Written by: Communications Intern Emma Rubin
One of the first songs Tasha Golden ever wrote was to the beat of Row your Boat and was about how fun reading is. As the front woman for the band Ellery, she has written countless songs since then which can be heard in movies, TV shows, and on the radio. Still, the literary themed tune that won her a first grade contest marks a passion for music and songwriting that she has had all of her life.
“I don’t think I ever thought of it as being a hobby, I just was like I guess this is what I’ll be doing with my life,” Golden says.
Golden’s father was a pastor and she and her three sisters were all required to take piano lessons to play hymns for church. As her piano skills developed, she eventually devoted her lessons to studying and playing pop music. And throughout her childhood in a relatively musical family, songwriting was a constant.
“I was always writing songs as a way to be able talk about things that mattered to me in a way that I felt like people listened,” she says.
Golden pursued an undergraduate degree in music composition, and while in college, Ellery was formed. The band is a duo made up of Golden and her life partner, Justin Golden.
The band formed in an almost organic way. Golden often found herself unable to perform at venues without a piano available and had no keyboard she could bring with her. As Justin played guitar, a more portable instrument, the acoustic sounds became a natural pairing for Golden’s voice. Overtime, Ellery continued to grow, fulfilling the aspirations Golden had imagined since she was young.
While Golden’s songwriting and singing career has helped her earn notoriety, her work in the arts has expanded past the music scene. Golden pursued a master’s degree in poetry from Miami University, partially as a way to refine her songwriting craft. However, as she drafted poems she noticed common themes which naturally formed a collection.
In 2015, Golden’s book of poetry Once You had Hands was published, and in 2016 it was nominated for the Ohioana Book Award. The collection draws upon her conservative upbringing as well as stories of domestic violence.
Golden admits that when she was writing the poems she never thought they would be seen by anyone else. “It felt very private in a way my songs hadn’t. That book has felt the most terrifying to publish,” Golden states.
Despite Golden’s fear of publishing such personal writings, she found many readers connected with her through shared experiences. “The wonderful thing about putting your story out there is you typically get the chance to see it’s not so anomalous,” she says.
As Golden returned to songwriting, she realized she had been censoring herself without even knowing it. Her work in poetry pushed her to not be afraid to write and sing about certain topics and her feelings felt more open.
Still even before her book of poetry, her songs have always dealt with some more serious themes like You Did Everything Right (2008).
“I put out this song that was about my family’s history of domestic violence and realized overtime that no matter where we were in the world that was the song people wanted to stay after and talk about,” she says.
Fans shared their own stories of domestic violence with Golden, and for some, she was the first person they ever told. Much like the reaction her book would provoke years later, she found this song allowed people to connect with her through shared experiences.
Both her poetry and songwriting led her to the research she is currently pursuing, the intersections of public health and the arts.
“How many people are suffering because they cannot talk about something? But suddenly when there is art they can talk about it,” Golden thought, “There must be a link between access to the arts and the ability to be healthy.”
Golden’s dissertation at the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences researches this topic, specifically, “[. . .] how creative writing and the arts amplify and clarify voices, assets, and issues that are ignored or obscured by traditional methods of research, policy advocacy, and needs assessment,” as stated on her website.
The subject of her research is also directly related to Project Uncaged, an initiative of Golden’s in which she leads trauma informed writing workshops for incarcerated girls 11-17 years old.
“Nobody knows more about what they need than they do. So, if there are not ways to hear from them or to give them influence over their own situations, we are all missing out,” Golden says.
In addition to the importance of providing arts programming to youth, Golden also emphasizes studies which suggest the therapeutic effects of expressive writing. She’s worked with juvenile detention centers across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana and hopes to expand the program to include other artistic forms as well.
“[The] girls seem to thrive more and come alive when you just give them a chance to create something,” she says.
“There is something that is really healthy, for all of us, in the ways we can create,” Golden says, “When you deny the population that, there are repercussions.”
One Day I’ll Rise Book Launch Event
Interested in learning more about Project Uncaged? Don’t miss the official launch of the One Day I’ll Rise anthology featuring poems from the project this Sunday, October 21 at Odeon Louisville. The event includes readings from the book by influential Louisville musicians and artists. Learn more by clicking here.
Project Uncaged partners with Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 Grantee Sarabande Books Writing Labs and the University of Louisville.