ABOVE: ALY TADROS
Self-described in her Twitter bio as “Half-Egyptian, Half-Texan,” it’s easy to tell that Texas is always in Aly Tadros’ heart: in conversation, all her stories begin and end there. The Laredo native began her career at 20 years old, when she was offered her first paid gig with a two-hour set time—the only problem was that she had just three songs. That didn’t stop the determined folk-singer/songwriter. Since that night, Tadros has been performing for over four years as an artist who combines folk sounds from around the world, both contemporary and traditional. Tadros picked up Latin and Middle Eastern folk melodies, which can be heard throughout many of her tracks. Her sophomore album, The Fits, was released in January, and it’s clear that her influences range from Fiona Apple and Ani DiFranco to Tom Waits.
Aly Tadros and singer/songwriter Ben Balmer collaborated on the track we’re happy to premiere here, “Whim.” Produced by Mark Hallman (who also worked with DiFranco and Brandi Carlisle), the ballad of love lost is more traditional than Tadros’ solo work in the folk scene.
We spoke with Aly Tadros about streaking, songwriting without electricity and why Texas is much crazier than Brooklyn.
HOMETOWN: Laredo, TX
ON LIVING IN BROOKLYN: [laughs] I live in Bushwick. I’m further away from Williamsburg. It’s funny. I haven’t been in the city for a month now. It feels so far away. When I get off the road, I don’t leave my apartment for two days at a time. It’s terrible. It’s way too easy to do that when you’re self-employed.
HOW STREAKING AND ALCOHOL BROUGHT ALY AND BEN TOGETHER: [laughs] Ben and I were both living in Austin as songwriters at the time, but we actually met in Memphis at the Folk Alliance Conference. We were both on tour. He and I connected on this crazy night. Right after the conference in Memphis, we were both playing shows in Evansville, IN on tour. I was with my band and he was with his band. We got really drunk one night, and we were crashing at this guy’s house who owned the venue that we were playing at. Everybody was really drunk, and Ben and I started trading songs back and forth. We really dug each other’s songwriting and hit it off. The funny part is, while we were trading songs back and forth, all of our bandmates decided to get mind-blowingly drunk and streak up and down the block. At some point the front door opens and I see my percussionist naked. I’m like, “Oh, no.” They’re all running around drunk. It’s raining and hailing out. The next day we woke up and watched the news we found out that there was a tornado in town that was a few blocks away and killed several people. I was like, Now we’re connecting, and they were running around drunk. So, that was the night he and I really hung out. The best thing is, two months later we got back into town. I think Ben was there too. We were two blocks away and somebody saw us pull up to the street. Someone was like, “Are you with that band The Sweetness?” The Sweetness is this other band I was touring with. They were like, “You were the guys that ran around naked in the tornado a couple of months ago.” So, that’s how we met.
INSPIRATION OFF THE GRID: “Whim” happened a couple of weeks later at SXSW. Last year was when we started writing it. I needed a place to crash, and Ben was living in a trailer in a parking lot with no electricity, which sounds terrible, but it was actually really charming. It was totally candlelit. He ended up getting tons of writing done. I crashed in the trailer. He was like, “Hey, I just started this song and it’s got a girl part. I think maybe you should write it.” We started writing it in the middle of the night. We didn’t finish it. A couple of months later we met up at Niagara Falls at a festival there. We sat near Lake Michigan, and we finished the song.
EVERYONE’S BEEN A PART OF “WHIM”: I think everybody’s been that person, unfortunately. We definitely made caricatures out of situations. It’s definitely about pining after that person who doesn’t give two shits about you. For women, sometimes you’re the trophy. For men, you’re just a pushover.
BIGGER IN TEXAS: I’m gonna say that Texas is always wild. I’m from Laredo, which is by the Mexican border. It gets to be a big celebration when I go home now because there aren’t a lot of musicians that come out of Laredo. It’s a largely Mexican town, so when we throw parties, they’re really big. I have a CD release party on Saturday, actually, in Laredo for my album that just came out. There’s a vodka tasting before then. I’m a little bit worried because last time I played in Laredo, my bass player ended up passed out in the street and ran up a $200 bar tab. Everyone at the venue was like, “That’s awesome. I’m glad he had a great time.” In the city, that shit would never fly, but in Texas it’s totally encouraged.
ON PLAYING THE ROCKWOOD AND GETTING BACK INTO THE STUDIO: It’s been one-offs so far. We’ll definitely look at residencies when I start getting ready for the next album. I would love to go back into the studio in the fall. The album came out in January, but the process of getting it out once it’s finished and recorded is about a year. So, I’ve been writing tons of new material, just sort of compiling it. It’s funny because there’s always time. When you go out on the road to promote a record, you’ve got all of these new songs, but you can’t really play them out much because they’re not recorded. You’ve got to promote the record. I’m just itching to record again. You forget that nobody in the audience has heard the songs live before, so they want to hear the songs on the record. I go to somebody’s show and I want to hear the songs that I know. It’s natural. I am slowly, but surely learning those lessons on the road.