by Scott Roos
“My (musical) resume looks like a meme,” quips guitarist Tara McLeod as she explains the different projects she’s been a part of over the years. Currently, she’s holding down the fort as lead guitarist for Nice Horse, the Alberta based all girl country rockers, as well as Kittie, the legendary London, Ontario mistresses of metal mayhem. But it was recently also announced that she would be joining up with Saskatoon rock outfit One Bad Son. Her proverbial dance card is full to be sure but when you talk to McLeod on the phone you get the feeling that she wouldn’t have it any other way. She loves the guitar and more importantly she loves to rock.
Growing up in the small town of Strathroy, Ontario and raised in a predominantly non-musical family, McLeod’s early influences came from where most 90’s kids learned about new artists and bands: MuchMusic. She also had an uncle who used to bring his guitars to family outings. Both these things proved to be enough to inspire McLeod to want to pick up a guitar herself.
“I was watching MuchMusic. I remember all the 90's rock,” reminisces McLeod as she ponders her early days watching MuchMusic. “ I remember that all I wanted when I was a kid was a guitar. Playing guitar was something I really wanted to do. So Santa Claus came through for me when I was 12.”
As McLeod started to cut her teeth on the instrument a friend of the family started to let her sit in with his jam band. Whilst McLeod was seeing 90’s guitar icons like Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil and Alice In Chains Jerry Cantrell shred on TV, she was also learning about Zeppelin and The Who from her new jamming buddies.
“They let me come to their jam sessions and it was probably defining for me as a musician. That experience alone probably put me on my path to falling in love with playing music with people. Because I do love playing guitar but there's nothing like playing music with other people. That's the best. There's just something about connecting with people that way,” explains McLeod.
As McLeod continued to mature musically, she started to play in cover bands in and around London, Ontario. She was rising through the ranks at a surprising rate and soon caught the attention of the Lander sisters of Kittie fame who had recently parted ways with their lead guitarist.Through the grapevine, Kittie was able to scout out McLeod at a couple of shows. It was the age-old case of a person being in the right place at the right time and Kittie needed a guitarist quickly and McLeod fit the bill.
“They asked me to come over for a rehearsal. So I got there and it was such a trip because I didn't know if it was an audition or a rehearsal. It was pretty unclear and I'm sure for them they were also like 'well if she's horrible this is an audition and if she fits this is a rehearsal' and they actually just said 'come back tomorrow' and I said 'cool, see you then'. And then we just kept jamming. It was unreal because they only lived about 20 mins from me in London, Ontario.”
Playing in Kittie is a gig that McLeod has held down since 2005 and she’s learned a lot about the business during that time. She also got a front row seat for vocalist/guitarist Morgan Lander’s abilities whenever they jammed together or played a show.
“I had never focussed on speed picking or tight triplets. Morgan Lander is one of the best speed pickers I have ever seen. She's floored me every night (we’ve played together). Every time I walk over to her side of the stage and listen to her amp. This woman is singing and her guitar playing is perfect. So I learned a lot from her,” recounts McLeod.
Kittie is currently ready to play what they are calling “reunion shows” over the next several months. Stay close to their website and socials for more info on whether or not they are playing in a city or town near you. In the meantime, McLeod is still holding down the lead guitar position in Alberta country act Nice Horse.
"What I really appreciate about the Nice Horse ladies is that they just really wanted me to be me. And I'm not really country music and I am the rock player and they were like 'that's who you are so be you' and so it does look like that," says McLeod.
She's also recently been made a full fledged member of Saskatoon’s One Bad Son. In the case of the Saskatoon rockers, it was essentially history repeating itself as McLeod was also once again at the right place at the right time.
“The funny thing is that I know it's a Saskatchewan based band but when Kurt Dahl reached out to me he said that Shane (Connery Volk), the singer, was in Calgary now and we were discussing location from where I lived to where Shane lived and we live basically across the street from each other. And so for the past handful of months Shane and I have been writing together whenever we have time. He comes over, we hash out some tunes and it started to go pretty well. It was definitely one of those crazy 'are we supposed to be working together?' type things. 'I'm pretty sure this is supposed to happen',” McLeod explains.
It’s going to be a busy time for McLeod over the next little while but she seems up for the task. She’s confident that she can hold down all three gigs so it’s going to be exciting to see her make a go of it.