An Exclusive Interview with Tamara Rodriguez, multi-talented Mexican singer, songwriter, by Dr. Farzad Farahmand. Calabasas Times Magazine, February 2013.
The 22 year old multi-talented Mexican singer, songwriter, Tamara Rodriguez performed two duets with Shahkar Bineshpajouh on January 26th, 2013, live in a concert at the Nokia theater in Los Angeles, with lyrics in Spanish and Farsi. In both duets, Tamara gave an incredible performance as she took the stage and sang in Farsi, accompanied by a grand Philharmonic orchestra. She seemed extremely confident and at ease while facing the challenge of singing a very difficult and a non-European language, live and in a phonetic fashion from the heart. Despite her accent which was loved by the audience, she was able to effectively communicate the lyric of the song with much emotion.
Tamara is a native of Mexico, currently living in the United States.
In 2006 she made her international debut, participating in a reality show on the Spanish Television network, Telemundo called, Quinceanera. And in 2007 she participated in another Reality show on the Televista network called, Buscando La Nueva Banda Timbiriche.
Her musical, acting, modeling and dancing career has been blooming with great success ever since. She’s been performing concerts all around US and Mexico, including performing at the Governor’s Ball in Boston in 2010, where she sang for the Governors and president Obama. She is a graduate of vocal performance and songwriting from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
She has many original recordings, some with lyrics written by herself. She also uses her unique vocal style to make any song her own. Her recent recordings include the famous Mexican song, Historia De Un Amor, recorded by many artists from around the world. Tamara has made this old song her own, by giving it a different feel and a fresh sound. She is also a big admirer of Celine Dion and has recorded a beautiful version of the Celine song, Power of Love.
I had the pleasure of having a brief conversation with Tamara to find out more about her career, talent, goals and the musical influences that define her style.
Farzad: Hello Tamara and welcome to the Calabasas Times Magazine. It is a pleasure having you here. Your international debut was in 2006. Can you please take us to the period before that, and talk a little bit about how you first realized that your voice was not an ordinary voice, and you had special vocal abilities?
Tamara: Well, I was a dancer since I was three years old. I was dancing professionally, and I was always very much inspired by music and movement and I got close to music with dance. In dance class I would always be singing and my ballet teacher used to always tell me to shut up because I was always singing while dancing. In the school choir I was usually the one doing the solos and reaching the high notes. I kind of knew that I could sing, and I kind of knew that I loved to sing, but for me it was like a dream. I never thought I’d be singing professionally.
Farzad: You knew you had the talent early on!
Tamara: Yes, it was always easy for me to reach the high notes and to remember the music. But I did it as something that I liked to do and didn’t really take it seriously. In 2005, I was cast for the sound of music playing the role of the eldest girl. This was a great learning experience for me. Shortly after, I was called in to do an audition for a reality show on Telemundo. The audition was in Mexico and they had already done auditions in the US and had found 8 girls and they were looking for two Mexican girls. The show was kind of like a teen Latin American Idol for girls.
Farzad: So the reality show was about singing?
Tamara: Yes! It was a singing competition that involved ten girls. The winner of the competition would go on to compete in the American Idol. That group of girls were very inspiring to me and we always keep in touch. I went into that competition from a very classical background. The main music that I was surrounded by at the time was classical or Broadway or something that is from more of an older generation.
Farzad: It is interesting how at such a young age you liked this style of music!
Tamara: Even though we had commercial music, my repertoire was more classical and Broadway because I found my voice to be more suited for that type of music. For example, the music of Celine Dion and Sarah Brightman.
Farzad: It’s funny, but you remind me a lot of myself when I was your age. Because as a teenager, in my 20’s or even beyond, I felt like I was the only one among my age group that liked to listen to the type of music like romantic ballads by artists like Julio Iglesias or Engelbert Humperdinck. You’ve recorded songs like Besame Mucho and Historia De Un Amor. This is very rare!
Tamara: Yes! And I think this has to do with my up bringing. My mom is an Art Historian and I have an aunt who is an orchestral director and a pianist, and music runs in my family with a very classical background. I also think that I have a very old soul!
Farzad: That’s a very accurate thing you just said. I can relate!
Tamara: Yes, I consider myself as having an old soul. I appreciate so much the music that our ancestors brought. I feel that you always grow with things that connect with you the most. And this kind of music really connects with me. I like to sing good songs, songs that stand the test of time. I think that we’ve lost a lot of the good quality music that knows no generation. I am more of a Soprano, and that was one of the problems when I was competing in the first and the second reality show. I had to turn myself into more of a Latin pop singer. I love the music of Selena and Mariachi music, but obviously everyone has a perfect fit and personally. I think that that type of music comes to my voice the most, and I feel that I am representing my culture and roots in a very good way. I love to do songs that are maybe from three generations ago but nevertheless the most beautiful songs ever written in Mexico.
Farzad: You’re bringing them back!
Tamara: Exactly! The most important thing is to know who we are and who made us who we are. It’s the most important part of being a human. You always have to remember where you come from and give thanks to everything that has made you become who you are today!
Farzad: That’s fantastic! Well said!
You majored in songwriting as well as vocal performance at the Berkley College of music, and you write many of your own lyrics. What goes on behind Tamara’s mind when she writes?
Tamara: Well, I’ve always been a very creative person and have a very prominent right brain. My left brain is not working half of the time. I am not a logical person, I’m not a math person, I am all about creativity and that is the best aspect of my brain.
Farzad: It’s wonderful how you know yourself so well and you know how your mind works!
Tamara: Thank you! But you must also make sure that there is a balance. You can’t always be creative all the time. You have to have the business side and the logical side. I always love to collaborate and think that collaboration in songwriting is like the Yin and the Yang. There always needs to be two sides or minds to a song to be rich and double sided and well rounded in my opinion. And I’ve always been much better in melody and lyrics because I have that right brain, while most of the people I work with concentrate more on the chords or the rhythm.
Farzad: You’ve written lyrics all by yourself as well?
Tamara: Yes! I’ve written lyrics all by myself. But the best songs that I’ve done that have been recognized have been with collaboration and I am very strong minded about collaborating.
Farzad: By the way, do you write in Spanish, English or both?
Tamara: Both! I’ve always written in both.
Farzad: Wonderful! So you master both languages!
Tamara: Yes! I went to an American school when I was young, and I’ve had a very good English and Spanish education.
Farzad: You speak better English than most people I know twice your age that were born and raised in the US!!
Tamara: Thank you! I credit that to my parents for giving me a lot of resources and time for me to grow and to travel the world. It’s mostly because of my parent’s upbringing that I am able to be who I am today.
Farzad: Your parents live in the United States?
Tamara: No, actually they live in Mexico. I have a European grandfather, and so I’m a third generation European. I also feel very much connected to my European side and my Spanish side.
Farzad: What kind of European? Where from?
Tamara: My grandfather is from Belgium, but his ancestors are more Polish and Eastern European. I also have some Austrian heritage. And my grandmother and other grandparents are from Spain. And that’s why I feel linked to the Middle Eastern culture.
Farzad: Yes! Latin culture is very close to the Persian culture.
Tamara: Yes! That’s right! And that’s because of all the Europeans, the Spanish are the closest to the middle easterners because the Arabs were there for thousands of years. And the music is close as well!
Farzad: The Flamenco!
Tamara: Yes the Flamenco!
Farzad: Do you play any instruments?
Tamara: I write with the piano. I use it as a tool rather than for performance. I also do percussion. But most of the time I don’t have instruments when I sing. I use the piano to write music. I use it as a tool more than anything else.
Farzad: What are some of your musical influences that are responsible for shaping your vocal style today?
Tamara: I can say with great confidence that Celine Dion has basically been my inspiration since I was little. I’ve also been influenced a lot by theater and Broadway music such as the music of Sarah Brightman. She has also been very influential to me in my childhood and throughout my life. But first and foremost I would have to say, Celine Dion. I admire her not just for her career, but also for her being a mother, and everything else. She is my hero, for sure! And another person that gave me a lot of inspiration was Selena.
Farzad: You mean the singer that was killed?
Tamara: Yes! Unfortunately! She would be a very big star now if alive. Well, she was already a big star!
Farzad: What a tragedy!
Tamara: Yes! It was a big tragedy for Mexico and the music world! She was killed by the president of her fan club.
Farzad: Terrible! Terrible!
Tamara: Exactly! She was a great role model as well! She was one of the few who never really was involved in any scandals, and she was leading a very healthy life.
Farzad: She was a people person!
Tamara: Yes! She used her fame in a good way! Because of the choices that she made and because she was stuck to who she really was. And she focused on her voice and not only on selling records.
Farzad: Well, look at Whitney Huston for example. She was a great singer but….
Tamara: She was the best singer!! She was the best!! But unfortunately she was surrounded by people that didn’t help her at all. This usually happens to people who don’t grow up in a safe or loving environment. You have to be very happy and passionate about what you do and also know that you have to love yourself first and then you can love everybody else!
Farzad: Yes! That’s what Whitney Huston sang. The song, The Greatest Love of All. “Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all”. But it is rare for somebody so famous to find themselves and don’t lose their place in life and in other words keep their feet on the ground!
Tamara: Yes, it is very rare! I see Celine Dion and how humble she is!
Farzad: Yes! I see what you mean! My hero has always been Julio Iglesias for sure! Actually since I was twelve years old. He is one of those humble artists that didn’t let fame and fortune negatively influence his life!!
Tamara: Yes! He has managed it very well!
Farzad: How do you take care of your voice and how much practice do you get on a daily basis?
Tamara: I try to always have moments during the day, vocalizing like an hour or two hours and singing with the mind set of being vocally correct. And I sing everyday. It’s all about being healthy and staying healthy. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t go out to clubs, and not just because I’m sacrificing but because I don’t like to do something that would eventually destroy my voice.
Farzad: It’s not so much against your will. It’s just something that comes naturally!
Tamara: Yes! It’s natural for me because since I was little as a dancer I grew up to take care of my body. And as a singer I want to take care of my vocal cords or my instrument so that they would last for as long as I live. That’s the philosophy behind being a long lasting artist. To be able to change your life style into a very healthy, natural and balanced one. And for me it’s not a sacrifice. It’s a more of a way of living.
Farzad: You also have to make sure that you stay in a good mood and spirit and relax to keep your voice at top shape. Because your voice is the sound and the expression of your soul.
Tamara: Well, I used to get very nervous because I was very insecure about my voice. Especially in the reality shows where it was all about competition and trying to sing like someone else. After being in Berklee College of music for a while, I became very confident in my voice. I have to thank my teacher in Berklee, Mr. Larry Watson who is a very big figure and one of the top teachers in the music world, for giving me a lot of the confidence that I needed to grow, especially in an environment where everybody is so good and top level. That made me find myself and my voice and finally realize who I was. And if somebody didn’t like it, I’m sorry! It’s all about taste!
Farzad: I can relate so much to that! I always had a musical taste were I felt very much alone among the people my age. I always listened to Julio Iglesias or jazz and thought this was me. I never changed myself to please others. And if I couldn’t find anybody who was interested to go to concerts with me, I went by myself! I didn’t let anything stop me from enjoying the music that I loved.
Tamara: That’s great!
Farzad: Now that you are more confident about your voice, you don’t get nervous as much?
Tamara: For me, it’s strange because the more people there are, the less nervous I get. While with less people that I know and people who are critical, that’s when I get nervous.
Farzad: With your own family or relatives or close friends for example, you get more nervous than in front of thousands of people!
Tamara: Yes! That’s right!
Farzad: How was it working with Shahkar?
Tamara: It was a great experience to work with someone from Iran, with a very different musical upbringing. It was a learning experience for both of us.
Farzad: And it must have been a thrill singing with a grand philharmonic orchestra.
Tamara: Well, that was I think the best part of it all for me. The arrangements and the music was all amazing!
Farzad: And how did you learn to sing the lyrics in Farsi?
Tamara: Well, I have been taking Farsi classes for two months, and apart from that I have a good ear for languages.
Farzad: Do you know what you’re singing?
Tamara: Yes, I know exactly what I’m singing. And I got the two duets that were really really romantic and very poetic!!
Farzad: Yes! It really seemed like you knew exactly what every word meant, and not only that but you put so much emotion behind every word.
Tamara: And that’s what I wanted, because for me it is useless to sing something without emotion. When something is so beautiful and it’s written so well, why would you sing it just for the sake of singing it? Even though in my mind I sometimes can’t process some of the meaning, for me the emotion is still there, because Love is an international emotion and music is an international language. This was a great experience for me and I love singing in Farsi! It’s very beautiful! And it’s a real easy language to sing in.
Farzad: You said it’s an easy language to sing in?
Tamara: No! It’s not necessarily easy but it works very well in singing!
Farzad: Well, It’s not a European language with an ABC alphabet and yet you handled it very well!
Tamara: Yes! Thank you! But it’s easier than Chinese. For sure!
Farzad: So how do you see the future for yourself? What are some of your future goals?
Tamara: To continue singing in different languages, and to be an international Latin singer.
Farzad: How many languages do you sing now?
Tamara: I sing in 4 different languages of Spanish, English, French and Italian, as well as a lot of Latin in Churches.
Farzad: With Farsi that’s be five languages, right?
Tamara: Yes! I would like to record something in Farsi and maybe do some collaboration, maybe half Spanish, half Farsi, and promote that, because I am very happy with the Persian audience. They are very much involved with the music and really appreciate it! And that is very rare!
Farzad: As far as recordings go, how many recordings do you have?
Tamara: I have many, but not all of them are on the internet and not all are for sale.
I wrote and produced the song I Talked to ItalianO, and that was a big production for me. It’s a great video, especially for the YouTube audience.
Farzad: So our readers can do a YouTube search on Tamara Rodriguez I Talked to Italiano and enjoy! Well Tamara, it is great to see that at such a young age you know exactly where you’re coming from, where you stand and where you are headed.
Tamara: Thank you very much! It’s been seven years that I’ve been singing and it’s been a great journey. And I’m grateful to my family who has always encouraged me to be the best in everything that I do.
Farzad: You are moving towards a very clear goal, and a bright future is awaiting you. I wish you nothing but success!!
Tamara: Thank you very much, and thanks to the Calabasas Times magazine for having me! I would like to highlight the outstanding work of Daryanaz and Music Producer Elton Ahi for making this concert possible and especially would like to mention my everlasting gratitude to Katayoun De La Fuente for believing in my talent. Thanks a million! Merci! Khoda hafez!