In 1996, Tanya Donelly began a solo career after spending many years in well regarded bands, Throwing Muses, Breeders and Belly. When her first solo album, Lovesongs for Underdogs, was released, I wrote to her and asked if she’d answer a few questions for my website. That website went offline when Geocities closed in 2009. Here’s a reprint of that lost interview. Tanya’s response to my letter arrived in mid-December 1998.
Question: I have the impression that your surname is Irish. Do you know much about your family roots? Do you feel much of a connection to Ireland or wherever else your family roots might be from?
Tanya: Donelly is Irish, but my family came over so long ago that I feel no direct connection to Ireland, other than a romantic one. I just recently developed an interest in genealogy and would like to learn more about my blood. I’m also Hungarian on my mother’s side—easier to trace because my great grandparents came over in the beginning of this century.
Q: Is it scary having your name on the CD cover rather than having Throwing Muses or Belly on there?
Q: Do you feel comfortable being a solo artist?
T: More so now.
Q: Or does it just seem natural?
T: It doesn’t feel completely natural to me yet. I’ve got a band again in a way-the people I toured with are playing on this new record and will most likely do the next tour with me, too.
Q: How do you perceive your place in the marketplace? Are record sales important to you? Or do you leave that kind of stuff to your manager and others? Are you happy with a small cult kind of following? Or does having huge record sales appeal to you?
T: I’m more happy with a small cult following and the artistic freedom that comes with that. It’s also important to sell enough records in order to continue to make them.
Q: How different was the transition from the Muses to Belly, compared to going from Belly to solo?
T: Leaving the Muses was an amicable, sad experience. The Belly breakup was a less than amicable, sad experience. I think the Muses split was harder, because I was younger and much more easily freaked out.
Q: Do you feel like you’re writing music more for yourself now, rather than for a band?
T: Yes, although I still keep the people I play with in mind when I have certain noises in my head and when I’m thinking about parts. Dean, Rich, Elizabeth and Dave are very much part of the process on this record.
(by Joe Beine, 1998; may not be reproduced without permission)
Tanya Donelly’s Website