Tracy Bonham in Her Own Words10.03.10
Tracy Bonham, a child violinist turned full blown soft rock artist. Her lyrics are so charming that we can still feel the words of her Grammy-nominated single Mother, Mother. Now she’s back with a new album, Masts of Manhatta. And fortunately for us, she’s revealed to Cotton Candy not just the inspiration behind the album but a personal side we’ve never known, until now. Here now is Tracy Bonham in her own words.
Tracy Bonham: “Actually, I started playing the violin at age nine. I guess I wasn’t really career minded when I was that young. But I do have this moment that will always stick in my memory. And it was when I was in a musical theater production. You know I was kind of heavy into musical theater. So were my mom and my dad. I had this feeling of like, ‘I’m going to get out of [Oregon] one day. I’m going to make it. I’m going to go to New York.’ I really had this vision. Something blossomed in me. It was kind of this fire this passion to really want to do well and to make a career out of it. I was about 14 or something.
My mom is my inspiration in a way. She raised me as a single mom. My dad died when I was two years old. So she used to sing to me when I was in the cradle like ‘you and me against the world.’ And I think that there’s a heavy bond there. As I got older, I learned from her. I learned about the good things, how to deal with the world, and I learned what I didn’t want to do. So in way she was a huge inspiration.
I think [the success of my 1996 single Mother, Mother] was due to time and a place. Of course, I wouldn’t have admitted that back then. But I think that people were listening more to women. They were open to strong women. I think it hit a cord. Everybody has a mom. Most people can relate to that song. It’s about not being able to communicate to your mother and how tough it is when you leave home. Everyone’s gone through that. I was just speaking from experience. I didn’t realize that it would be this resonate cord.
It got me established, which is great. And I still kind of enjoy that time even though I’ve fallen in and out of a cocoon. But I do enjoy [the] name recognition. I only wish that it could have been more consistent. When [fame] happened it was very quick, and it was very surprising. I remember when I first started writing songs and starting a band I just wanted to play more gigs in Boston. That was my main goal. I wanted to just be a popular band. I had seen a lot of these bands. And my boyfriend at the time was in seven different bands. You know, all of these bands that were kind of thriving in the scene. Well, I just wanted to be in the scene. Then surprisingly, at the time, all the focus was on Boston. So when I got this record deal, I was like ‘what?’ I had only written like ten songs in my whole life. Then there was that immediate pressure, which I didn’t handle to well. Now all of a sudden, I’m not just writing for me. I’m writing just to sort of keep up. That was hard.
When I [recently] performed on [The Tonight Show with Jay Leno] , I felt like I did well during the rehearsal. But when the cameras went on, I just was nervous. And I felt like I couldn’t control my voice. (Laughs) But you know it’s three minutes and thirty seconds, and then you’re done. (Laughs)
My new album [Masts of Manhatta] is the most honest in its production and in its development. It’s the most me I’ve ever sounded and maybe because I am becoming more of me over the years. And I also know what I want. I produced it myself this time. I knew exactly what I was doing as opposed to not being sure and trying to please other people. This [album] is one hundred percent me all the way.
Now is probably the most exciting time for a musician to start up something. But, it’s not based on fame. It’s not based on money. It’s only based on music and communicating and connecting with people. Believe in yourself, and love what you’re doing. Continue and don’t give up. And something will come out of it.
Follow your gift, and be honest with yourself. I think I’m still growing. I think growth never should reach a plateau. Becoming more of who I am — that’s the biggest step anyone should have. And I’m still on that path.”
As told to: Natasha D. Smith