Tara Linhardt

I love a hard-driving bluegrass jam…

Interview with Tara Linhardt, mandolin player from Virginia.

© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly

I met Tara Linhardt in Raleigh, North Carolina, during the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual conference. She was working in the press room at the convention center. Tara was taking pictures of leading bluegrass artists for the online magazine “Bluegrass Today”. She is a hip and sporty young lady, with long curly hair. While I was waiting for my interview, we had a nice conversation, mostly about bluegrass and travelling. And this is what she shared…

– How did you get involved with bluegrass music?

I first got involved in bluegrass from friends who were playing it. I actually started into playing the mandolin by playing a combination of Irish, old time and bluegrass, but as I got better and better at improvising and having fun with my solos, I was less and less in the old time and Irish jams.

– Do you play other genres as well?

I’d say I play mostly bluegrass now, and I really love a great hard-driving bluegrass jam more than most things on the planet. I do play some jazz too and love that also, but my musical home is in bluegrass.

– What do you like about it?

I love that feeling in a kickin’ bluegrass jam. It is hard to describe it. It just feels so good. I do like that the basic chord changes are user friendly and accessible so that people of varying levels can successfully play together and I love the sense of community that comes with bluegrass. I love how warm and welcoming people are and how they tend to really help each other out.

– What is bluegrass?

If I had to oversimplify bluegrass, I would say it takes the old Celtic and old-time music and puts it in overdrive and brings in the country equivalent of jazz. It is the jazz music in many ways of the rural mountain people. I mean that in the way that people play a tune straight and then improvise and go a little crazy making their own versions of the tune, or throw in crazy licks and then come back to the basic melody again in the end.

– You have lived abroad for a while?

Two of my years in college I spent in Asia. One year in Nepal and one year in Thailand. I really loved those experiences. They opened my eyes, ears, and mind to so many new ideas. I also have spent some shorter periods of time living in India. I think those years also help me really appreciate bluegrass music because when I came home to Virginia, where I am from, I could see bluegrass as its own subculture, and honestly the subculture along with the music is one of my favorite things about the US.

I listened to the Mountain Music Project CD, that you gave me. Tell me more…

Yes, I did co-found The Mountain Music Project, along with Jake Penchansky and Danny Knicely. This project was really fun and I think also important to help people in the US and Nepal find each other’s Mountain Music, which is so similar as well as helping to bring that music, and the cultures that birth and support them, to others all over the world. You can see more about that on our website. www.MountainMusicProject.com

Lilly Drumeva