Tatiana Kochkareva scrolled through lists of albums on iTunes, searching for the perfect one – the first one she would ever buy.
She came across Fiona Apple’s When the Pawn…
Something about it stood out. She clicked “download” and pushed “play” on track seven, “Fast as you can.”
Orchestral and biting, the song dazzled her. At age 17, Kochkareva was hooked.
Years later Moscow native and Astoria musician Kochkareva was selected to participate in the third annual WNYC’s Battle of the Boroughs – a competition that highlights artists around New York City, each vying for a coveted spot at Summer Stage.
A steady force in Kochkareva’s life, her musical training began at a very young age when her parents enrolled her in classical piano lessons, a practice she claims is typical in Russia. Her father, with a proclivity for classic rock, played albums by Queen and Pink Floyd in their family’s home.
It was jazz vocalists, however, who had a heavy influence in Kochkareva’s style – chanteuses Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
Kochkareva migrated to the United States from Moscow in 2003 to study Jazz at the University of Miami. Upon graduating in 2007, she moved to New York City to advance her music career.
To make extra money, Kochkareva gives private music lessons to people in the Astoria area.
She enjoys encouraging what she feels is an emerging Queens music scene in the borough’s northwestern neighborhoods– the feisty little sister to Brooklyn’s Bedford and Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The talent is here, she feels. The venues aren’t.
Over the past few months, Kochkareva has been writing and recording her newest album, called Infinity. Its songs are powerful–her haunting alto voice at the forefront, surrounded by pounding piano melodies.
“I felt that with every song musically, the meaning is life and different situations,” said Kochkareva. “Human life, it has a cyclical pattern. It just felt like something infinite.”
“Don’t Dim the Lights” an edgy-electronic track, is her favorite. The song gave her a chance to experiment with harp, piano and synthetic recording elements. Recorded with and produced at GaluminumFoil by Jeff Berner, a friend of Kochkareva’s, she likes the song’s “less straight forward” sound and lyrics:
Don’t dim the lights
There’s no need to hide
What you’ve become
There’s no more place for lies in your heart
“It was an exciting experience to work on this song because it’s different than anything I’ve worked on before,” said Kochkareva. “It’s a dark piece. It takes you through the depths of the darkness.”
Kochkareva’s songwriting spawns from an overwhelming feeling into an idea, forgoing rationale and theory.
The process is quick, capturing a fleeting feeling that can be lost easily. If it takes her more than a certain amount of time to write a song, she knows it’s not going to be good.
“It’s like riding a wave,” she says. “You just go with it.”
Kochkareva plans to host an album release party for Infinity on April 19, the day it debuts, at The Living Room, located at 154 Ludlow Street in Manhattan.
For her Battle of the Boroughs audition, Kochkareva submitted “Downville Town,” a song from Infinity to WNYC. Marking the date she expected to hear back about the competition on the calendar, she waited anxiously. The date passed with no word. Disappointed, she thought she didn’t make it.
The phone call that came a few days later was a huge surprise. It was another move towards her musical “infinity.”
Kochkareva, along with ten other musicians from Queens, will compete in the borough’s segment of Battle of the Boroughs, taking place at The Greene Space, located at 44 Charlton Street in Manhattan, on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. Regular entry is $15 or $30 for open-bar tickets. For more information, please visit www.thegreenespace.org/battle2012.