Nora Tirrell is a recent Berklee School of Music graduate and actively pursuing a career as a singer-songwriter. She hails from Marblehead and was involved with a cappella at Marblehead High School. In this interview, Nora tells us about what she loves about music and about her influences as well as about her dreams an ambitions for the future.
Check out Nora’s website here.
Enjoy this video featuring Nora singing her song “Alone.”
Have you always been a music fan? Do you recall your early memories of being caught up with musical sounds?
I have always been a music fan! When I was little, from literally the age of 4 or 5, I listened to Paul Simon and Roy Orbison on my Walkman (something that held CDs!) I always had a knack for singing so I knew I loved music from a very young age. My parents would always play music in the house, too, which only made me more enthusiastic about it.
What kind of music did you enjoy as a child and how has your musical taste broadened over the years?
My musical taste has always been somewhat broad. I used to listen to The Beatles, Peter, Paul, and Mary, then artists like Hilary Duff when I got a little older. As I’ve gotten older, I listen to music from whatever genre, as long as it speaks to me. I try to not judge music based on genre – and more on how it makes me feel!
As a child, I enjoyed all kinds of music – I didn’t discriminate based on genre. I listened to pop, rock, folk, all kinds! I always paid attention to singers and lyrics – something I still pay close attention to when I listen to music today.
Who would you cite as your musical heroes and (s)heroes? What is it about their music that grabs you?
My musical heroes include Sara Bareilles and Carole King – there are many but those are the names that first come to mind. Mostly because of their individuality and how they advocate for such great things – world peace, women’s rights, etc.
When did you first pick up an instrument?
I first picked up an instrument at age 6 – I had to take piano lessons and I was not particularly keen on being somewhat “forced” to do it but it turned out to be of great benefit to me – now I LOVE to play piano and have written many songs on it.
I know that you were quite involved with the high school a cappella scene. Did all those experiences help acclimate you to being on stage?
Being in high school a cappella certainly helped me get over my stage fright and learn how to harmonize and hold down your own part in a bigger ensemble setting. I always loved to sing but was not born a natural performer – I had to learn to relax and just be myself on stage. To this day, I still get nervous and the fear of how people will receive me and my art makes me anxious but I’ve learned to love and cherish each audience I perform for and think of it more as an exchange I’m having with them – a conversation, rather than them judging me as I’m pouring my heart out to them. Taking stage performance classes at Berklee also guided me through being able to be more confident when performing.
When did you start writing your own music and what prompted you to apply to Berklee?
I started writing my own music in 8th grade and it blossomed more in high school. I found it to be a great outlet for whatever I was feeling – it helped me express myself in a way I couldn’t do in any other capacity. I found writing to be a release of bottled up emotions that I didn’t feel like talking about – I felt like singing about them instead. Whether it was heartbreak or joy or confusion, writing songs came so naturally to me. I applied to Berklee because it was always a dream of mine to go there, ever since I was in middle school. I couldn’t see myself attending college anywhere else because I didn’t feel like I would fit in anywhere else – I knew that music was my passion and that Berklee was the only place that would cherish and nurture that passion and help me to grow as much as possible as a musician and songwriter. I felt that if I went anywhere else, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love and that seemed like a real tragedy. There was no plan B in my mind!
If you weren’t involved with music, what other career paths would you follow?
If I wasn’t involved in music, I would be a writer. I love to write, and I’ve always had a knack for it. I have tons of short stories that I used to write as a kid, all saved in a drawer in my parents’ house in Marblehead. Writing came just as naturally, if not more than music and I always felt like it was something I was good at.
Tell us about your recording, All These Words. Did you enjoy the process of recording? Do you find it challenging to listen to take after take of the same song? Do you have any advice for young artists who are recording for the first time?
Recording All These Words was a wonderful experience, with many unexpected challenges. I loved hearing my songs come to life and my producer was so patient with me as I tried to navigate the process and attempt to communicate my vision to her. I learned that the artist’s involvement and dedication to the project is crucial for success. My advice would be to be a partner with your producer – lay everything out on the table and do your absolute best to communicate your vision to them. Learn to be flexible and take their ideas but never lose sight of your vision and what you want. (They are your songs, after all!) the artist should always have the final say in any recording project, but also respect the producer’s opinions and ideas, as they are the experts usually when it comes to the technical side of things. I really enjoyed being in the studio and listening back as each song was being molded into this more professional recording – it was really magical and special to hear all of my songs come to life in this project.
What are your short and long-term goals in the music business?
My short-term goals (for the next year or so) are to perform as much as possible and meet more musicians. I recently got a job at a music studio teaching voice lessons and I’m excited to take on that new opportunity! I hope to build off of that in terms of taking more opportunities and risks. I’ve been performing a lot more over the last year than I ever have, and it’s made a huge difference in my confidence and my ability to communicate with people.
My longer-term goal is to own a private studio and be a performer. I plan to move to Nashville in September or October of 2019 and get into the industry down there. I’d love to work at a label or for a music publishing company and maybe even form a band in Nashville. I want to work with different musicians and be performing as much as possible. I also want to perform for charity events and hold benefit concerts for causes I support and believe in.