Tanya Donelly: Piloting Musical Journeys

Tanya donelly

Tanya donelly

Tanya Donelly is one of the sweetest and nicest people you’d ever meet. Plus, she makes some pretty beautiful music to boot.

I first met Tanya on the street outside of The Paradise in Boston the summer of 1989. I was loitering a bit. Throwing Muses were playing that night but the show was 21+ and I was two years too young. I had a futile wish I could somehow get in because I didn’t care about drinking, only seeing my favorite band. After that first meeting, Tanya always recognized me at Throwing Muses shows, always said hi and was always nice. This was long before we actually became friends and it was always nice to be remembered.

I loved Tanya’s Muses songs back then. Still do. I loved the sweet contrast to Kristin’s intensity. If I tried to pick a favorite from that early Throwing Muses era I’d end up picking all of them. I like reflecting on those early days, about what those songs meant to me then and what they mean to me now. To think about how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve grown, all of us collectively: the musicians, the fans. Those early songs still resonate with me, if not stronger than before. That’s a powerful thing, not all music can do that.

1990-1991 turned out to be a transitionary period. I saw a Throwing Muses show, again at The Paradise, with no drinking age restrictions this time. Tanya debuted this new song called “Full Moon, Empty Heart.” I will never forget that feeling of being blown away by that amazing transition from the quiet solo start to when the band kicks in. I loved this song so much. My anticipation for this new Throwing Muses song was great. Luckily, this show was recorded and you can hear it, too, on Archive.org: https://archive.org/details/ThrowingMuses1990-03-01

Fast forward to a year later and Tanya was leaving Throwing Muses. This was so unfathomable and sad for me back then, I didn’t know what would happen to my favorite band. I traveled to NYC to see her last show. I had to be there. I was there for Leslie’s (Leslie Langston: bass (1984–90) last show, I sure wasn’t missing Tanya’s. I wondered what would become of that amazing song I heard the year before and I did a thing I’ve never done before and haven’t since: I yelled for a song. I was up front on Tanya’s side of the stage and yelled, “FULL MOON!” as she was walking back to adjust her amp between songs. She whipped around and said, “How do you know that???” not knowing it was me who had said it. I still didn’t know her well back then and I don’t think I ever fessed up to it, either. Anyway, they didn’t play it that night and I wondered if I’d ever hear it again.

Thankfully Belly happened and “Full Moon, Empty Heart” was reborn as a Belly song. (Oh, I was so happy) I think in retrospect, Tanya leaving Throwing Muses was a good thing. There is a certain magic between Tanya and Kristin that can’t be duplicated elsewhere but I also think their singular magic exists perfectly on their own as well. And as evidenced in the recent Throwing Muses shows in support of ‘Purgatory/Paradise,’ the magic can still happen.

I don’t even know where to start upon Tanya’s solo career. It’s taken on so many different “flavors,” so to speak. Each speak to me differently and hit a different part of my heart, a different mood. And if I tried to expand on it this would be filed under the “too long, didn’t read” heading. It’s been a wonderful musical journey for me through all these years, to say the least.

Recently, with Tanya’s ‘Swan Song Series,’ I think she’s been releasing some of the best music to date. And that is definitely not to discount anything previous, no way. Some of those swan songs have become some of my all-time favorite songs – like “Salt,” which according to iTunes is the most-played song I own. I’m so glad Tanya’s musical journey has so closely matched my life journey and her work continues to resonate with me today. I’m happy, too, that she’s continuing to work on more material, because I know I’ll never tire of it.


  1. Thank you for writing this. It captures so much of what I feel about the Muses and Tanya’s career – so well put.