By Tara Minton
2011 began unremarkably. Working and gigging with my harp, and grappling with notions of luck, the fading hope of “being discovered”, and the dream of moving to London.
I had a single, “Play With Me” on Triple J Unearthed and was asking everyone to listen. Emails, Facebook — every Australian songwriter knows this process well. You hope that maybe a 10th of the people you hassle might do the kind thing and listen, usually your mum and your boyfriend. I certainly did not expect the director of Camac Harps France, Jakez Francois, to listen to my little song, but listen he did. He then followed up by sending me a glowing email about how much he loved it.
Jakez is an acclaimed jazz harpist and visionary harp maker; he made my beloved harp ‘Gumby’. I have spent hours watching and transcribing YouTube clips of his playing. As well as being an incredible musician he also pioneered the electric harp and invented the midi harp. Think of what Les Paul did for guitar and that’s Jakez for harp.
In early March he was in Tasmania giving a weekend workshop, which I could not attend, but he insisted that he would love to meet me before he left on his tour to Asia. I was in awe that my simple recording produced in a garage could inspire someone like Jakez to want to meet me so earnestly. Here is a man who has travelled the world and worked with some of the greatest musicians on the planet and he chose to spend his five-hour stop over in Melbourne lunching with me.
I will never forget that day – 15 March 2011. Lunch was in Lygon Street. We talked of Jakez’s hopes to bring the harp into the spotlight of modern music as well as my dreams of moving to London and finding success as a songwriter. After some conversation he told me that he loved my music and wanted to help me. He said he would give me an electric harp — my dream instrument — and would promote me in every way he could if I moved to London. That moment is framed in my memory forever as the instant my whole world expanded.
Five weeks later I was on a plane to London. To say I was scared is an understatement. So many hopes and fears and “what if’s” were buzzing around my head like bees around a hive. However, when I drove to Paris to pick up my new Electric Blue Harp I knew I’d landed in something truly amazing. I hit the ground running and now, nine months on, I’ve played all over London; from open mic nights, to a long standing residency at Proud Camden, as well as gigs at The Troubadour, Ronnie Scotts, Blackheath Halls, and invitations to play at festivals across Europe. On Sunday 4 March I will be headlining with my trio at Camden’s Dublin Castle. Life is better than good. It’s a dream come true.
“I Harp You” is available on iTunes and you can find out more about Tara at Taraminton.com . Tune in next week to hear Backpack Sounds next guest – Bonfire Nights.