Tara Williamson | Image credit: Scott Benesiinaabandan
Poet, provocateur, singer, and songwriter Tara Williamson (Anishinaabekwe/Nehayowak) just dropped her single album, Almost, in March 2021. Watch out for her album, Enough, to be released in June. Thematically it touches on the subjects of relationships and decolonizing the meaning of what love is. The album is vocally beautiful, overlapping an electronic vibe, and evoking a thoughtful emotionality to it. Here is Tara Williamson with MUSKRAT Magazine’s Erica Commanda as they talk about the album, what she learned from the process of making it, and what decolonizing love means to her.
EC: Almost, your newest single is very significant and meaningful, what did you learn from the process of writing it?
TW: The song is about when you start realizing that nothing is perfect in a relationship. Is ‘almost’ going to be enough? I was in a place where I was in a relationship where I was having to make that decision. Is this almost good enough and on what front? The process of writing it was really fast. I was really emotional. It was like a gift song I call them – where I don’t know where the song came from, it just happened. The process of learning the lesson to write the song: I learned a lot about myself, about what I need in relationships, and how to take care of myself and my own needs. It was a turning point in my life, around looking at relationships.
EC: You mentioned in your press release that this track raises important questions on decolonial love. What are some of those questions and what does the term decolonial love mean to you?
TW: I think this was a turning point for me; what does decolonial love mean? For me, it started out as a song about being in a romantic relationship. Decolonial love for me is breaking out of some of those categories of romance or friendship, or what we think about who our family is. We know, everyone I call aunty isn’t my aunty, but they are my aunty right? I have friends who I snuggle with, people have open relationships, all these different things.
One part was breaking down what is love anyway? How do we have good love? What does good love mean? Making space for imperfection and what standards we hold ourselves to. I think there’s a lot of Western, capitalist romantic love standards that we hold ourselves to which isn’t where we come from traditionally. We’ve been put through the wringer, in terms of colonial love. That feels like an oxymoron even to say that… colonial love. I think decolonial love is questioning those things, making room for imperfection and also helping each other become better the best that we can.
EC: How did you start collaborating with The Northwest Kid? What was that process like for you?
TW: The Northwest Kid has been a friend of mine for a while. I was on tour for my last album. We were going to Saskatoon for the album release show. I asked him in advance, “Hey do you want to collaborate on something on stage? That would be fun.” He said sure. I said just go through my SoundCloud, pick a song. Here’s the new album and here is everything. Pick a song and we’ll make sure to have it prepped and rehearse it the day before the show and he picked the song Almost.
It was so funny because it wasn’t on the new album. It was an old garage band recording of the song I had written and just left it because I was like, “You know what I’m still working on my stuff I don’t want to get into this. I can’t release this publicly yet.” But then he picked it. When I was relearning it I hadn’t played it in a long time, and there were a lot of words. I was like, “I have to learn this song again?” I was trying to learn it on the way to Saskatoon and then I gave up because I’m clearly not learning it. Then when we got there I was gonna tell him, “You know what, why don’t you just get up and do a tune and I’ll do background vocals or I’ll vamp or something behind you.” But then he started with his verse and was like welp I guess we have to learn this song really fast because it sounds super good. That’s the story of it.
When we were on stage after we had done it at that moment, I was like, “so we are gonna record the song right?” This was four years ago. Working with him is great. He is so creative. He did his own engineering at home. He’s got a home studio and he communicated with my producer really well. He knows what he wants in terms of sound and placement, but is really collaborative. It was great. It’s also just been fun reconnecting, doing media stuff with him and also thinking about relationships. We were talking about different types of relationships. It helped shift the conversation from being just about romance. It was about our relationship too: an Indigenous woman and an Indigenous man talking to each other about this shit. It’s not a romantic relationship, it’s in the context of friendship and making art. So how do we talk about it like that?
EC: Have you gained any insights since living through the pandemic?
TW: You know how we were talking about relationships, that relationships are so important? I knew this before, about the things that we’re learning about supporting each other and having each other’s backs. I’ve had one consistent person in my bubble for a year. This is the one person I can hug for a year. So thinking about things and how we support each other, I’d say the biggest thing I learned is how important our relationships are, how important it is to work on them and have each other’s back because it’s hard. It’s so hard to be isolated and alone.