As Tai Shan’s song says: “It’s cool to be weird.” There’s a good reason that the catchy ode to individuality was chosen as the anthem for the Girl Scouts of America’s Power Up Program. You listen and you think, “YES. Being different is cool.”
Seattle-based pop-folk singer, composer and songwriter Tai Shan is a wonderfully different kind of musician. City Arts magazine raves, “Tai Shan’s music is like hugging a total stranger—kind of awkward and totally wonderful.” Tai is a known for her 50+ songs inspired by works of literature —everything from Stephen King’s Carrie to Dr. Seuss—that span a wide range of themes and musical styles.
Her catchy, layered melodies echo John Mayer and Jack Johnson while her soprano soars somewhere between Joni Mitchell, Alanis Morissette, and Adele. CultureMob says, “Tai sings as if the world was unaware of beauty and it is her task to describe it. She knows each goosebump-raising frequency and proves that whole worlds can exist in a 5-minute song.”
Though she has plenty of her own life stories to draw from—including singing for the Pope, watching all of her belongings ignite in a house fire, playing a music tour through Yellowstone National Park, and teaching songwriting at Seattle’s MO-POP, Dusty Strings, and Seattle Girls School—Tai prefers to mine literature. She gives musical voice to literary characters and fully immerses the audience in the story.
In 2016, Tai was awarded a Jack Straw (Cultural Center) artist recording grant to complete a second album inspired by books. This one focuses on female narratives. Songs include one from the point of view of the mother in the Stephen King thriller Carrie and the song Stubborn Girls, inspired by stubborn girl protagonist Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time.
A Cornish College of the Arts- trained classical and jazz composer, Tai celebrates her wide-ranging influences. “Producers and marketers are always trying to define my brand, get me to have a streamlined sound,” Tai said. But she believes music should serve the song and its story, even if that means hopping from do-wop to country. She writes on guitar and piano then invites in collaborators to build the world of each song. For her last album, Living Fiction, those collaborators include Emily Westman of Sisters, along with the 60-piece Seattle Rock Orchestra, on the song “American Dream.”
Tai is a favorite wedding and event performer because of her versatility. She can croon sweet Eva Cassidy covers, twang some Garth Brooks, and belt out Queen if the occasion calls. At her own live shows, she’s known for surprises and sincerity. She’s often brought an audience to heartfelt tears before leading them in a sing-a-long or improvising lyrics based on their suggestions. Her husband Austin Garrison sometimes pops up for a trumpet solo. Tai’s live performances, like her recorded songs, are delightful gems.
Film and TV producers are drawn to Tai’s storytelling prowess. She wrote music for the award-winning web series Manic Pixie Dream Wife and scored the HBO documentary The Search for Turtle Island. Her music has been featured on the Highlander TV series as well as over 100 Hewlett-Packard training videos. She’s played up and down the West Coast and at the iconic Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. In the Northwest, Tai has performed on NPR and at nearly every major venue in Seattle, including Benaroya Hall, the Moore Theater, the Tractor, Bumbershoot, and Seattle Comicon.