Tal & Acacia to release Wake Me
The duo—sisters Tal & Acacia—grew up in Portland, Maine, in a decidedly Christian household and attended an inner-city school their parents ran for underprivileged youth. Tal & Acacia first began songwriting and playing guitar as teenagers, while the family spent an insightful year in Russia volunteering with the Salvation Army social services. After returning from Russia, the sisters developed a stronger sense of the world during separate collegiate pursuits in opposite regions of North America.
Now, in their early twenties, Tal & Acacia aim to create songs that wake listeners and refresh the soul “like a cold splash of water for those who hear it.” Especially in desert times, the songwriting duo’s music ministers and inspires. Realizing that sometimes we slumber in our walk with God and take a hiatus from His presence, Tal & Acacia desire to stir listeners to become alive again.
Artist: Tal and Acacia
Title: Wake Me
Release date: 07/14/09
Label: Essential Records/Sony Music
Tal & Acacia
Buy at: Amazon
Musically, Tal & Acacia bear resemblance to such acts as Feist, Norah Jones, Imogen Heap and Sixpence None The Richer, and credit songwriting inspiration from artists like Keith Green and Stevie Wonder. The quirky pop sound of Tal & Acacia's debut album, titled Wake Me, is a breath of fresh air—defined by catchy choruses—and girded in joy. Distinctly rich and infectious, Wake Me intuitively embraces the clash between the principled, spiritual inner self and a confusing, glittery outer culture. Borrowing a line from “The Noah Song,” Wake Me is also an awakening for Tal & Acacia as the duo enters a new phase, unfolding as artists and subtle social commentators.
Produced by Monroe Jones (Ginny Owens, Chris Rice, Third Day, Caedmon’s Call), Tal & Acacia's Wake Me album is a collection of songs meant for the times, to energize and inspire, and free us. Jones states, “I love this album; it sounds like an iPod commercial. I am moved by this music. We are all in the desert and not by accident today, and people are ready to hear something new and fresh like this.”
Tal & Acacia biography
The duo-sisters Tal & Acacia-grew up in a decidedly Christian household in Maine, spent an insightful year in Russia and developed a stronger sense of the world during separate collegiate pursuits in opposite regions of North America. They've developed a yin-yang personal relationship, balancing deep thinking with intense emotion. And they've skillfully blended their spiritual upbringing with an appreciation for the world at large.
The debut album Wake Me intuitively embraces the clash between the principled, spiritual inner self and a confusing, glittery outer culture. The subject is dealt with in bits and pieces in the lyrics of Wake Me. But it's particularly embraced in the album's clever mix of sonic pop ideals. The songs were written and mostly built around spare, organic instrumentation. But the disc features numerous shreds of electronica-digital percussion and synthesized bass. The influences are clearly pop, even if they're difficult to pinpoint. Yet the sound is distinctly rich and infectious.
Although acoustic music and electro-pop are polar opposites, Tal & Acacia, with the aid of producer Monroe Jones (Third Day, Chris Rice, Ginny Owens), found a way for those battling genres to meet in the middle on Wake Me, working together instead of against each other.
"We wanted our songs to sound like something we've never heard before," Acacia notes. "We wanted things that were really different, that would embellish the song, that wouldn't suffocate it, but just enough to keep it creative. That's why Monroe was such a Godsend. He was willing to go there.
"In Wake Me, Tal & Acacia found a way to establish their own identity, one that borrows from vast influences without owing allegiance to any single sound. Their quirky pop bears resemblance to such enigmatic acts as Feist, Ingrid Michaelson and Imogen Heap as well as Sixpence None The Richer, Natasha Bedingfield and Norah Jones.
The album's musical core-defined by the catchy choruses of "Top Priority," "Clearview," "Garbage In" and "Walking Your Dog"-has a buoyant spirit that practically demands repeated listens. That's truly when the uncertainties and personal foibles embedded in the material's deeply rooted lyrics begin to take hold.
"We find ourselves struggling a lot of the time between no compromise and just compromising all the time, like everybody," Tal says. "I don't know if people even do know how much of a conflict is going on inside them. But it's why most of us are not at peace with ourselves.
"Tal & Acacia have witnessed plenty of conflict in their lives, thanks to their parents' commitment to making a difference on the planet. The second and third children of a four-daughter household in Portland, Maine, they lived in an inner-city school their mom and dad ran for troubled youth. The kids in the program came from families with disparaging stories: drugs, domestic violence, alcoholism, rape, abandonment, homelessness. Although, they'd been handed extraordinary circumstances, Tal & Acacia worked with their parents to give the students the tools to rise above their backgrounds.
As a family, they also took that ideal to a global level during a one-year mission to Russia. Tal and Acacia's mom had been introduced to the work of the Salvation Army, specifically the humanitarian ministry the organization had established in the former Soviet republics in 1991. Aiding in its social-services program seemed a good form of family outreach. Soon after the family's flight touched down overseas, they were won over by the excitement of a new life.
"I remember waking up so jet-lagged, and we toured Moscow the first day," Acacia says. "It was phenomenal! It was like Disney World to me. It was so beautiful, gold fountains, and I fell in love with it.
"However, Moscow was not the final destination. They wound up in Volgograd, a city in Southern Russia built around the Volga River. Known during the mid-20th century as Stalingrad, the industrial town was a major battleground in both the Bolshevik Revolution and World War II. It still bears the scars of its oppressive former leader and a Communist devotion that often leads to a general mistrust of Americans.
For the year, Tal & Acacia's parents led the social services division of two Salvation Army churches, overseeing the needs of the homeless, hungry and addicted who reached out for assistance. Tal & Acacia were teenagers at the time, and spent most of their days volunteering in the outreach centers, organizing donated clothing and food.
As one of only a few American families serving in the two Russian churches, Tal and Acacia did eventually form bonds with the locals-"They're the sweetest people," Tal reflects-but by living in a foreign country, the sisters necessarily grew closer as a family and began to appreciate the blessings they'd taken for granted in their homeland.
"People would send us care packages of things we couldn't get, like chocolate chips or different things like that-brownie mix-and we were doing all our own craft stuff," Acacia recalls. "We made the worst Christmas tree, but it was so special."
One unintended benefit of their year in Volgograd was a new interest in music. Tal and Acacia began doing dc Talk and Jars of Clay songs in a cover band with the other teenage American boys. Their friends soon returned to the States, putting an end to the band. But Tal was hooked on music as a form of expression and, with the interaction of other musicians no longer available, she started writing songs.Upon their return to the U.S., things began to fall into place for Tal & Acacia-mostly by mistake.
"Music wasn't really a directed thing," Acacia explains. "I don't remember going, 'We're gonna do this! We're gonna be musicians!' It just kind of happened.
"A family friend financed sessions for the girls to record a CD. The experience was instructive. The album ended up extremely layered and busy, quite different than the music they made as they began a two-year stint on the live circuit in New England. But it gave them some experience in the recording studio and helped them define what they wanted to do with their music.
The duo went on hiatus when Tal attended college in Pennsylvania, where her creative juices soon dried up. Separated from the rest of the family, she spent a large amount of time questioning who she was, what she believed and why. It was a significant growth period, but it didn't translate immediately into music; she wrote just two songs during a three-year period.
Two years later, Acacia went to the War College in Vancouver, a Salvation Army-affiliated program that works-again-with broken people. The "students" at the War College live in a dorm-like setting for a year in an area of town inhabited by countless drug addicts and prostitutes. They aim to form relationships and build trust, and show their hurting neighbors love and acceptance through the Gospel. Despite the danger, Acacia confirms that the experience really solidified her faith.
"That confronted every fear I had," she says. "That was not in my comfort zone at all. It was very scary to be alone and to be in this really disgusting apartment building. But participating in incarnational ministry at the War College truly changed my life."
Because of that experience, Acacia fully understood her parents' affinity for reaching out to suffering people. She realized a desire to show love to people who might think of themselves as unlovable, and that became a central motivation for her as an adult. The War College experience also brought a new dimension to the duo when Tal and Acacia reunited after college.
"One year in Vancouver, I didn't even know who this girl was when she came back," Tal observes. "I was like, 'Who is this and what did you do with my sister?' All of a sudden she had an opinion. She was fearless and her own person. That was very interesting to see that change in her. I think something just blossomed.
"They recorded another independent CD in 2006, building a buzz in the Christian music industry. This time, the project leaned more acoustic and stripped, which was a 180-degree turn from their first indie album It also led to a slot on the SHOUTfest tour along with Jars of Clay, Skillet, Sonic Flood, Grits and Krystal Meyers.
Tal & Acacia soon came to the attention of Provident Music Group, which allowed them the space to find their voice. While recording their label debut, they solidified their musical identity by combining the disparate styles of their two earlier ventures: the adventurous electronic sounds from the first project and the back-to-basics foundation of the second.
They named the project Wake Me, hoping the global and cultural awareness they brought to the album will be the aural equivalent of a cold splash of water for those who hear it. But the album is also an awakening for Tal & Acacia as they enter a new phase in their unfoldment as artists and subtle social commentators.
"I hope this album will challenge Christian listeners to go deeper in their faith and have more intimacy with Christ," Tal asserts. "And if people are on a journey and aren't Christians, I still want our music to engage that audience as well, and hopefully spur conversations.
Wake Me, in fact, encourages that kind of inner dialogue.That's a hallmark of curiosity, and of truly great music.
"Wake Me" by Tal and Acacia - release date: 07/14/09..