Most flowers in the garden of song are seasonal. Perennials, like Tarryn Aimée, are much rarer.
Seasonals, you see, write for the moment. If a lyric about, say, trucks captures the public ear, songwriters take that as a cue to start rhapsodizing about flatbeds and lift kits. Their work bears a time stamp: Sixties bubblegum, Seventies disco, et cetera.
Perennials endure. That’s why people can still sing along to tunes by Irving Berlin or the Gershwin brothers from a century ago. Today, when a perennial takes root and blooms, it should be nourished. Because we need them now, more than ever.
Now, Tarryn Aimée is no stranger to mainstream performance and composition. Her patriotic anthem “Heroes At Home,’’ which she wrote with Lisa Shaffer, was chosen as a top 10 finalist in the International Acoustic Music Awards in 2017. With Steve Dean, she penned “It’s All About Showing Up,” a motivational song that made it to the finals of the USA Songwriting Competition in 2019. With Dean and Wil Nance, she co-wrote “Expecting Good Things,” the title track of Jeff and Shari Easter’s Grammy- and Dove-nominated album released in 2010. The song was also performed live on the Gaither Homecoming CD and DVD set called Majesty.
Though her musical experience has included a variety of styles, Tarryn takes her bow as a Perennial on It Came To Me. Produced by Jim Reilley, co-leader of folk-rock innovators the New Dylans, her new EP features five originals, each one rendered with uncommon sensitivity and nuance… all of them relevant, not just to listeners today but also to anyone in years to come who appreciates timeless quality. (Two of the songs from this EP, “More Than You’ll Ever Know” written by Aimée and Reilley and “Don’t Let Life Get In The Way” co-written with Byron Hill, were already winners in the Open division of the IAMA’s.)
Multiple roots add that depth and dimension you hear throughout It Came To Me, from Dolly Parton, James Taylor, and Allison Krauss to, increasingly, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, acoustic songbird Eva Cassidy and jazz vocalist and songwriter Gregory Porter. But it’s no wonder that Tarryn has an eclectic taste in music since her earliest days of performing with her family included songs from a variety of decades and genres.
Born in Indiana, she was just 3 years old when she began singing with her sister in church, their mother accompanying on piano. Eventually they formed a trio and began playing throughout the state. Country and gospel flavors enriched their harmonies and arrangements, along with pop standards. By age 10, Tarryn had notched her first solo award as overall winner of Smoky’s Country Music Talent Contest in Fort Wayne.
Her first steps toward jazz and American Songbook repertoire came when she enrolled at Indiana University and was selected to be a member of the Singing Hoosiers. There she learned classic songs from Indiana composers Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael, and even performed with the group in NYC’s renowned Carnegie Hall. She decided to transfer to Nashville’s Belmont University where she grew as a songwriter, guitar player, and vocalist. With her music business degree, Tarryn’s career grew working at Muy Bueno Music Group and Gold Mountain Entertainment. But at night she wrote with other songwriters and gigged where she could, doing originals and covers in restaurants and other music venues.
After Tarryn left the business side of the industry to pursue music full-time, her direction became clearer, her progress faster. Through classes at the Nashville Jazz Workshop and jazz guitar lessons with Suzahn Fiering, her horizons widened.
“Once I had those jazz chords in my fingers and learned some of the great standards, it really influenced my songwriting,” she explains. “When I play a jazz chord, it’s just like candy to me. And I found that it fit my voice.”
Writers rounds gave Tarryn an opportunity to try out some of her new songs with a jazzier, classic feel. “I’m thinking of this one round where I first played ‘Are You Looking For Me,’” she recalls. “The place applauded in a way I wasn’t used to. Numerous people came up afterwards and told me how the song took them back to a different time.”
A few years later, producer Jim Reilley saw a music video of Tarryn singing” Are You Looking For Me”, staged in the ballroom of The Standard at the Smith House, Nashville’s only remaining grand townhome built in the mid 1800’s. The song, as classic as the setting, inspired him to suggest re-recording it plus a few others in an “under-produced” style… a sort of “less is more” approach that he thought would enhance her music and voice. Tarryn loved the idea and the It Came To Me project was born.
Previously, Tarryn issued two Americana albums. Two more are finished but not yet released, one with an Americana/jazz bent and the other a set of jazz standards. Out of all the projects she has recorded so far, Tarryn says It Came To Me captures who she really is. “It feels more like me than anything I’ve done,” she insists. “I’m proud of where I’m from artistically, but this is the direction I want to go.”
It Came To Me celebrates melody — not huge leaps or florid ornamentation, but tunes that are eminently singable though peppered with occasional surprise twists. Her lyrics honor classic craftsmanship, addressing universal experiences simply, perceptively, without pretense or angst. Listeners of every generation would nod and smile as Aimée sings on “Don’t Let Life Get In The Way”: “It would be a shame to walk right by and fail to smile or see a tear in someone’s eye, or never take the time to stop just to tell someone you care, thinking that you should be who knows where when it could be you’re already there”?
That singing, by the way, perfectly suits the music and the message. Aimée sings quietly, never distracting from the beautifully contoured line, with a hint of a smile in her voice. The arrangements mirror her approach: intimate, hushed, a whisper of swing in the groove without the need of a drummer to articulate the beat. Acoustic and electric guitars strum dreamily together, with a milky vibraphone on “It Came To Me,” after-hours piano and bass on “Are You Looking For Me.”
“As a wife, mother, and working musician, life can be chaotic at times and is constantly changing,” Aimée reflects. “That’s why I love music that quiets my spirit. I love the acoustic sound, something that’s not faddish but something that’s classic and lasting, that may make people feel nostalgic about a simpler time.”
Picture: a cafe, the lights low, candles on each small table, spotlight on the stool where someone is singing a song you’ve never heard but somehow you’ve felt in your heart for years.
That’s It Came To Me.
That’s Tarryn Aimée.
She is what we’ve been waiting for.