Tania Elizabeth: A Life of Musical Adventure
Having taken violin lessons for two years as an adult, I am mesmerized by Tania Elizabeth's fiddle playing. This is difficult work, but to see her in concert is like watching a ballet dancer in high speed. Every movement has a reason, and the sound Tania produces is exquisite.
I first became aware of Tania through her fiddle playing with The Avett Brothers. She brings an ethereal depth to this high-energy band. In addition to touring and recording with the Avetts, Tania also performs and records with Buffalo Stack, along with her husband of two years, Andy Stack. She was also a founding member of the Grammy Award winning group, The Duhks.
I invite you to read the interview I conducted with Tania over the past month...I think you will be amazed by how much this young woman has accomplished, as well as by her drive and her passion to make music. If her musical achievements weren't enough, Tania Elizabeth is also a painter. Be sure to take some time to look at her artwork which is also featured here.
Enjoy getting to know this woman...and keep an eye out for her future accomplishments. You won't be disappointed! Please feel free to contact Tania or leave a comment below. Enjoy!
My whole life has been an adventure.
WildesArt: What adventures in your life have led you to where you are and who you are, artistically?
Tania Elizabeth: My whole life has been an adventure. I was born in Australia, grew up in Canada, and moved around a lot growing up. I've had many teachers, and it's helped me be musically and artistically flexible. The downside is that I don't have a particular lineage, per se, but the upside is that I'm free to explore genres from a unique perspective.
WA: Who inspired you as a teenager?
TE: Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, and Eileen Ivers for their fiddle playing. Ani DeFranco and Loreena McKennitt for running their own record labels. My fiddle teacher, Daniel Lapp, who is still like another dad to me.
WA: Who inspires you now?
TE: My husband, Andy Stack. He's constantly creating original music for his band, Buffalo Stack, constantly growing as a musician and as a person. He inspires me every day.
WA: If you weren't creating art and creating/performing music, what would you be doing?
TE: I think I'd be either a hairdresser or I'd be working in hospice as a music therapist. I love cutting hair and I like helping people to look their best. As far as working for hospice, I had a transforming experience several years ago with a woman who is a music therapist, and had a therapy dog as well, for her job at a hospice in Edmonton, AB, Canada. I watched how she was able to help people at the end of their lives, as well as their families, in a way that no one else could.
I've literally played full-time since I was 15 and quit school to start my record company.
WA: What other jobs, besides musician and artist, have you done?
TE: I've never had a day job! I've literally played full-time since I was 15 and quit school to start my record company.
WA: Your own record company as a teenager? This is intriguing! Was it successful?
TE: I would say it was successful to a certain degree...I had tried to contact booking agents, managers, and record labels many times, but no one would take me seriously, so I had to do it myself, with major support from my Mom. I saw the jobs my peers were getting (minimum wage, tedious), and I was already playing paid gigs, making way more money and having way more fun. There was never really a question as to what I would do with my life. We held it together for a few years – it was a lot of work, and I ultimately didn't enjoy being the boss, so when I was asked to move across the country and co-found a band, I went for it, and the label just sort of evaporated. I wanted to have a team, share the load, collaborate, and the band, The Duhks was the result of our efforts. We went on to be nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy) for every record we made, and we won one as well, along with a Grammy nomination and a Grammy win. So, I would call that successful.
WA: What do you like to do when you have some time?
TE: I love yoga, healthy cooking, gardening... I love nature documentaries, too.
WA: Your stage presence is inspirational, energetic (although, that really isn't a strong enough word!), fun, and fits perfectly with The Avett Brothers. Could you explain how yoga and healthy eating help?
TE: Yoga is essential, especially when we do several shows in a row. I try to do something before and after the show to help with all the stiffness and soreness. I really want to take a teacher training course. I took the course for Kidding Around Yoga, so once I get my certification in general, I'll be certified to teach kids, too. It's a wonderful program, and I highly recommend it!
As far as diet goes, at times in my life, I've tried being a raw vegan (for 2.5 years full-on), a vegan (5 years), a vegetarian (12 years), a pescatarian (3 years)... Pretty much everything “healthy” you can think of, I've tried it. Ultimately, no matter what else is going on, I avoid wheat, sugar, refined foods, processed foods, and most dairy. They just do not work for me, especially when playing in a band that jumps around onstage as much as these guys do!
WA: Do you have any rituals before a performance?
TE: Squats, pushups, breathing exercises...putting on make-up also feels a bit ritualistic, as well. Sometimes though, the day sneaks up on me and I only have time to do the go-team thing with everyone before running onstage!
I know it might be obvious, but I really respect The Avett Brothers on so many levels.
WA: Whose musical styles do you enjoy and respect?
TE: I know it might be obvious, but I really respect The Avett Brothers on so many levels. They are great to work with, the music is fantastic, the vibe is encouraging and family-friendly, and I'm learning a ton about how a band grows so big yet so organically.
WA: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
TE: Hmmm...that would make me 41... I'd like to be a certified yoga instructor, like to have traveled more extensively in Asia and South America, have a kid (or two), own an eco-friendly house with Andy, and a giant garden. I don't know if I'd still want to be touring at that point, but it's also all I've ever done, so I'm not sure what it would be like to not hit the road!
WA: What have you done that you are most proud of?
TE: All the times I've really stood up for myself and/or someone else. I left an unhealthy relationship a few years ago that was so powerful it almost pulled me under. So I'm proud that I got myself out of that, even though I have often wished it could have happened (a lot) more elegantly. I got to see just how strong I am and it gave me a lot of compassion for others in similar situations. I lucked out, because what was waiting for me on the other side of all that was my sweet, kind, supportive, creative, fun, and awesome husband, Andy Stack!
When asked what philosophy helps guide Tania through her life, she responded with this quotation from violinist Yehudi Menuhin:
“Each human being has the eternal duty of transforming what is hard and brutal into a subtle and tender offering, what is crude into refinement, what is ugly into beauty, ignorance into knowledge, confrontation into collaboration, thereby rediscovering the child's dream of a creative reality incessantly renewed by death, the servant of life, and by life the servant of love.”
I'd say Tania Elizabeth lives this philosophy.
- Listen to the music of Buffalo Stack here.
- You can also purchase Tania Elizabeth's solo CD here.
- Visit Tania Elizabeth's Website at http://www.taniaelizabeth.net