The next Tavares — Marlowe has their soul but ‘the influence of the modern world’

The next Tavares — Marlowe has their soul but ‘the influence of the modern world’

With the “soul of Tavares and the influence of the modern world,” Marlowe Tavares hopes to make it big on her own musical journey. The 20-year-old granddaughter of Grammy Award winner and New Bedford native “Tiny” Tavares of the R&B group Tavares, she is on her way to exploring her musical style and working on her first album.

The young singer works as a waitress to pay her “big people bills” and moves between her bedroom studio and The Abstrakt Lab in New Bedford to record new music and covers.

On Valentine’s Day, she released her first project, “The Love Letter EP.” This R&B/neo-soul project was promoted with a chocolate covered cherry collaboration drink with local café Besteas and a live performance at Pub6T5 followed by a listening party.

The singer has been musically inclined since she could talk, calling Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Micheal Jackson her “family” as she grew up singing their hits. Tavares started performing from a young age with the House of Music program, a nonprofit her father, Brent Tavares, now a vocal teacher and singer with the Tavares group, created to teach local youth about music and help keep them off the streets.

At 14, following a high school performance she and her friends gave to a “roaring” crowd, she decided that music was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Marlowe spoke with The New Bedford Light over boba tea at Besteas to discuss her musical journey so far and what’s next to come.

New Bedford Light: What was it like growing up?

Marlowe Tavares: I’d say it was unique. Personally, I think I had a different experience. I went to Carney Academy for elementary school and then I went to private school for middle and high school. Our Sisters’ School, I feel like, is where everything started for me because it was an all-girls school. I was really determined and focused there. We really had no choice. It was a really rigorous schedule for 10- to 13-year-olds. And then after that I went off to boarding school. New Bedford is where [music] all started for me. … The biggest thing was House of Music, a nonprofit organization my dad created. Just being able to have an artistic outlet at the age of 5 and on — I just feel like New Bedford is one of the only small towns you can really thrive in.

NBL: Tell me about the House of Music program.

MT: We used to do a show every year at the Zeiterion and we would prepare for that all year. We did a Michael Jackson tribute, a Stevie Wonder tribute, soul, pop, whatever my dad came up with. We would do dances together, we would have Studio A and Studio B. There would be free lunch for the kids every day. You could pick a hot dog, grilled cheese, or a tuna melt. It was just a place for everyone to go every Saturday …  and get the kids off the streets, teach them something about music and create a family. People would be there for years. We would have a reunion every year after the show at Minerva’s to celebrate a show well done. We would have so many sold out shows at the Zeiterion, which was nuts for kids our age to be on stage having a good old time.

NBL: You moved, right? Where to and why?

MT: For high school I went to Dana Hall School, in Wellesley. So, at 13, in 2017, I up and left to boarding school, and I could still come back on the weekends because it was only an hour away. I feel like boarding school is basically college for high schoolers. I was at school all day every day. So that’s why I moved out to Boston, which is kind of what started me wanting to be an artist. I saw the opportunity out there. I was like, I can be an artist in New Bedford but, where else am I going to go? What else is out there? In Boston I was like “Oh! I can do this!” Also, my chorus teacher taught me a lot and [about] vocals in general. I did chorus all four years at Dana Hall. And that man … he taught me a lot, Mr. Coleman. He taught me more about life and singing than anyone other than my father. It opened my eyes to what’s out there. So, I moved out to Cranston, Rhode Island. I was going to do the whole music and college thing, but it’s a lot of money for a musician to go to college. I was like, I’m going to take my waitressing to Providence and make a little more money, gain a little more experience, pay big people bills. Since then, I put artistry first. It’s been a shift of mindset.

NBL: What age did you start making music?

MT: I was singing when I could talk. James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Micheal Jackson — like that was my family. I was singing! I wasn’t confident with it until I was 10. I was dancing a lot to hide from the singing. And now I sing to hide from the dancing. I was 13 when I recorded my first cover. But, before then I was singing all the time, doing talent shows at school, singing in class. I got serious with it then. That’s when I got in the studio and started realizing “Oh, I should probably learn how this works, become an engineer and try to produce.” That’s what I am working on now as an adult, but it was nice to be introduced to that scene so early.

Marlowe Tavares belting one out on a recent vacation. Courtesy: Courtesy of Marlowe Tavares

NBL: What made you want to start making music?

MT: My family — my dad and my grandparents, my great uncles — they were always singing and talking about music or on tour and sending us videos. My grandpa, every time he lands a flight, he’s like “the hawk has landed.” I gotta know where he’s at. That inspired me the most, just seeing them do what they do. The energy I feel from that, makes me want to do it even more. It’s a freeing feeling, healing people through music almost.

NBL: What does your process look like when you decide you want to make a song?

MT: I hear something, either in my head or a beat and automatically, melodies start flowing. Once I hear a melody, I can usually match words to it. So like today, I was about to take a shower and I heard something in my head. Immediately I pull my Memos out and I record because I’ll forget it. From then, I just keep working with it. I’ll sing a couple lines and I’ll hear a couple more. A [final] song is usually not the first thing I come up with. Once I’m halfway through with a song, I’ll start recording and putting it on paper. I don’t finish a song before I record it, I finish it while recording it.

NBL: What influences your music?

MT: What influences my music would probably be — would definitely be the R&B, soul and neo-soul artists of back in the day. Well, back in the day for me at least. Definitely Solange, Lauryn Hill lyrically. Erikah Badu, Musiq Soulchild. And I say my family is definitely my trailblazers behind me. But I feel like what makes me so unique is the fact that I have the soul of Tavares but I have the influence of the modern world. But it’s not the modern world. It’s not your everyday SZA and Summer Walker. They are great and I do love them, but I listen to the people they listen to instead of listening to them.

NBL: What sound would you consider your music?

MT: I don’t want to classify myself under a genre yet, but I say R&B, soul and neo-soul is the easiest way to put it. Once I really get into it, I want to do Afrobeats, jazz … something different. A little bit of everything. Throw some country in there!

NBL: How was the roll out of your first project, The Love Letter EP? How do you think it went?

MT: I liked it! I feel like it was good for my first project. To be able to have a listening party and a performance after that, it was really nice. I didn’t expect that at all. It was better than a birthday. 

It was a lot, working on four songs and getting them down. I was working on those songs for a minute, and I didn’t even know what it was going to become until I wrote “Love Letter.” We were thinking about marketing, and I was like, “I could release it on Valentine’s Day.” Besteas can do a special for the month of February, because this is going to go with a theme. Now it has a purpose. It has drive. It’s not just songs. It was just perfect and written in the stars. It all worked itself out. 

I think “Lullaby” was first. “HSA” was the last one we came up with. I feel like that shows my artistry very well. That’s when I was really thinking about songwriting and purpose. What am I really saying? How is it going to sound? Is it catchy? Can people use it on TikTok? There’s gotta be songs you can play in the club, in your car, songs you can roll your windows down to in the summer. I’ve gotta hit everybody’s playlist. I think with my album, it’s going to be a bigger deal. I won’t be constricted to just four songs or one concept. I can take it a little bit further.

NBL: How many local performances have you done, and which was your favorite?

MT: I’ve done two or three performances in the area, but my favorite was the one for the release of my EP at Pub 6T5 because I feel like I got to really connect with everyone there. I was in a nice little outfit, I had my braids done, I felt comfortable. It was full in there! People were eating and people came for the poetry slam. I was interacting with the crowd. … We went through “HSA” and “Lullaby,” which are slow songs. By the end of the event, we did “Love Letter.” Then we took it to the studio for the listening party. It was a full night. It was so much fun!

Marlowe Tavares: “It’s hard to get confidence, especially as a Black woman. I say, be your most comfortable, natural self because nobody out there is like you. People will gravitate towards you.” Credit: Aliana Liz Tavares / The New Bedford Light

NBL: Do you have any new performances or projects that are coming out soon?

MT: I do have a couple performances I’m working on, but we are keeping that under wraps because we don’t have any dates, but it’s actually a really big deal. As for projects, I am working on an album. I don’t have a set date or anything. I don’t like to put a timer on my creativity. It’s going to be a six or seven song project, maybe eight if we are lucky. I’m definitely going to drop a couple singles before. I think this one’s going to be more Marlowe. Yeah, that was Marlowe, but it was the beginning, like me figuring how to write a song. So now, it’s going to go crazy!

NBL: What is something you want your listeners to know about you and your music?

MT: That it comes from the heart, honestly. It comes from my soul. That is stuff that I feel and think about. I’m trying to write with more purpose and talk about things that really matter — not just the cookie cutter stuff. This is different, it’s different over here.

NBL: What is some advice that you would give to other young women who are trying to make music?

MT: On one end, don’t listen to what anybody tells you, you should trust yourself the most. Have the most confidence in yourself. Once you feel comfortable enough to take criticism from people, never, ever take it personally. You can take it and do it or take it and leave it. It’s hard to get confidence, especially as a Black woman. I say, be your most comfortable, natural self because nobody out there is like you. People will gravitate towards you.

NBL: Is music something you want to pursue as a career?

MT: Yeah, I think I was 14 when I realized I wanted to do music as a career. I did my first performance then, when I was at a freshman talent show. I was the last performance, and everyone was screaming. I performed with two of my friends, one was from California, and one was from China. We killed it! OK, we killed it! They were roaring in the high school auditorium. I called my dad after and was like, “I want to do that for the rest of my life. How long have you been doing this? Can you teach me everything you know?”

Aliana Liz Tavares is a correspondent for The New Bedford Light. She is not related to Marlowe.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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