Born in Queens, Irish/American singer-songwriter Tara O’ Grady has been heavily influenced by her Irish roots. With her mother hailing from Gortward, Inver Parish, Mountcharles, Tara has been coming back to Donegal every summer since she was a child, thanks to her father's work with an airline. She recalls how on the last day of the school term before summer every year, she and her brother would be collected from the school gates with their school uniforms still on where the family would drive directly to the airport and catch the first flight to Dublin.
She adored her summers spent on the family farm in Donegal with her grandparents Nora Gallagher and Pat Conaghan: “I would jump on the tractor with my Granddad, collect eggs for breakfast, watch Granny milk her cows and stomp around in my wellies”. Since her grandparents have passed, Tara misses them deeply on her summer visits to the county but recalls her memories with extreme fondness.
Recollecting on her various visits to Ireland throughout the years, Tara states that when she was young she believed all of Ireland looked like Donegal but as she grew up and travelled more of Ireland she came to understand that that was not the case: “You’re on the edge of the world - Slieve League is special”.
Tara’s mother left Donegal when she was 17 in 1957, and when she found work, the first thing she did was send money for her passage back to her parents. She continued to mail every dollar she could home until her parents insisted otherwise! She could then afford beautiful 1950s dresses, some of which Tara wears during her performances today. One dress in particular – a white buttoned black polka dot dress that Tara’s mother bought her grandmother was brought out of the closet last summer to be worn on stage while performing at the Irish Center in New York. Tara has also been blessed with her grandmothers wedding ring and cherishes it dearly.
In the past Tara has held the ‘Mary from Dungloe’ title and now helps judge the New York competition. Tara states that she always feels like a bit of her is missing, whether she is in New York or Donegal, belonging to both and torn between them. In the future Tara wishes to continue with her writing and making more music. Many of her songs tell the story of her Irish heritage – the song ‘Goodnight Nora’ is about her grandfather and grandmother’s relationship and ‘November Moon’ is about her mother’s emigrant experience.