Dara Starr Tucker
If the name Dara Starr Tucker sounds familiar to you, chances are you've probably came across her "The Breakdown" videos on TikTok, heard her music on streaming services, or seen her songwriting credit on the title track to Keb Mo's 2020 Grammy-winning album Oklahoma. Whether Dara is breaking down black history or recording music in the studio, she is always doing so with hopes of making the world a better place through her content and art. Today, The Global Spotlight talks with Dara about her TikTok videos, music, influences, and more.
When did you start making your "The Breakdown" videos?
I started making informational videos for TikTok about a year ago. I didn’t really settle on the title, “The Breakdown” until about 4 months ago.
I noticed that the videos were being shared all over the place, and people oftentimes wouldn’t tag me, or attempt to find out who made them. Friends would tag me or tell me they saw them being posted somewhere. So, I decided I needed to use consistent branding that included my name, which people often don’t know if they’re sharing random videos online – and I needed to come up with a memorable name that would signal to users that they were in for one of my mini-deep dives, which I love to do.
Have you ever considered making a "The Breakdown" podcast?
I’ve been asked a lot about that. The truth is it takes hours and hours to compile each installment of “The Breakdown.” Maybe I’m missing out on an opportunity with a podcast, I don’t know, but there just isn’t time for me to post consistently on my social media with all the episode ideas I have and also devote the time and attention to a podcast that I would need to in order to make it successful.
You can only do so many things well. I suppose if someone approached me with some sort of framework – a producer and an already-existing podcast network and maybe research help – and a paycheck, of course – I’d have to consider it.
What do you hope your videos can do for your viewers?
Education and enlightenment, first and foremost. I hear a lot of people say, “I’m learning more from your videos than I did in 13 years of school.” It’s a comment I get all the time. And oftentimes, it’s probably not because they weren’t teaching this stuff in school. It’s probably because many of them were bored and disinterested and didn’t retain the information. So, as corny as it sounds, I hope to make learning fun for my viewers. I also want to bring enlightenment about subjects that aren’t really taught in school.
Education around race and cultural issues is so scant in our public-school systems. I deal with the results of that on a daily basis in my comment section. Many people don’t even understand the concept of culture. They know they’ve been miseducated or undereducated, and many are willing and ready to learn – they just need willing teachers.
Everybody isn’t going to go pick up a copy of “So You Want to Talk About Race” but many people will stop and watch a 3-minute TikTok video when it comes across their feed. It may make them curious enough to go pick up a copy of that book later.
I see that you are also a musician as well and have recently released an album titled Dreams of Waking: Music for A Better World. Can you tell me more about the creation of this album?
This was a pandemic album – entirely conceived of and created in the height of the initial COVID crisis of 2020. It was really a lifeline for me, because so many musicians were sidelined during that time.
Gigs had been shut down and we were all in lockdown. So many musicians had no avenue to express their gift. I was really so grateful to have the opportunity to make music during that time.
We called some of the best jazz musicians in the New York area, and they were all available because of the pandemic. So, it really was a unique opportunity to make some musical dreams come true.
Working with pianists like Cyrus Chestnut and Sullivan Fortner, bassists like Dezron Douglas and Vicente Archer and drummers like Johnathan Blake and Joe Dyson was really a dream for me.
The album is meant to speak to the social and racial unrest that we have been experiencing since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Fortunately or unfortunately, many of those social justice and protest songs from the 60’s and 70’s speak perfectly to these times. And as one of my favorite singers, Ms. Nina Simone says, “It’s the job of the artist to speak to the times.”
What sort of impact do you want your music to have on other people?
I would love for my music to do for other people what the music I love does for
me – inspire, heal, comfort, compel, enlighten, uplift and affirm.
Who are some of your musical influences?
They are endless. Firstly, my parents, who were both musicians – Doyle and Lynda Tucker. After that, singers and musicians from a variety of genres – Mel Tormé, India.Arie, James Taylor, Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Donnie Hathaway, The Clark Sisters, The Winans, Nancy Wilson, Susan Ashton. I won’t bore you with the rest.
Should listeners be on the lookout for any new music sometime soon?
I’m always locked and loaded with a new project. It’s just a matter of time before we are able to get into the studio and record. I’m feeling that impetus rising up within me, so I think it’s time. I would love to have another album recorded before the year is up. Stay tuned.
Helping others learn the truth about the past and creating art are both things that can help make the world a better place. What ways do you suggest others try to make the world better?
By being a conduit for justice and art. By being curious about the world around them – about others’ experiences in life. By listening more than they talk when marginalized groups are sharing their experiences. By challenging their own assumptions and norms. By reading and watching documentaries and listening to podcasts and audio books and absorbing music that encourages them to be sensitive to the needs of their fellow humans.
Dara's music video for her song "Do We Sleep?"
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