Singer-songwriter Tara Dente found truth in hometown mud
Tara Dente examines the emotions that flood the hearts of many when they return to their “hometown” on her latest single and most recent album. The New Jersey-born singer / songwriter whose music is quite characterized as Americana is now based in Nashville. She opens for Matthew Curry when she returns to her hometown of Bloomington on Saturday.
In this slightly edited interview with Jon Norton of WGLT, Dente said the single âAnyone’s Hometownâ came from his hometown of Long Branch, New Jersey.
TOOTH: It started with how I realized I felt uncomfortable driving the streets or walking the streets of places I knew, because I was almost afraid of people I would meet. Because of all the history that was piling up in these places. I thought that I’m probably not the only one who feels like they’re a little afraid to turn the corner in the place they know.
WGLT: I did when I got home. I’m from northern Minnesota, but I’ve lived in Illinois for a long, long time now. But every time I go back to northern Minnesota it’s exactly as you described it. Who am I going to meet and all these lairs I used to hit? It just brings back those weird memories, you know, sometimes good, sometimes weird.
TOOTH: Yeah, you know, so it’s those two things. And that’s what the song is about. The beautiful right next to the ugly, the beautiful right next to the painful and somehow too familiar or the things you want to run away from.
You know the lines on the sidewalk like the lines in your hands
And the place where you wrote in concrete like it was sand
It’s like a knife in the chest driving through your childhood home
Not knowing who is cooking in the kitchen and dreaming about where you grew up
“Anyone’s Hometown” by Tara Dente
I would like to continue this idea (about hometowns) with your EP âTruth in the Mudâ. This came out last year, and the title song seems like a throwback to your home region. The only line, “the places you play in the mud are where you find your truth.” I love this line. Can you explain your relationship with mud?
Or with the mud of the New Jersey Shore?
TOOTH: I used to walk a few blocks from the house where I grew up. And there was this apartment complex called Pleasure Bay, next to it was a baseball field and behind it was a bay, a river. So you would kind of jump off that little barrier that kind of holds the land against the high tide. And when it was low tide you could jump on that tiny little muddy beachâ¦ it wasn’t really a beachâ¦ it was just private. And it was like a place where I could be in my thoughts and sometimes play pretend with my sister and brother. I am part of a generation that grew up without cell phones, it is a great memory, just being in this very simple mindset. And simple place where you sometimes found a wallet with money in it that washed up on this little sandy beach. And sometimes we would find shells, sometimes we would find less great things like tires, and things would run aground. It had been a long time since I had thought of this place.
And then when I wrote the song, I started to think about those places I used to go. And I thought about how when you let go of all the things that have become your identity as an adult, you go back to the simpler times when you didn’t compare yourself to anyone, and you didn’t even have no idea who you are and who you are in the world, you just exist and you are just happy and somehow blissful. Or if you have the privilege of beingâ¦ and I did that when I was nine or 10 years old, I felt like coming back to that mindset would put me in touch with some kind of a bigger one. truth about myself.
TOOTH: It’s a good question. (Laughs)
Those nasty follow-up questions, right?
TOOTH: You know, I think you just ruined the whole album for me. No just kidding. (laughs again) You know, I think that’s a trap. I don’t think we can really go back, we can’t really know who we were kids. And then as an adult we have these layers that become our identity. So you can’t really go back to either. You are right where you are. I love the idea of ââbeing able to discover your deepest desires from the things you have done when there was no pressure on you. I know that as a child, I created a lot. I played music, I made art. I was out a lot. And these are some of the things I love the most about me. So, the things you enjoy doing as a child often highlight what brings you joy as an adult.
As I understand it, you’ve lived in a few other different places, and it looks like Vermont was one of them. But you now live in Nashville. Was this movement itself linked to the pandemic?
TOOTH: Well I visited Nashville for my birthday last summer for the first time and really liked it. I had been based in the Asbury Park, New Jersey area for a good decade. I love the venues I would play in and I am grateful for it all.
But I think there comes a time when you need to be challenged. It is dangerous to get to a point where you feel you can’t do anything wrong. And I think it’s important to be in a place where you’re challenged, and people are going to give you honest feedback and so I wanted to be a little more of a little fish in a big pond and just be with people who had really, really challenged. I think Nashville is ripe for the pickin. If you want to be in the music, there are too many shows to attend. You cannot listen to all the music here. I plan to be truly inspired to be the best version of myself.
Sometimes when people move away from their homes, they have another way of finding themselves as things are stripped away, the familiar is stripped. The people, the buildingsâ¦ do you find that in this city of music with all these amazingly talented musicians?
TOOTH: I really struggled to acclimatize the first month I was here, and you know, I cried a lot. It’s crazy to tear away from everything that is familiar. It’s not really normal for humans to put themselves in this situation. It doesn’t happen that often because I think we’re built to stay connected to communities and familiar and rightly so for evolutionary purposes. I think it makes sense. I think musicians are … some people would call it an affliction. It is a curse of others what is called a curse. And it’s also, you know, a total joy to be so driven by your art and the desire to do it and grow it and stuff, but it can really tear you up like your comfort zones. And that’s exactly what happened. I think I knew I had to be here. I just had an instinct. And so, I left with it. And it is hard. Yes, but this city is really welcoming. Everyone has been so nice. I think that’s really all you want to get out of it, that’s what you’re going to get. Conan O’Brien said if you work really hard and are kind amazing things will happen. For now, I think I made the right choice.
Dente performs at the Castle Theater in Bloomington on Saturday night. She opens for Bloomington hometown phenomenon Matthew Curry, who himself now lives in Nashville.