The voice of an angel behind countless clubland hits steps up to the DMC plate…
Tara what a career already under your belt. You started early, playing the role of Eponine in Les Miserables on the London West End stage. Do you come from a musical family or was music simply the life direction you decided to take? “I come from a family of music lovers which I think is partly where I get my passion from, but my family are just normal working class people. Sometimes I have wished that there was someone in the family that did have that kind of background as it would have been amazing to have had advice and trusted connections, but on the other side I’m really proud of my achievements as I got them through my own merit and hard work and still have a very supportive and music loving family.” You met Audrey Hepburn after winning a singing competition at the age of 12, can you remember what she was like – were you aware how incredibly famous she was? “Thats right, it was an international competition for the childrens charity UNICEF called ‘The Danny Kaye Award’ after the actor who did so much work for the charity. Audrey Hepburn was the host of the show. I was representing England and I was completely unaware of how famous Audrey was to be honest, my parents of course weren’t and I did wonder why they acted so strangely in front of her. I hadn’t seen any of her films at this point and now as an adult when I see one of her movies, it’s hard to believe that we shared the same stage. I remember she was incredibly sweet to me and even though she was elderly when we met she was so radiant, elegantly beautiful and had a ballet dancer’s poise. I cried when I won and she just put her arms around me and made me feel safe as I was singing in front of the Dutch Queen and the prize was to be a child ambassador for UNICEF. I visited Third World countries and delivered supplies to schools and that was such an amazing experience. I think that’s why I’m always so keen to work on charity projects as I really had my eyes opened at such a young age.” When did you first start to nod your head to the sound of dance music beats, if I recall correctly you were a backing dancer on the huge Jungle Bros. single ‘I’ll House You’…?” “I guess I fell in love with dance music in my teens, it was the chart stuff at the time. I bought Bomb The Bass ‘Winter In July’, ‘Total devotion’ and played them over and over. Then I became a go-go dancer at the under 18’s night in my local town…which I thought was the coolest thing as I could dance around like crazy in my hot pants and platform shoes. By the time I was 18 I had dancing residencies at all the best clubs in London and fell in love with the sounds – some of the clubs would let me sing too. And yes, I was a backing dancer for Jungle Bros, it was for the TV show Top of The Pops and they wanted girls who could body pop. I could do it quite well at that time and do all the glides (moonwalk kind of thing) and I was also really into American Locking – another dancing style that I was obsessed with. I did the job with my sister, we even choreographed a bit of the routine and were so over the moon when we heard we were going to be on TOTP!!”
How difficult / rewarding was working as a ‘forces sweetheart’ for the CSE charity providing entertainment for the UK armed forces in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia?
“I had some really incredible experiences when I was working with the CSE charity which I did for about 3 years. It was completely insane sometimes as when you’re working in a country during a war you never know what to expect. Hotels or camps have to be changed in the middle of the night it there’s a bomb scare, you’re shot at whilst flying over a countries border in a light aircraft. But also it was fascinating to see a country in a way that no other civilians get to see it. I am pro-peace and war is such an ugly thing, but I feel for the boys and girls that fight for my country and their life is so difficult. My job was to act like a link to home for the men and woman from the British Armed Forces and just let them escape for a while through music.”
You are well known for your voice on dozens of clubland’s finest tunes, but tell us, what are the ‘guilty pleasures’ artists on your iPod? “You know I have nothing to feel guilty about LOL A great song to me is a great song. You might even see me at a wedding dancing to ‘Agadoo’ by Black Lace and I’ll be loving it…everything has a time and a place…except that crazy frog song!”
What is your greatest weakness?
“Love every time, I’m a hopeless romantic!” You have released music and hit the top of the worldwide charts with the likes of Armand Van Helden, Axwell, David Guetta, Joey Negro and Laidback Luke to name but a few. How did all these people differ from the other, what were their strengths and qualities? “It’s difficult to say as I never met half of these people at the time of the conception. When I first got my lucky break I had co-written the top line of Axwell’s ‘Feel The Vibe’ but we had never met or spoken together at all. All the dialogue was through the record company, initially I was just given the track to write too, not to be the vocalist as well but everyone was really happy with my demo vox and that was actually the one that made the record, recorded in a little home set up! It was the same story with Joey Negro and Armand van Helden too – I never met him ’till after the record was released and with David Guetta I didn’t even know that I was writing on one of his tracks! I was just given some instrumentals through I guy I met on Myspace and he had some great tracks, the backing track I called ‘Delirious’ was one of my favourites and ‘Get Down’ the track I did with Todd Terry, was also in there. Both with Todd Terry and David Guetta things were different as I did a lot of promotion and live shows together which was great fun and I got to know them better. With Laidback Luke, we had a different approach. We met after my tour manager was working on a gig with him and I asked him to let Luke know that I really loved his remix of ‘Delirious’. Luke gave a message back to say that he really liked my vocals and we decided to work together so I flew to Holland and we set up some writing days which was a lot of fun. We’ve written a couple of tracks together but we haven’t ‘gotten about to releasing them yet, maybe in the future.” What is the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you? “Left their country and career to come and live with me in the UK. Thats a dramatic thing to do in the name of true love.” Which singer around today do you think has the most beautiful voice? “I would say Amy Winehouse as a tribute to her incredible talent. When I posted a message about her on my Twitter page about being so sad at losing, in my opinion one of the greatest female singer songwriters ever to come out of the UK, I was shocked by some of the comments I got back from people. Really hateful responses. No matter what happened in her personal life I will always remember her as someone who dared to share her soul and feelings with people through her music and her voice was such a gift!” What has been your favourite club in the world you have ever performed at? “I haven’t got one favourite club to be honest, yes it’s great to be at Pacha, Space, Cocoon and all other legendary places, but for me it’s all about the people and the energy between us. You can get that anywhere, it’s an honest raw positive emotion so I could be in front of 10 or 10,000 and still be having the time of my life.” And what has been the worst? “The worse have been where I have missed shows because of cancelled planes and bad weather. This really kills me as I get so much pleasure from performing and I really hate to let people down.” What is the biggest compliment anyone has ever given you?
“I was told the other day that over in France there was a dressing up day at a Primary school and the theme was to come as your favourite superstar. A little girl went as me, she wore a black wig with a fringe and had a little start sticker on her face. How cute is that?” Other than your own tracks, what are your favourite 10 dance tracks of all time? 1. ‘You Got The Love’ Candi Staton & The Source Easily at No. 1 as the lyrics are so deep – it’s like poetry and has been like a soundtrack to my life.
2. ‘Oh my Gosh’ by Basement Jaxx It’s just so original and reminds me of the girls I went to school with in Croydon. I’ve got fun memories dancing to this funny song. 3. ‘You Don’t Even Know Me’ Armand van Helden & Duane Harden. One word…CHOON
4. ‘Sunshine On A Rainy Day” by Zoe It’s a pop dance track and it’s a classic, Zoe is one of my best mates and this was the first song she wrote and it went straight to number 2…go girl!
5. ‘Free’ by Ultra Natre Anthem!
6. ‘Bonkers’ by Armand van Helden (Erick Prydz remix) Completely relentless – and bonkers of course LOL
7. ‘Precious love’ by Blaze & Barbara Tucker The ultimate dance diva!
8. ‘Love Is Gone’ by David Guetta & Chris Willis What a team they were together…
9. ‘Hello’ by Martin Solveig Such a vibe and bouncy track.
10. I Need A Miracle’ by Fragma That song will live on and on. David Guetta describes you as a tigress on stage – what do you think about that?
“I love his impression of me, what girl wouldn’t wanna be a tigress? I’m very flattered.”
Who is your favourite fashion designer in the world and which photographer do you like working with the most?
“I do really love fashion, there are too many great labels to limit yourself to one! But if I did it would be Versace when it’s all about big hair and bright bold colour. I’m gonna be naughty and pick two photographers. I’m a real fan of photography, my favourites are Ellen von Unwerth and David LaChappelle as both make really fun sexy shots that are cheeky and thought provoking.” What song can’t you get out of your head at the moment? “I don’t wanna sound conceited but it’s one of my new ones I’m working on for my solo project called ‘Starstruck’. I love it and it’s going round and round in my head…it might not even make the album, but it’s sure a strong contender.”
Has there been a moment in your career when you really had to pinch yourself to see if all this was really happening to you? “Everytime I’m about to perform and people are screaming my name! It’s such a strange feeling and hard to explain unless its happened to you. I always heard artists talk of loving their fans and it never seemed genuine to me, but when you walk out onto that stage and the crowd are there just for you, there’s a feeling exactly like love and it just fills you up. I’ve been moved to tears by this on many occasions because it’s so beautiful and special.”
What is the best album ever made? “Wow that’s a hard one as there are so many special records out there and so many different genres. Maybe The Prodigy ‘Fat Of The Land’ as it was so fresh when it was released and still sounds as good now.” What is the your favourite record you have wrote/co-wrote – and why? “It would be ‘Get Down’ as it’s the first time I wrote the melody and lyric for a release on my own and made me realise that I could do it on my own.” Which producer has given you the most pleasure working with? “David Guetta as we did so many shows together on his David Guetta and Friends shows and all the singers on the ‘PopLife’ album became like a little family. He only has cool people working around him and he doesn’t have an ego. When I look back it always makes me smile.” It’s not good for my image, but I like…
“Gardening! Yes really. It always feels like a treat because I’m hardly ever home so if I have a free day I go outside and get all dirty.” Do you sing in the shower? “I sing everywhere and loudly…I don’t even realise I’m doing it half the time.” Do you still get nervous going on stage? “Yes, every time. This isn’t just a job to me, it’s my passion and I used to suffer really badly from nerves before, but now I’ve learnt to turn the nerves into excitement. Once I start singing the butterflies fly away.” Which one artist dead or alive would you like to work with in the studio with? “Freddie Mercury without a doubt. He was such an amazing singer, songwriter and above all he knew his craft. He entertained and made people connect through music. I was once told by a medium that he is looking after me from up above, I wasn’t entirely convinced but I do have a little photo of him in my studio…just in case he is watching… LOL.” And finally, what’s next release wise for Miss McDonald? “Well, I have a new record with the lovely Sidney Samson at the moment, it’s actually the first release from his own label Rock the Houze together with Spinnin Records. The track is called ‘Dynamite’ and we love it! Then I have a single with the French pop star Quenton Mossimann called ‘All Alone’ which will be released through Universal Music, then there are some other top secret things on their way…..but that’s for our next interview…”