Interview with Tara Nevins from Donna The Buffalo

Tara Nevins, Donna The Buffalo
Tara Nevins, Donna The Buffalo

Interview and Photos by Scott Preston

To begin to understand Tara’s passion for music, one must first look to the Old-time musical community where Tara has spent over 20 years playing the fiddle. But these days her love of Zydeco is equally as influential. Beyond her time with Donna The Buffalo, Tara spent almost 10 years playing with the all-female Cajun/Old-time band, The Heartbeats, and plans to release a new solo record in April of 2011 for Sugar Hill.

Donna The Buffalo is performing Saturday 12/11 at The Woodlands Tavern in Grandview, OH and on 12/12 at Kent Stage in Kent, OH.

Jamband News: I understand you have a new solo record coming out, how is it coming along?

Tara Nevins: We are finished recording it and its being mixed right now. It’s coming out on Sugar Hill Records with a release date of April of 2011. I have been very fortunate to get to work with Larry Campbell on the record. Larry plays in Levon Helm’s band and he also produced both of Levon’s records, Electric Dirt and Dirt Farmer, both of which won Grammy’s. As if that wasn’t enough he also played in Bob Dylan’s touring band for 8 years. Right now he also is producing a record for Hot Tuna, I just feel very fortunate to get to work with him.

tara nevins, donna the buffalo
Tara Nevins, Donna The Buffalo

Jamband News: How would you describe the sound of your new record?

Tara Nevins: Its very organic, we recorded it up in Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock. I would say its somewhere between traditional/Americana and Donna the Buffalo. I wrote all the songs myself except for one Van Morrison cover. Last time I did a solo record, 10 years ago, I had other people doing all the singing. But this time around I am doing the singing.

Jamband News: Who did you have playing on the new record?

Tara Nevins: The nucleus of the band was Larry Campbell, Byron Issacs, who plays bass in Levon’s band, Justin Glip who is the engineer at the studio played drums on quite a few tracks. I was also very fortunate to get to have Levon Helm play drums on 2 songs. I overdubbed some fiddle, accordion, tambourine, and Larry played pedal steel, mandolin, banjo, electric guitar, bass. We also had Teresa Williams and Amy Helm (Levon’s daughter) do some vocals, they both also sing in Levon’s band. Allison Moore came in to sing on a song as well. I played in an all female string band, called The Heartbeats. So I had those gals come in and we ripped out a couple tunes.

Jamband News: Are there any plans for a new Donna The Buffalo record?

Tara Nevins: We are planning to record sometime in February 2011, I was just on the phone with Jeb talking about that. We are definitely due for a new record. We may record it down in Nashville.

Jamband News: I see that it’s the 20th year for the Finger Lakes Music Festival (a festival that Donna The Buffalo started). How much involvement does the band still have in it at this point?

Tara Nevins: Some involvement, its mostly Jeb and I getting involved as the rest of the band are fairly new. Jeb and I certainly make suggestions regarding bands we would like to see. But about a week before the festival I start putting together all the performer packages (wristbands, car passes etc..) with a group of gals I have that help. At this point we are too busy touring to really get involved in planning and running of the festival. It’s really a family affair, Jeb’s niece pretty much runs the whole thing now. Then there is a great crew of women in the office.

Jamband News: Did you think this festival would go on for 20 years?

Tara Nevins: Time really has just flown by, you almost don’t realize it. There is this video from the very first year, of course it was raining and there weren’t very many people there. The band was doing everything at that time, it was pretty insane. We did everything for quite a few years.

jeb puryear, tara nevins, donna the buffalo
Jeb Puryear and Tara Nevins, Donna The Buffalo

Jamband News: How do you feel about how the internet has changed the current music business model?

Tara Nevins: There are pros and cons. I think the big difference is that now there is more of a connection between the musicians and their fans. Before the internet, you would wait for the record to come out, you would see a few articles in magazines like Rolling Stone or maybe a review in your local paper. That was really it for your connection to the music. It was a mentality of its us and them. Now not only do you get a cd, but you can hear a few songs online before the release. The fans can also goto the band’s Myspace, Facebook and Twitter pages to see whats new with the band. There isn’t such a barrier between the fans and the musician like there was before the internet. People also get to discover music that they might not have heard otherwise. On the negative side, the computer can be a little impersonal and you can waste a lot of time on it (laughing). Bands just don’t sell records like they use to, since people can now get music for free. The art form is still in transition. Donna The Buffalo is lucky in that we sell a lot of records at shows.

Jamband News: Are there any upcoming shows you are excited about?

Tara Nevins: Well we love playing Ohio, but we have a really interesting gig coming up on New Years Eve this year. We are playing in Raleigh, NC for their First Night Celebration. The show is outside on the street with thousands of people.

Donna The Buffalo tour dates
FRI. DEC 10, 2010 Berwyn, IL Fitzgerald’s
SAT. DEC 11, 2010 Grandview, OH woodland tavern
SUN. DEC 12, 2010 Kent, OH Kent Stage
FRI. DEC 31, 2010 Raleigh, NC First Night Raleigh
WED. JAN 5, 2011 Jacksonville Beach, FL Freebird Cafe
THU. JAN 6, 2011 orlando, fl the plaza theater
FRI. JAN 7, 2011 – SAT. JAN 8, 2011 Tampa, FL Skippers Smokehouse
SUN. JAN 9, 2011 Fort Lauderdale, FL Revolution
with the Rhythm Devils!
THU. JAN 20, 2011 Roanoke, VA Awful Arthurs
FRI. JAN 21, 2011 Falls Church, VA State Theatre
SAT. JAN 22, 2011 Morgantown, WV 123 Pleasant Street
THU. JAN 27, 2011 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge
FRI. JAN 28, 2011 Greensboro, NC Blind Tiger
SAT. JAN 29, 2011 Asheville, NC Orange Peel
THU. FEB 3, 2011 brooklyn, ny brooklyn bowl
FRI. FEB 4, 2011 Northampton, MA Pearl Street
SAT. FEB 5, 2011 Syracuse, NY Wescott Theater
WED. FEB 9, 2011 Saranac Lake, NY Waterhole Music Lounge
THU. FEB 10, 2011 Albany, NY Jillians
FRI. FEB 11, 2011 Rochester, NY Waterstreet Music Hall
SAT. FEB 12, 2011 white river junction, VT Tupelo Music Hall
SAT. MAR 26, 2011 – SUN. MAR 27, 2011 Live Oak, FL
THU. APR 21, 2011 – SAT. APR 23, 2011 Silk Hope, NC Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival
THU. APR 28, 2011 – SAT. APR 30, 2011N Wilkesboro, NC Merle Fest
FRI. JUL 1, 2011 – SUN. JUL 3, 2011 Sherman (Panama ), NY The Great Blue Heron Festival
THU. JUL 21, 2011 – SUN. JUL 24, 2011 Trumansburg, NY Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival
SAT. JUL 30, 2011 Floyd, VA Floyd Fest