Raised in a musical household, rising singer, songwriter, and actress Tara Macri has cultivated an impressive career over the years. Born in Toronto, her parents enrolled her in lessons once they realized how much she loved music and performing, which led her to audition and begin working in the industry. This led her to receive the opportunity to attend and hone her acting skills at The Stratford Festival in Canada, where she received the Mary Savidge Award for her portrayals while there in Dracula, West Side Story, and The Tempest. She later moved to New York, where she performed on Broadway in productions such as Hairspray and Jersey Boys, and had the opportunity to also star as Amber in Hairspray at The Hollywood Bowl opposite Nick Jonas and John Stamos. She also did a tryout in Chicago for First Wives Club, which is bound for Broadway. While performing in theater in New York, Tara was also writing music and performing on her off day at venues such as Rockwood Music Hall and The Cutting Room. In 2015, she burst onto the music scene with her hit single “Prettiest Girl In The Room”, which broke Billboard’s Top 80 chart and received extensive airplay on US terrestrial and Sirius XM radio. Her goal is to affect others in a positive way through her music, drawing from her own experience of overcoming obstacles and pushing through and being positive. Outside of the theater, Tara is the voice of Young Tigress in the Kung Fu Panda prequel, Secrets of the Scroll, which also featured Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogan, and Lucy Liu. Most recently, Tara received praise for her awarding winning performance in Patrick Liscomb’s acclaimed film Outcry. On October 12th, Tara released her latest single “Waking Up In California”, which mirrors her journey and real-life successes on the Broadway stage as well as her music and film powered roles in LA and reminds us that each day brings a new chance of opportunity. In Tara‘s own words, “This song fuels me in the fact that win or lose, we need to roll the top down on our doubts, put a little caution to the wind and go for our dreams.” She also plans to release a music video soon for the song, so stay tuned for that! With plans to shop around a comedy pilot she co-created, executive produce, and stars in, do work on another film, and hopefully tour and work on her debut album, make sure to follow Tara Macri via the links below to stay up-to-date on all upcoming music and acting news! Photo credit: Alexandra Petruck.
You were born and raised in Toronto to a musical family and were introduced to the piano at the age of 2 by your grandfather. What can you tell me about your childhood and growing up in Toronto and how long did you live there before moving away?
My dad was actually a drummer, as well, so I grew up around lots of music. My parents were…as soon as they saw that I was really into music, they got me into lessons and I just took advantage of everything and loved it so much as a kid. I wanted to do more but wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I just loved doing it. My dad wasn’t really sure what to do, so he asked a few friends who were still in the entertainment industry what to do. They definitely weren’t stage parents! They just guided me and found an agency that I auditioned for and I then started auditioning and working. That led to one thing and then another thing and then I did theater and was at the Stratford Festival. From there, I auditioned for a show called Hairspray, that everyone knows about, and that is what took me to New York and to the US. It was just something that happened organically. So that’s kind-of the path!
What was the catalyst for you that sparked your interest in acting and theater and music? Was it something you just always had a love for or if there was a specific movie or musical that inspired you to want to take this career path?
Yeah. I was told that I just loved and was drawn to it and started walking quite early and driving everyone crazy! I think that…I don’t know. I do remember my dad would always show us the old Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies and old Hollywood movies and I was just mesmerized by watching those films and what they did and how talented they were. I think that was something that definitely sparked something for me.
With regards to The Stratford Festival, what can you tell me about refining your acting skills there and what do you feel that you learned while you were there that has helped you going forward in your career?
That was an 8/9 month experience, because when you get into The Stratford Festival, you are there to work on the 3 shows you are in, but at the same time, you have lessons and coaches and dialect coaches. So I really took advantage of everything that was there for each show. And I feel like, I don’t know if it was a crash course, but it was intense and I came out learning so much and wanting to learn so much more after being there and being surrounded by so many talented people, cast members, and directors from around the world. And obviously all of the coaches we had there too!
You had the opportunity to play Amber in Hairspray at the Hollywood Bowl opposite Nick Jonas and John Stamos. How did that opportunity come about? Was it an extension of the work you did as Amber in Hairspray on Broadway or was it a separate thing?
It was the same team, but I still had to audition (laughs)! Working with Jerry Mitchell and Jack O’Brian and the whole original production team for Hairspray was just a dream come true. I loved it. After doing New York, the opportunity came up for me to audition for the production at the Hollywood Bowl, which I did. I went through the audition process and I got to do it, which was so much fun! We had a blast! It was only 3 days, but the rehearsal process and finding different things about the character, because you are playing with different cast members and everyone brings something new and exciting to the role. All I can say is that it was incredible. We had an 18,000 person screening every night, which was alot (laughs)! It was a great experience.
You’ve talked a bit about how you were still writing music while performing in theater on Broadway. How did you go about balancing the two? Did it come pretty naturally to you?
I mean, it definitely is hard because when you do 8 shows a week, it’s tiring. You love it, but it’s also just exhausting on your body and vocal chords. I find when I’m working a lot, that I get even more inspired. I don’t know what it is, but I just want to do more. I felt really inspired being in New York and I would write during the day and do shows on Mondays, which were our dark days, where we didn’t have any shows. I think I played at The Cutting Room and Rockwood Music Hall and some other venues where I got to go and perform my own stuff and try new things out, as well.
You kind of burst onto the music scene in 2015 with “Prettiest Girl In The Room” and have released a few other singles since then. What can you tell me about your decision to take a little break from theater to focus on music and what made you decide that was the right time to do that?
I don’t think at the time that I was like “Oh, I’m not going to do it (theater/acting) anymore”. I still have done some acting. We did a show, First Wives Club. I wasn’t like “Oh hey. I’m not going to do theater anymore.” I had an opportunity with the management I was with and had the song and everyone was really excited about it. So I just kind-of went with the flow and we released it and it did really well and that was super exciting. Then we had a Christmas song, which gets a lot of airplay, as well, every year. It just kind-of happened organically. Obviously, it’s hard to do both and I focused on that for a bit while doing voice-overs and still auditioning. When you do show that’s 8 shows a week, it’s hard to do other stuff, so I did music for a bit. I go back and forth (laughs)! I did do a tryout for a new show called The First Wives Club, and that unfortunately hasn’t yet gone to Broadway. I’m not sure what’s happening with it, but that was a tryout I did in Chicago and I took time off. I was actually still doing music at the time when we were in Chicago. But it’s a lot. 8 shows a week. You really have to love it.
You have said that through your history in music and entertainment, that you prioritize affecting others in a positive way through your music. Has that been your goal from the start? Who are some artists that have done that for you over the years (or currently)?
Definitely. Everyone writes from their own experience and from what’s happening in their life. For me, it’s just been overcoming obstacles and pushing through and being positive. Some of the artists that I connect with in that way would definitely be Taylor Swift. I think that she has such a positive message and I really love her. I think she’s just great. Also, Rachel Platten is great- “Fight Song”. That’s such a great song. Some other artists that I feel I have been inspired from would be The Beatles, obviously, and Billy Joel. These are artists that my dad would introduce me to. I could go on. There are so many! There’s Lenny Kravitz. From every different genre too. I mean, I’m a music lover so there are even more recent artists, like Amos Lee, who is super inspiring with his music.
You will be releasing your new single “Waking Up In California” on October 12th. What can you tell me about the track and in what ways do you feel like it mirrors your real-life experiences, whether on Broadway or in music and film? What can fans expect from your upcoming music video for the song?
The song is kind-of East Coast vs West Coast, because I’ve lived on both. I love New York and I love California. I feel like the song is about chasing your dreams and whether or not you’re in the music industry or you’re just chasing your dreams, I feel like it’s a song about never giving up on your dreams and going after them. I’m really excited for this song to come out. With every song I get excited, but this one I’m really excited for it to come out. And yes, the video…in my head, when I got different mixes back, the theme that just kept coming to me was this vintage car just driving. The song has such a “get in your car and just sing out loud with your girlfriends” feel, so I think that the music video definitely has that vibe. We have…I don’t know how much I can say…but I’m driving a 1966 vintage Mustang and it’s so much fun. We hit all the spots in LA and there’s a beautiful sunset and it was a magical day when we shot that.
Having done a few different music videos at this point, how do you approach the making of them? Do you feel like having a background in acting and theater gives you a different kind of perspective when making them?
Yeah. I think so. I think what I like to do is hear the song when it’s finished and then it kind-of dictates what the video will be. For example, with “Baby You Got Me”, it didn’t really feel like a big dance video. It was a simple ballad. Whereas “Meet Me On Mars” or “Prettiest Girl In The Room” had a completely different vibe. The “Wake Me Up In California” note is a mid-tempo, I guess you could say. I wasn’t sure at first. I just had one idea that came to me. I definitely do think it’s fun to have a story and to have fun with it.
What can you tell me about your recent role of doing the voice of Young Tigress in the Kung Fu Panda prequel? Having done voice-over work in the past, what do you enjoy about doing that kind of work, as opposed to more traditional acting? Do you feel like just using your voice presents it’s own set of challenges?
I mean. I think it’s great, because you can play characters that you would never play on screen. I was a tigress and I don’t know when I would get to do that on the screen. Sometimes you play, like, a chicken or a cow. With voice-over work, it’s so fun because you get to go to extremes and do things you wouldn’t necessarily do as an actor on camera. Doing animation is just…you laugh. For me personally, any of the rules…you get to have so much fun with them, and I did with Kung Fu Panda. That was such an amazing experience , working with Dreamworks and that whole team. And it’s not just for kids. It has such a powerful message about following your dreams and not trying to be like someone else. I know these are all standard for a lot of people, but these are really strong messages and I’m really proud to be a part of something like that.
You’ve received praise for your award-winning performance in Patrick Liscomb’s acclaimed film ‘Outcry’. What can you tell me about the film and how you came to be in it? What has the film festival experience been like?
I met Patrick randomly. I was shooting the music video for “Excuses” and I met him through another friend, a Canadian friend. We needed some help that day on set. Someone who was not a director but could just help out with a few things. It was during Covid and we were trying to be so careful on set, so it was a very stripped down set. And it was a huge location and we all had masks. So Patrick came on literally 2 days prior, and he kind-of blew us away. I can’t remember exactly what his role was when he first started, but he ended up co-directing that with me (laughs)! He had amazing ideas and had this great energy about him. After we finished that, I remember someone on our team said “Hey! What are your ideas? What do you want to do? What have you been doing?”, and he presented this film that he wrote called ‘Outcry’. And he said he would love to see me play the role of Bambi. I said “WOW!”, and he said, “I’m going to get Mike Starr in it and Dashiell Connery”, who is Sean Connery’s grandson. So he already had it put together and I read the script and really loved it. It had a really beautiful message. It’s obviously not a comedy (laughs). But it was such a beautiful story and that’s how it came to be and the film is still getting into festivals. It played at the Chinese theater, which we all went to, the whole crew. We hadn’t been together in over a year and we all went and watched it and it was wonderful to see it up on the screen. We have some more things coming with it and that’s been fun to do, as well.
How would you describe the creative community in LA and in what ways does it keep you motivated and inspired? Have you found yourself collaborating with a lot of other artists, being such a creative community?
Yeah, I do. I really think those in this community love what they do and that’s what keeps you going and keeps you creative, because you work with people who absolutely love what they do. And yes. I’m always collaborating, especially in Los Angeles, because there are so many new people coming in and there are people who have been there a long time. It’s such a community where people want to work with you and try something new and are very generous that way. So I would say that it is a great community to work in.
Being a part of two, I would imagine, intense and fast-paced industries (film and music), how do you keep yourself grounded in life and what do you like to do for fun and for self-care, especially when you are not feeling positive and uplifting? We all have those days!
For those days, I try to go for a walk or work out or do yoga at my favorite yoga studio in Los Angeles. They really have the best teachers there and I find that after a yoga class, I’m grounded. I also find that a trip to visit my family and hang out with the family dog is something that literally brings me so much happiness. She’s happy all of the time. Animals are incredible. I feel like that really keeps me grounded, when I’m able to go home and see family. And also to help with those days where you’re just like “Ugh! Should I be doing this? Is this the right thing?”. I think that meditation helps a lot. That’s another thing I’ve been trying out.
What’s next for you? What are your goals going forward?
Since things have been opening up with Covid, it’s been really great to see and I hope it continues to go in that direction. I have a pilot. It’s a comedy. And it’s the first time I was an executive producer on it and I starred in it and co-created it. And that right now is being shopped, so fingers crossed that it gets picked up and will come out. That is a comedy, so that was really fun to do and I’m looking forward to that and to see what happens. There’s another film that we are in pre-production for. I’m not really sure I can talk about it yet, but that’s something that we’ll be shooting in the next couple of months. And the with the release of “Waking Up In California”, it’s going to be a lot of fun to see what happens with it and whether or not we tour. That would be a lot of fun, as well, because I love to tour. That would be incredible!
I read that you are working on your debut album. Is that something you plan to release in the near future or do you plan to keep releasing singles for the time being?
Yeah. I feel like we have enough music for maybe 3 album (laughs)! With doing songs, when releasing a song it takes me a lot of time to really make sure it’s a strong song. There’s so much amazing music out there. I really hope that in the next year I can put out some of the songs we already have or some songs I’ve been experimenting with that have different sounds. So who knows if it would be a completely different EP than what I’ve been working on. But, yeah. Definitely!