From Broadway to the Blues, critics have called Tamra Hayden an 'emotionally rich, psychologically-detailed singer that can “reheat coffee" and 'outsizzle’ Peggy Lee.’
Tamra Hayden is a celebrated vocalist and accomplished multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, guitar, and viola. She has five solo albums to her credit, as well as dozens of musical collaborations. She has appeared on Broadway as Cosette in Les Miserables and as Texas in Cabaret. Off Broadway performances have included Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris, and she has toured nationally as Christine in Phantom Of The Opera, Hodel in Fiddler On The Roof opposite Theodore Bikel, plus in Les Miserables and It Ain’t Nothing But The Blues.
Born and raised in Littleton, Colorado, Tamra began her career playing music. “My first instrument was an accordion that was purchased from a door-to-door salesman, and then a guitar my mother bought from one of the janitors at school,” she recalls. “I had a natural ‘play by ear’ ability coming from a musical family. Grandmother Ellene Benham from Oklahoma had a way of playing piano that was like kneading bread, earthy and natural, and she could also play the marimba and ukulele. And my great grandmother, Burdie Chestnut, was a one woman band in Asheville, North Carolina.”
Inspirations in Tamra’s record collection while growing up included Liza Minelli, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand. “I basically learned how to belt by listening to Barbra and Liza, and was moved by their commitment and drive.” While at school at the University of Northern Colorado, she diversified into Simon & Garfunkel and other folk music happening, leading to her first live performances playing guitar at the outdoor campus venue, honing her skill of connecting with the audience through sensitivity, expressiveness and story-telling. Tamra had a scholarship to study the viola, influenced by the innovative orchestration of the Electric Light Orchestra and other bands of that era using classical overtones. Though she loved playing all kinds of music, her intensive studies as a soprano took center stage. “I was on a serious path with my singing, despite my father teasing to please not pursue opera, because he didn’t want to fall asleep during my performances!”
Tamra Hayden has enjoyed many glorious years on stage, but has had to face heartbreak in her personal life. “I fell in love with my first husband, Ben Hayden, and we married after only three months.” she shares. “Everything was wonderful, but then he was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor just before our first anniversary, and passed away within a year.” It took a long time before Tamra could sing again. “I lost my center- singing comes from your heart center.” Tamra authentically leverages the emotional journey to channel love, loss, bereavement, and her subsequent rebirth, imparting passion and empathy for others into her music.“You can’t turn off emotion, you have to push through it.”
Though she still cries a lot while singing, Tamra is now happily remarried. Her music provides a continual healing to the inevitable intensities of life, for herself and her fans. “I found myself having to think differently about my craft and my future, which is probably one of the main reasons I’ve been involved in so many different things. I opened myself up to new paths.”
The results include musical collaborations with Angus Mohr, Paul McDaniel, Funky Freddy, Michael Gailit and others in person and via worldwide streaming. Through these connections she found herself booked to play in Vienna, Austria’s glorious St. Stephen’s cathedral. The fusion of Tamra’s digital prowess and musical ingenuity led to the creation of her innovative mobile music app MusicalMe Images, which allows the user to ‘play the colors’ in photos and art. “You can make beautiful music without knowing an instrument. It’s actually very simple and the potential is huge. It’s a really great app for kids with autism, or anyone who is in need of any form of healing.” Tamra describes. “ I am proud of MusicalMe - though it’s kind of esoteric -like everything else I do! Once I opened myself up to these possibilities, I’ve been on one wild ride!”
On her 2015 album Love Is, Tamra collects fan favorites and works with some of Broadway’s best musicians to take us further through the song storybook of her life. The classic “Fever” has always been one of her favorites to sing live, “I took the crazy, fun things that Peggy Lee did to the next level and made it my own.” “I am telling a story through my albums, taking the listener on an emotional rollercoaster ride with me. For instance, I added “Temporarily Lost” and “It All Fades Away” from Bridges of Madison County as an homage to Ben. I look at everything three dimensionally. If the lyrics and keys of the songs don’t flow, I will change the key to fit the ear to be a beautiful experience straight through. You may or may not get my story- but there is one.”
Tamra Hayden is versatile, spirited and prolific. She has reveled in singing to 30,000 people, yet loves playing to an intimate club audience even more; she has shared deep personal experience through her music, yet knows that her song writing will next explore broader topics. “I'm challenging myself to write more around the social issues I am truly passionate about, such as women's rights, world peace, and self-acceptance. These are the messages that I want to explore more bravely in my future work.” she plans. As Tamra has come to know her courage, she stays centered in her heart, letting her songs guide us all on the ever-evolving path of life.