Source: The Record [Bergen County, New Jersey ??]
Author: Barbara Jaeger
Date: April 7, 1995
Tanita Tikaram knows all about shooting stars and how quickly they burn out.
"If I had carried on doing things the way I had, I would have been a crazy person," said the singer-songwriter, who, with the recent release of Lovers in the City, returned to the recording ranks after a break of several years. "Musicians lead very insulated, protected lives, but it's not healthy just to know about the music industry." Her meteoric rise began in 1988. Then 18, she was discovered at a London club during an open-mike night. Her first release, Good Tradition, became a top 10 hit that summer; several months later, her debut album, Ancient Heart, sold 4 million copies.
Tikaram, who grew up listening to Karen Carpenter, Linda Ronstadt, and Rita Coolidge and whose interest in a music career was piqued by Suzanne Vega, soon found herself on the album-tour-album merry-go-round. At the rate of one a year, three albums (The Sweet Keeper, Everybody's Angel, and Eleven Kinds of Loneliness) followed Ancient Heart.
After the release of Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, which took its title from a collection of short stories by American author Richard Yates, Tikaram decided to take a break. What followed was a two-year sabbatical, during which she learned a bit about the world and a lot about herself.
She also found the time to fall in love.
"Until you fall in love, you're never really sure you feel things like other people do," she said, gaining her composure. "You even wonder if you have the capacity to love.
"Now, I'm totally in love, and it's a very comforting feeling. Only problem is my partner who she won't identify is on the other side of the world at the moment"
Born in Germany, where her father, an Indian British Army officer, was stationed with his Malaysian wife, Tikaram moved to England when she was 12. Feeling a little out of place in her new home, she delved into music and by age 16 was writing her own songs, influenced in part by Virginia Woolf's novels and Leonard Bernstein's musicals.
Encouraged by her mother to be an independent woman, Tikaram decided to postpone her university studies and use the money she made from a job selling advertising to finance the recording of a demo tape.
It wasn't long after that her career took off.
During her time off, she rekindled friendships. She also traveled in Europe and China. But Tikaram said the most important lesson learned during her time off was the realization that she needed to strike a balance between her career and personal life.
It was that realization that helped her tremendously when she began recording Lovers in the City.
"I worked at my leisure and felt more like an artist," said Tikaram, who also plays guitar. "Having a different relationship with my work, where I could take the time and really think about what I was doing and what I wanted, allowed me to make music that breathes."
But Tikaram wasn't without some doubts as she ventured back into the studio.
"My last album contained a lot of my passions about my music," she said, referring to the collection that served as an homage to some of her favorite artists, including the Beatles, Phil Spector, Ry Cooder, and Nina Simone. "It was a very intimate collection, but it didn't do very well"The tepid reception that greeted Eleven Kinds of Loneliness coupled with its lack of commercial success, made her question herself and her work.
What bolstered Tikaram's confidence was a commission she received from the BBC to set music to the Stevie Smith poem, Not Waving But Drowning.
"I felt very strange about taking someone else's words, and I was afraid that I wouldn't be as honest to them as I would be to my own," she said. "But I found I could do something simple and it had an effect on people.
""I think as I get older, I want to say things as simply as possibly."
Tikaram, now 25, has plenty of time to perfect her simplicity. That she's on the right track, is evidenced by Lovers in the City, her best album to date. With songs such as Happy Taxi (about departing one locale to another) and Feeding the Witches (prejudice), Tikaram has achieved lyrical simplicity and emotional directness.