Via Tania is a fascinating artist. In a time where being mysterious is a well-crafted strategy for artists — both up-and-coming and well established ones — vocalist Via Tania is mysterious without much effort. And she’s making beautiful musical gems without much fanfare. She recently released the hypnotic album, Via Tania and the Tomorrow Music Orchestra, and from its debut single, “I See You Tiger,” Via sweeps the listener into her world and holds you there until the last track.
In the 1990’s, Via Tania (aka Tania May-Bowers) began her music career in Sydney, Australia in the all-female rock band, Spdfgh, accompanied by her sister. By the early 2000’s she had relocated to Chicago and began a solo career, putting out acclaimed music that’s been compared to Sade and Nico. Though she has a sound and image so fitting for this time in music, she is surprisingly low key: putting out music that only in-the-know fans and music lovers discover.
I discovered her music a few weeks ago and was captivated. I had the great opportunity to speak to the baby face beauty about making music, collaborating, and the colour of her latest album. Chaka V.
TWM: Congratulations! Via Tania and the Tomorrow Music Orchestra is such a stirring album. I read that you recorded some of the music in Australia and some in the U.S. Do you find that where you record a song affects the vibe of the song or the way you feel when you later perform it?
Via: It is a really important factor for sure: especially when you’re a sponge like me. The most important thing though is to feel comfortable and willing to do things, new things. Singing really exposes you, so you can’t be inhibited or the experience sucks. Then every time you listen to the recorded song you remember that [experience].
TWM: The songs were originally going to be performed with your band, but you decided to collaborate with the Tomorrow Music Orchestra instead. What was your reaction when you first heard your voice and songs backed by a gorgeous orchestra?
Via: My reaction was holy crap I need singing lessons! I recorded the whole thing then didn’t listen to it for a couple weeks. Then did. Then started looking for some coaching.
So much good music out there doesn’t call for that, but an orchestra does and sometimes you gotta [move] past your punk rock attitude and get better at something (of course not everything !).
TWM: Would you ever remake this album with the band, to give those records a different take, a second life so to speak?
Via: I have bedroom recordings of the original Chicago band playing the songs like we used to play live. Maybe I should get a big wad of cash and get them over here to finish it!
TWM: Many writers or actors won’t look at their work after it’s released because they see the errors or the things they would do differently. Do you listen to your music after it’s out (when you’re not performing it)? Do you ever revisit your music in order to gain inspiration or a new perspective, or to simply avoid old territory?
Via: I actually do. Though years can pass. This record is a bit different. Being a collaboration, it’s not like it ran through every one of my veins before it came out. I think because of that it’s easier to listen to. And I was writing some lighter fairytale-ish songs, they are easier to revisit than the songs that are about processing hard times.
TWM: “I See You Tiger” is such a hypnotic song, as is the entire album. It’s an album that both entrances and inspires. What artists do you listen to that take you to another world when you put their albums on?
Via: Lately I’ve been listening to Iris Dement and Joni Mitchell and Bill Callahan: instrumentally sparse but definitely gets me out ‘there.’ Maybe poetry is what I am seeking these days.
TWM: As a very distinctive eclectic artist, do you find that your sound is better suited in today’s music scene, since being eclectic is far more appreciated?
Via: Yeh. I remember growing up [and it] was not like that. Crossing genres was so cool hardly anyone did it. But then it got super cool. I’m talking about kids here, and I grew up in a small town in Australia. On the other hand everyone who liked anything left of centre all hung out together. You didn’t separate the goths from the rock kids. Back to your question: the answer is yes.
TWM: You began making music in the 1990’s, so you got your start pre-social media. And your music solo career has blossomed during the rise and dominance of social media. Do you find social media — which requires so much effort from artists — a challenge or helpful when getting your music out there?
Via: Social media is all about marketing and business: if you like that then it’s helpful. I felt a lot of resistance about it just because I don’t do the selfie thing and the thought of treating my music like a business makes my stomach churn. I know that’s how you survive as an artist, but I’ve become much more comfortable in doing music as a passion and so I do what I want when I want. I have a real job that pays the bills and I enjoy it. And it’s not really all that real as it’s 11am and I’m doing this interview.
TWM: Now, at your fifth album, does making music become more difficult or more freeing? Do you feel greater permission to take musical risks?
Via: Mmmmm, I think it’s actually got to do with pressure around your releases: what everyone else wants. What your fans, label , agent [want]. What’s easy for everyone else. You can’t help feeling that pressure. I don’t care what anyone says, if you’re a true artist, you’re sensitive and you notice if people think you are failing. Anyway, none of that affects me. I don’t have any pressure and a tiny audience so I’m lucky. Having a direct line with creativity and no BS took some real strategic moves, but yes, I feel very free.
TWM: There are some artists who see colours when they hear certain chords and musical sounds. Sometimes when I hear an artist’s music it evokes a similar experience, and that happened listening to this album. If you could chose a colour for this album, what would it be?
Via: That is a super tricky question. I’m going to say a wide spectrum of green.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chaka V. is a writer, journalist and the founder of The Winehouse Mag.