouraged me to put my own voice into it, and that has been a total joy.

Shaina Taub - Exclusive Song Premiere ‘When'
11/13/ 2015, by Michael Ragogna - Listen to the song:

Shaina Taub shared these thoughts about ‘When' with Huffington Post: "I've been grappling with this song for a couple years. I began the lyrics in the months after the Newtown massacre, sobered by the chillingly routine media response to such an unimaginable tragedy, aghast at the lack of swift legislative action, and brought to my knees by sadness for the families. I first composed the music in the wake of Eric Garner's death, while actually hearing marchers shouting in the street below my Brooklyn window. I continued writing it in the aftermath of a seemingly endless wave of shootings, and one question persisted as I wrote: when will this ever end? I'm not yet a parent, but I wonder... How will I explain to my child a country where this kind of killing is the norm?
"I still hadn't finished the song when I heard an older woman speak at a protest against gun violence in Union Square, and as she passionately called to the crowd, it hit me. This person has witnessed decades of blind eyes turned away to senseless bloodshed and still she has not given up hope for a better day. But here I am, still in my twenties, already defeated and resigned, whining about when it will ever end. She made me realize the answer to my question is another question, bringing to mind the ancient wisdom of Hillel, 'If not now, when.' After hearing her, as I sat at my piano wrestling my hope and rage into a melody, I kept asking myself, "What kind of song do I make now? A lament like the one I'd been writing? Or a rallying anthem? Or both at once? How can I use words and music to inspire and heal in the face of this volatile world? I've decided to open my new record with WHEN because there is nothing more urgent to me as an artist than this question."

The scope and success of her upcoming indie debut album are no surprise - Taub is the winner of a Jonathan Larson Grant and was an Ars Nova Composer-in-Residence. She recently made her Lincoln Center solo concert debut in their 2015 American Songbook series. Her extraordinary bio is below. Lincoln Center footage may be seen here:

The Visitors: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJvbd80IxUA
When: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJMMYwwkYRo

AXS/EXAMINER - Exclusive Q&A: Shaina Taub puts final touches on 'Visitors'
http://www.axs.com/news/exclusive-q-a-shaina-taub-puts-final-touches-on-visitors-69800 By Laurie Fanelli, 11/2015

Shaina Taub has an impressive resume that includes such notable accomplishments as winning the Jonathan Larson Grant, being an Ars Nova Composer-in-Residence and performing a solo concert at Lincoln Center. Though she is already an accomplished songwriter, composing tunes for theatre, television and various musical endeavors, she is about to share her new star-making album, Visitors, which is set for a digital release next month. AXS got the opportunity to ask Taub about the ins and outs of her songwriting process, as well as her experience performing at some of the world's most prestigious concert halls.
Laurie Fanelli (AXS): Thanks so much for taking time out to answer some questions. I'm sure you are busy putting the final touches on Visitors, which is set for a December release. What aspect of the album are you most excited to share with listeners?
Shaina Taub: It was important to me to make this record all at once, in seven straight days, so listeners would feel a wholeness to the experience of the album - a group of people gathered in a giant living room one night to make music. An ensemble of twenty-six musicians is featured on the record, all of them close friends of mine, and this project is a culmination of years of us playing and singing together. So, I'm most excited for listeners to feel the live humanity of the group of us in the space, hearing the songs as if you were standing right there by our side - a warm embrace of natural sound.
LF: Duality seems to be at the center of many of the new tracks with you exploring such ideas as the relationship between joy and sorrow, endings and beginnings, and youth and aging. How do you balance such contradictory concepts with your songwriting?
ST: I think the crux of powerful art is in the symbiotic relationship between the funny and the sad. And that's because life hinges on the same symbiosis - joy and pain require each other. In my songwriting, I strive for the relationship between music and lyrics to reflect this duality - whether it's writing a sweeping, orchestral chorale about riding the subway, an irreverent drinking song about suffering, or a romantic gospel tune about getting old. I'm obsessed with that poetic interplay when the profound and the mundane rub right up against each other.
LF: I got a chance to see some of your clips from your performance at Lincoln Center's American Songbook Series from earlier this year and I was struck by the rich tone of your voice. Do you have any regimens or warm-ups that you do to keep your vocals in tip top shape?
ST: Thank you for saying that! I have a whole arsenal of warm-ups I've held on to from different teachers over the years, and I've strung a few of them together into a 10-minute vocal regimen I do every morning. Besides that, I keep my voice healthy by being pretty boring - I stay away from noisy bars, get to bed early, rarely drink and never smoke. Something I have to be careful to avoid is singing too much actually. Between writing, performing and rehearsing, it can add up, so I try to stay quiet on non-work days. I'm hoping to sing my entire life, so I'm pretty rigorous with my voice.
LF: You write songs not only for yourself, but also for stage productions ("Old Hats," "The Daughters" and even TV shows like "Sesame Street." Is your writing process the same no matter what genre or avenue a song may take or do you approach the process differently when writing for the stage rather than writing for your own album?
ST: In any song, no matter the context, I'm always striving to tell a strong, emotional story, so in that sense, my main goal is always the same. However, there are certainly a different set of considerations for songs written for theater - for instance, a theater song is meant to be performed live and needs to land with clarity on the first listen, whereas a song on a record can sink in over several, repeated listens. And most often theater songs need to go on a journey, taking a character or scene from point A to point B, whereas a song for a record doesn't necessarily need to progress dramatically - it can sort of meditate and expand on one thought the whole time. So, in terms of process, with my theater songs, I spend more time crafting the lyric before I even sit down at the piano. Though these days, that order of process has become so fruitful and satisfying for me, I apply it to almost all of my songwriting!
"Sesame Street" is a unique composing experience because I am always sent a fully written lyric that I have to set to music. The "Sesame Street" writers are so great that the lyrics usually jump right off the page into a melody pretty quickly.
LF: As a huge fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, I have to ask what it was like working as Karen O's vocal standby and back-up singer in "Stop the Virgens?"
ST: I'm a huge fan of them too! In addition to being a thoroughly bad-ass rock star, Karen O is an incredibly kind and completely unpretentious person, as are her lovely and equally bad-ass bandmates Nick and Brian. Being in the room with them was a constant rush of adrenaline. By the end of the show each night, we were all covered in glitter and fake blood. I had traces of red and sparkles in my hair for months afterward. A big highlight of being Karen's vocal standby was getting to sing through the show at sound check at the Sydney Opera House, which was definitely the most epic vocal experience I've ever had.
LF: It seems like 2015 has been an amazing - and busy - year for you. What's next in 2016?
ST: Yeah, 2015 has been an amazing, jam-packed year - I've learned so much about who I am artistically. I'm kicking off 2016 by performing in "Old Hats," a show at the Signature Theater in New York starring the phenomenal physical comedians Bill Irwin and David Shiner who make me laugh harder than anybody. I perform my own songs in it with my band, and I'm so excited to share it with everyone. The run begins in January and continues through the spring. I'm also planning a big release concert for the record in the late winter, and writing songs for a Public Theater Shakespeare in the Park production which will be announced soon. So the year is gonna be bursting at the seams. I'm very lucky to spend most of my time making music.
LF: Is there anything else you'd like to share with AXS readers about Visitors, or any of your upcoming projects or performances?
ST: I'd love to share why I chose this title for my record [Visitors]. So, I've always pictured my soul as this big old house on a country road, containing all kinds of rooms, doors and windy staircases. There's a room for memory, a room where I hide things I don't want to think about, a room to hold my lost love and new rooms I never knew were there until a light turned on suddenly one day. And I've always imagined my emotions as visitors to this house of my soul. Coming and going. Invited and uninvited. Sometimes bearing gifts. Sometimes bearing bad news. Often a bit of both. I've realized I must welcome them all, from the joyful to the devastating. I've also always thought of good songs like visitors, showing up at your doorstep for a couple minutes, sent to open and break your heart. Hearing one is like a visitation from some kind of higher power. I hope the songs on Visitors will come knocking on the house of your soul, offering some healing and joy, maybe even returning for regular visits over the years.

‘Visitors' is set for December 16th digital release, with broader distribution set for early 2016.

More about Shaina Taub:
Shaina Taub is a Vermont-raised, New York-based songwriter and performer. Winner of a Jonathan Larson Grant and Ars Nova's 2012 Composer-in-Residence, she made her Lincoln Center solo concert debut in their 2015 American Songbook series. She performs with regularly with her band at New York venues such as Rockwood Music Hall and Joe's Pub, and her concert work was recently featured on NPR/WNYC Best Gigs of the Year list. She wrote songs for and co-starred in the west coast premiere of Bill Irwin and David Shiner's Old Hats, which will run at the Signature Theatre in 2016. She earned a Lucille Lortel Award nomination as Princess Mary in the acclaimed electro-pop opera Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. She performed and arranged the songs of Tom Waits in A.R.T.'s production of The Tempest, directed by Teller of Penn & Teller, and sang back-up for Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the psycho-opera, Stop The Virgens at St. Ann's Warehouse and the Sydney Opera House. Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald currently performs Taub's song, Bear & Otter, in concert. Taub is a fellow of the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Colony, the Sundance Institute and the Johnny Mercer Songwriter's Project, winner of the 2013 MAC John Wallowitch Award, a TEDx conference speaker and a featured artist in the Gc Watches ad campaign. She currently writes songs for Sesame Street.

Shaina Taub Photos by Sasha Arutyunova.


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