Rolling Out

Tarrey Torae talks ‘Marching On’ and responsibility as an artist

Tarrey Torae - Photo Credit: J. Ivy
Photo credit: J. Ivy

Tarrey Torae’s voice is a melodic, sultry and soulful sound. Her style  is universal and rooted in Chicago. She has graced stages all over the world with everyone from Stevie Wonder to Erykah Badu. Rolling out was fortunate enough to speak with Torae recently about her newest release “Marching On” and how she feels about modern R&B.

Tell everyone who you are and what you do.

I am a city girl with Southern roots and ways! I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago in the Englewood community and remember listening to the radio for hours on end on my front porch, taping them with a cassette tape player so that I could rewind my favorite songs. I am the girl from the neighborhood that everybody saw as their little sister even if they were younger than me. I eventually ended up at a performing arts high school in Chicago and fell in love with the world of arts!  When it was time for college, I decided that I wanted to be in politics and law, so I went to school for it and received a degree in political science with a pre-law emphasis. Eventually that changed for me. In my new chapter, I sing, I write love songs and songs for upliftment and positive change whether it’s for self-empowerment or for the community. I love to paint words with melodies and rhythm. I love to tell musical stories that help lift people up, heal them and maybe make them fall in love over and over again. What I do is simple and passionate at the same time and has become the core meaning of movement for me in this life.

The internet has been flooded with notice of your new project. Tell us about it.

The latest work that was loaded up to my online community is a house single titled “Marching On” I created the words, melody and arrangement along with my partner and favorite poet, J. Ivy. The music was created by Darryl James and Chris Robinson. The song “Marching On” is about a person who has determined that announcing the freedom they possess is a part of being free. I wrote this song as a declaration of that freedom and mantra of self-preservation and self-love. It is a part of a string of collaborations that Darryl James is putting together with his partner and record company AMI which is a collective release and effort in the house music and dance music world. They have put out thousands of house/dance songs and I am honored to be a part of it. What you can expect from me other than this is a new music project on the rhythm and soul side of life.

As an artist who has seen many levels of success, where do you find the motivation to keep going?

I guess motivation is in everything from what music I allow myself to listen to, to what I allow myself to absorb visually. I think that I have been fortunate to have really creative friends and family around me. I am always looking to block out anything that doesn’t feel good to me so that I keep space for that which does. I don’t always succeed in this, because I am not perfect. I think motivation may be a little overrated on occasion and truly what we all should be looking for is inspiration and vision. I try to remind myself often of why I really started singing and what music does for me and those around me.

Marching On by Tarrey Torae
Photo credit: J. Ivy

What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry as a whole?

The state of music is a huge mirror like the ones at the circus with an extra larger than life image of us all in it, distorted, squiggly, crunched, blurry and some parts clear. These days, music is a little piece of all of us. It’s some of the parts we like and some of the parts we really don’t care for at all. I think that music always reflects the times that it is being created in. The state of music right now is being represented in several layers. I think it looks just like the society that we’ve all built together. It looks like what is being shown on tv and movies. It’s stands as a mirror about how we are feeling as a whole. I don’t really believe music is in a clear space right now. I see a lot of pop and rock records being called R&B and a lot of non hip hop being switched into a pop hop style of music. Today you really have to dig to find what you want.

There is a lot of great and amazing music and artists out here making the most wonderful and historic music ever. I just think they don’t get the exposure they deserve. There are some that do make it but in my opinion they do get swallowed up in the musical ocean of blended choices.

You are one of few fortunate people to ever grace the stage of “Showtime at the Apollo” and you won. How did that experience shape your career?

The experience I had at the Apollo was a beautiful life lesson in how to survive the game. It taught me to give my friends and my perceived enemies eye contact right when it’s at the roughest spot and it helped me to gracefully be OK with the results. I am sure that the time I spent at the Apollo with six wins was one of the best parts of this musical journey I’ve been on. It is the one thing I can always look back at and say wow to. Mo’Nique the comedian told me that she loved my voice and to never give up, and I haven’t. Her energy along with the staff and sand man was right on time. It did help me shape my career, in confirming that this is something that I was suppose to with my life!  It didn’t hurt to win either!

What would you say is your responsibility as an artist?  

My responsibility as an artist is to create music that matters and that can hold purpose and be someone’s theme music for a season in life. I hold myself to the commitment of honoring the gift I have been given by continuing to use it and nurture it. My music and me are held by an unwritten rule of accountability to use my voice to speak to and for people who can’t. As a creative, I am bound by universal laws to be my brother and sister’s keeper with my gift and show love when I can. I am sure to use my words and works to create more love.

How would you like your legacy to be remembered?

I am hoping to just work until I’ve gotten it all out. I think legacies create themselves and are a surprise to us all. I am not sure I can have a preference of how I’d like to see it, but I do hope what ever it is one that gave some positivity back to the world. Maybe the music I make will help a whole lot of people and families create everlasting historic memories and maybe at backdrop to new history that they will make. Maybe my legacy will be theme music for the listeners I gather or a soundtrack to this movie we call life.

Talk about one thing people don’t know about you that will surprise them.

I think the one thing people don’t know about me is that I am a trained tap dancer! Maybe that will surprise them.

What encouraging words do you have for those following their dreams?  

I would say to a dreamer, to a creative, never ever ever ever stop being you. Stay around people who love you. Be consistent and ok with getting better. Don’t do things for likes. Do things for the fact that you love it and need to do it for yourself and if you share it and it gets likes then that’s cool too. Practice your craft so that you can grow. Don’t just stand in one spot with one piece of knowledge, go get more. Do it because you love it and don’t be scared of change. A dream doesn’t die until you tell it to. You don’t need anybody’s permission to do what you love doing. Your age, your financial status, your educational background, your weight or who you know should never make a difference. If there is no opportunity for you then create it. In all of this stay positive. Don’t feed the negative.

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