Motherhood prompted Tashara Forrest to reboot her career and go from backing vocalist with the likes of Soul II Soul to multi-tasking business woman.
A few years back Tashara Forrest made the tough decision to quit her job as a backing vocalist with Soul II Soul.
She was a new mum struggling to reconcile the demands of international touring with a young family and knew it was time to move on.
But moving on most definitely didn’t mean slowing down. If anything, she stepped it up a gear, proving herself to be one almighty multi-tasker.
These days she has several irons in the fire. Tashara has two tribute shows (a Whitney Houston one and a soul/Motown/disco one), performs her own original music, and runs her own music collective Sleeke Entertainment.
“I know what I do isn’t for everyone,” Tashara says from her South London home. “But for me, this is what works. I can sing, so I sing as much as I can. It’s exciting to have so much going on.”
It’s Tashara’s work as founder and head of Sleeke that consumes much of her energy. The collective provides live music for corporate gigs, weddings, parties and festivals and has a repertoire that includes Motown, soul, disco, jazz, R&B and pop.
Sleeke can provide anything from a solo artist up to an 11-piece function band and Tashara – who worked in HR, recruitment and as a careers counsellor before becoming a pro singer – keeps the show on the road. As well as often providing the lead vocals, she sorts the bookings, contracts, choreography, costumes, harmonies and advertising.
“When I set this up, I didn’t realise how much admin and organisation would be involved,” she says. “But I just get on and do it. It’s very fulfilling. This challenges me. I’m never bored.”
Tashara grew up surrounded by music. Her dad was a professional musician, her mother was a dancer and Tashara always sang in church (she says it’s where she learnt to harmonise, blend and sing solos). But initially she shied away from a performing career.
The prestigious Brit School offered her a place, but she opted for the academic route instead. Later Tashara worked in HR and as a counsellor in secondary schools, singing at friends’ weddings and birthdays on the side.
“People would always ask if I was a pro. I heard it so many times I thought I should do something about it.”
When Tashara was made redundant, she saw her opportunity and seized it. (Her mother, who had passed away shortly beforehand, had always encouraged her to pursue singing.)
Tashara enrolled on an artist development course: “I was really shy and needed time to focus on and develop my craft.”
She then put her music online and received an invite to audition for a role as a backing vocalist.
“Then I found out it was for Soul II Soul and I thought ‘oh my goodness, of course I want to audition’,” Tashara says.
She started “depping” with Soul II Soul and was later asked to do BVs on a permanent basis.
It was a big step up for the relative newcomer, but she relished the challenge. Her confidence grew, and she later worked with the likes of James Arthur and Paloma Faith. Things changed however when Tashara had her son, who is now four.
“I realised that I needed to be more in control of my own schedule and be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to things depending on what was going on in my life,” she says.
Hence Sleeke and her two tribute shows were born. (Houston is a massive influence, obviously, as is Mariah Carey.)
What’s striking about Tashara is her passion for singing is matched by unswerving tenacity. She says she never takes “no” for an answer and proactively markets herself and Sleeke by advertising on Facebook, Instagram and google ads, and attending wedding fairs.
“I challenge myself to get a certain number of gigs,” she explains. “I have a six-month target and break it down into monthly segments. I plant a lot of seeds and wait and see what blooms.”
Tashara’s advice to anyone looking to build a career in the business is simple: get out there and do it.
“It’s never too late. I came to it later in life, but I feel like everything I had done beforehand prepared me for what I do now.
“You just have to do it. Kick some doors down.” Letting out a huge laugh, she adds: “And I mean karate kick them down.”