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"WHAT'S UP WITH...taragirl?"

What's Up With... taragirl?
by Kate Kilpatrick

Real name: Tara Betterbid

Age: 28

Hometown: North Jersey.

PW caught up with taragirl last week, shortly before the record release party at Grape Street for her debut album, The 26th Power.

On coming to Philly: "I moved here from N.Y.C. four years ago. My deciding factor for moving here was the music. I kept hearing about Philly-this was when Jaguar Wright had just come out-and I figured there must be somewhat of a scene, and if I take this break, I can do something."

On her album: "It's a nice mix of R&B and soul. The melodies and ranges are accessible-they're not drawn-out and jazzy and spoken-wordish. It's a good R&B album, but organic R&B."

On songwriting: "I was always writing, but I never considered myself a writer. I thought, 'I have this great voice, but I'll sing other people's songs.' Once I had luck with one of my songs, I had the confidence to write more. But my inspiration really came gradually from hearing a lot of crap on the radio. Like when Ashanti came out, I thought, 'I can definitely do better than that.'"

On singing R&B: "In the R&B scene certain people see you and they're like, 'Oh my God. You have so much talent,' and they have this whole vision for you. I think they see dollar signs in me being a white female artist singing R&B music. But I don't want to sing Top 40 songs. And I've always gotten a lot of love from urban audiences. So I wasn't concerned with crossing over. But a lot of time I feel like I'm fighting to be in that genre."

On her image: "I feel like my personality kind of combined with my music is something that's not there in the industry right now. My goal is positive energy. My image is very cutesy, but I like that about me. You don't have to be hard. I'm in it for the pure joy of it."

On producer Simon Illa: "He's one of best things that happened to me in Philly. He has a congenital condition, but he has use of his hands and arms and plays instruments and produces 24 hours a day. He's signed to Warner Music as a staff producer, and was just working with Scott Storch in Miami last weekend. He works with a lot of people in Philly-he works as well with hip-hop gangster rappers as folksingers. We bonded in some weird way. I had all my songs written and the melodies and lyrics, so I'd come in and sing and he'd build the music around that. That to me is what a producer really is. He didn't have any tracks already made. He really built them from the ground up."

* * * - Philadelphia Weekly (week of May 24th)

"CITY BEAT: Brand New Funk!"

Philly's taragirl opens up for Brand New Heavies

by Raymond Tyler

Allow me to introduce Atlantic City to recording artist “taragirl.” The Philadelphia vocalist is scheduled to open for the Brand New Heavies at the Borgata's Music Box this Friday, July 14. If you don't know, the Brand New Heavies were doing the hip-hop band thing about a year or so before the Roots got famous. Imported from London, the Heavies have made acoustic hip-hop records with Grand Puba and Kool G Rap and made funky R&B with Siedah Garrett.

You'll be hearing a lot more from taragirl as she adds her name to the legacy of Philly Soul. I met tara at a Grammy party last year, where she introduced me to her producer Simon Illa (www.simonilla.com) and she told me to be on the lookout for “the funkiest white girl you'll hear in a long time.” I thought Michael Jackson was, but I digress.

Tara sent me an advance copy of her new CD, The 26th Power, and it's been a part of my portable music collection ever since. To me, the CD gives us a taste of what Teena Marie would've sounded like if she hooked up with the Roots instead of Rick James.

Tara was nice enough to speak with me about her music and her career thus far.

AC Weekly: How long have you been singing?

taragirl: My dad set me up with a microphone at age 5 so he could have an excuse to play with his video recorder.

ACW: What artists inspired you?

T: Originally, the artists I liked growing up were Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Later I gradually worked my way back to classic soul. My all-time favorites are now Aretha, Gladys Knight, Stevie and Dinah Washington.

ACW: What was your inspiration for this CD?

T: It takes pretty much your whole life to write your first album so that's “nuff” inspiration for you! I'm not the most experienced person with relationships, so any of the songs you hear about past love are practically about one person. Even if I write about something “typical,” I always try to find a special, unique angle on it that really gets to the listener. That really makes them go “That is so true!” There are other topics, too, like in “High Life,” and my struggle in the music industry itself is the story behind “I Live This Life” and the bonus track “Baby Girl Blues.”

ACW: What's been the best thing to happen since the CD dropped?

T: Opening for one of my favorite groups The Brand New Heavies and favorite singers N'dea Davenport [the group's lead singer] is just surreal. To think that I can go from covering their music to playing my own in front of their audience right before they go on — ugh, no pressure or anything!

ACW: What would you tell young taragirl fans who want to play music someday?

T: Use whatever resources you have. Figure out what it is that you have that makes you completely different and unique from most if not all people and use that as your foundation. Also personality and charisma can without a doubt make up for what you may lack in skill. Lastly, never ever give up. You'd be surprised how often you can win a game just by showing up.

To get more taragirl go to www.taragirl.com.

Raymond Tyler is a freelance writer who has written about varied subjects for several of the country's leading urban magazines.

- Atlantic City Weekly

"taragirl found a new home in Philly"


July 7, 2006 - Philadelphia.
Some call it a good career move when a local artist heads for New York with hopes of becoming a recording star.

But a career move from New York to Philly?

Tara "taragirl" Betterbid, the singer who's opening for R&B crooner Avant Sunday at TLA, did just that, leaving her home in Brooklyn four years ago to make the big time - by setting up shop in Philly.

"I didn't know anyone when I got here. It took a leap of faith," said taragirl, 27. "I came here broke, and it's been tempting to go back."

Good thing for Philly that taragirl decided to stick it out. Her debut album, "The 26th Power," is grabbing attention, and she recently completed a string of shows that included a stop at World Cafe Live in University City.

"I've done open mics, building a local buzz" for the album, taragirl said. "I wanted to keep people interested."

"The 26th Power" more than keeps listeners interested, as it features taragirl's mature voice and original songs covering a wide range of subjects. "Stop Holdin' On" and "Why Can't Cha" deal with matters of the heart, while "High Life" and "Love-Change-Everything" showcase taragirl's dynamic vocal range.

"It's not neo-soul, but I took from those influences," she said. "Like a Philly soul renaissance."

While all the songs are solid, it's the moving "I Live This Life" that really brings home taragirl's unique vocal stylings. Backed by a solo piano and drum kit, she breaks down the trials of her life in a compelling nature. You can see her performing this song - the entire album, really - in a dimly lit, smoke-filled jazz house or hip urban club.

Her voice is that versatile.

"These songs have a lot of everything," taragirl said. "This is my first presentation to the world."

This certainly won't be the last we hear from taragirl, who is also opening for the Brand New Heavies at Atlantic City's Borgata on July 14.

"I just want to keep [my music] fun, sassy and cool," taragirl said. "And still say things with a message." - The Daily News (Philly)

"CD Review"

**taragirl - "The 26th Power"**
Nu Soul/R&B

Sometimes an artist comes along that's got "the voice". You know that it's a voice that you have heard before, yet somehow it's still fresh. Well, in this case Philadelphia's taragirl's voice sounds somewhere between that of En Vogue and Lyn Collins. She's got one of those type of soulful and rich voices that would sound great singing the telephone book. The new album called "The 26th Power" is her first and the standout songs on the album are "Love-Change-Everything", "Baby Girl Blues" and the spoken piece called "What's Soul Music". She describes her music as "Truthified Soul" and this lady is a powerhouse who sings everything from pop, soul, funk, blues and I have little doubt that she could do jazz, rock or anything else she wanted
to. She get's my vote!!!

Bob Davis
- Soul-Patrol.com - Soul Patrol

"CD Review: On the Verge of a taragirl Breakdown"

The 26th Power
(Girl Funk Music) 2006

by T. Freeman

It's taragirl! ....lower case, no space. The spelling is just as unmistakable and unique as the powerhouse vocals that this Philly soulstress possesses. "The 26th Power" is the debut offering from taragirl and since its independent release this Spring, taragirl has created quite an industry buzz for herself and her brand of "Girl Funk Music." One listen to "The 26th Power" and you will know exactly what "Girl Funk Music" is all about and how taragirl uses her 'girl power' and the power of her voice to bring about positive energy that's real and honest. taragirl sings with conviction and heartfelt sincerity as she shares her original soul flava with the world. "The 26th Power" is an extremely well put together album with an incredible amount of depth and feeling. The vocal delivery and music production exemplify the quality and care that was put into making this album. taragirl easily wraps her soulful vocals around hip hop laced midtempo tracks like 'Love-Change-Everything' and 'High Life.' And when it comes to what she likes to call "soulspiration"(girl power inspiration), taragirl offers the very encouraging and uplifting 'Stop Holdin On.' A passionate ballad that encourages us all to "stop holdin' onto yesterday.....can't continue movin' backwards, gotta look ahead."
On "Why Can't Cha" taragirl speaks directly to her man from the heart to express her needs to be treated respectfully. A "girl power" anthem indeed, and rightfully so...it speaks volumes. But nothing can stop taragirl from thinking about that "Saturday Morning Love" that she misses most of all. "Saturday Morning Love" is another midtempo track that finds taragirl strolling down memory lane while longing for the love she's missing.
"The 26th Power" is a strong debut from an independent artist with talent, drive and determination. taragirl has just raised the industry bar and has set a true industry standard. She has single-handedly created her own genre of music...."Girl Funk Music" which is now part of the rich Philly soul history.
taragirl's debut "The 26th Power" is available at www.cdbaby.com and www.taragirl.com

- OnThe-Verge.com

"Venue Feedback"

“taragirl blew the roof off World Café Live when she first performed in our Upstairs Café, and sold out the room. Next, she moved onto our Main Stage ...again demonstrating she has the voice, commitment and passion to take her far – definitely an artist to watch for.”
– Karl Mullen, Talent Buyer for World Café Live - World Cafe Live

"Hip Hop Column"

"taragirl's vocal range belies her independent status. Her writing, as well as her voice are mature and her style is a confident one; she especially delivers on the melodic ‘VoiceMail.' Keep an eye on taragirl – Philly's next signature voice."

- Damon C. Williams, Philadelphia Daily News music writer - Daily News

"What the Industry's sayin!"

"Her music is everything from straight soul to gritty hip hop vibes...an incredible vocal talent and songwriter."
- Simon Illa, producer, Warner Music - Warner Music

"Patience, Little Sister"

Tara Betterbid is a patient woman in an impatient business. The North Jersey-born singer — who goes by taragirl — has bided her time since moving to Philadelphia in 2002.

That's the year she left Manhattan after studying music theory at NYU, working for Oprah's Oxygen network as a PA, acting as a manager's assistant to R&B trio TLC and honing her vocal skills in New York City bars.

She was working out the kinks in what she calls her "girl funk." Some of the shows she did were with her now-shelved band Soul Project. Most were solo. All were sweet. But she craved change.

"I wanted to head to this big ol' soul city," says taragirl. "I believed that what I had — and have — to offer as an artist was not quite like anyone else."

Rather than announce herself to Philly loudly, brashly and quickly, taragirl became a rumor. She would show up at open-mic sets, blow audiences away and disappear.

You'd hear that she had these hotly original, mind-blowingly organic soul songs worthy of a Christina Aguilera.

People you trusted said taragirl even had Aguilera-like pipes, but with a winding tricky trill to her voice — like Teena Marie.

All the while, taragirl was quietly working on a record produced by Philly's illest producer, Simon Illa, at a time when he, too, was growing in stature to become a Scott Storch protege.

Then she dropped The 26th Power in 2006. It had keenly moody midtempo tracks like "Saturday Morning Love" and "Why Can't Cha." It had jazzier hip-hoppity tracks like "High Life" and "Love-Change-Everything." But no matter what jeep beats got applied, this was R&B of the highest, slickest, subtlest order.

"I think my voice is a special gift, yes. But so is the combination of that sound with my personality and my energy," says taragirl. "Hopefully I'm fusing it all together in a way that equals 'taragirl.'"

The record came out. She did a Grape Street show. She opened for Avant at TLA and Fat Joe during a Campus Philly festival.

Most impressive, though, taragirl did a CD signing at Sound of Market. Dag. The last time I saw a signing at S-o-M was probably a Keith Sweat jawn.

Then in January, the "twentysomething" singer did the unlikely for a local with few real shows under her belt: She sold out World Café Live.

"Did I know we were gonna sell out that Saturday night? Heck no. Did I recommend buying tickets in advance, but actually think it mattered? Yeah I did, and no, not really," she laughs.

In the parlance of David Byrne: Well, how did she get here?

"To quote Eve, 'I do what they can't do — I just do me,'" claims taragirl. "D'ya know what I'm saying?"

Yup. - Citypaper (Philly)


Debut Album:
"The 26th Power" LP (2006)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Currently at a loss for words...