Interview with Joanna Connor: I wish for humans a pause before dismissing any music at first hearing: Video, Photos

Interview with singer Joanna Connor Best of Virginia & The Slims, a classic Jump Blues n’ Swing group based in North Carolina.

How has the Swing, Jump n’ Blues music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Discovering jump blues, for me, was like finding a missing link. I can sing at a gig in vintage 20s attire, appeal to deep thinking musicians, wow the tapping foot or the fanciest of dancing, with wailing guitars and sexy saxophone lines. It covers the bases. It honors voodoo, societal structures here and gone and invites smiling. From there you just meet more and more musicians; it’s a gateway.

How do you describe Virginia & The Slims sound and songbook? What do you love most working with the band?

Virginia and the Slims grounds itself in swing, blues and jump blues while going places. Our original songs honor the genre of jump blues, but laud creativity and collaboration, which are the best parts.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

We certainly have a good time; we are not prone to drama, and everybody works hard. We had an enjoyable tour to the east coast of NC (we headquarter in the mountains of western NC) and we left a dog bark in one of our recordings that slipped in by mistake. We also seek out cemeteries for our photo shoots.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I liked my musical pursuits more before videos; but my experience is only 48 years long. I remember gazing only at one photo on an album cover as I listened to hours of music as I child and I liked that. I think my ears and mind were more engaged before my eyes were invited to the party. In fact, I don’t watch videos of myself, typically, until about six months after they come about. Then again, I loved MTV and I do value film in the circulation of music.

What would you say characterizes the North Carolina music scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits?

Good, bad or indifferent NC has at its roots a southern, Bible belt foundation. Ante-bellum rural life with king cotton, post-bellum industry based on tobacco and 21st century everything else make it at least diverse and at most pretty active musically across the state (which is 500 miles long).

What is to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Marilyn Monroe supposedly said, “I don’t mind it being a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it;” and I suppose my experience with music is the same way. Without presuming everyone understands gender the same, I very much identify with the fact that I am a light, lyric soprano. Despite the versatility of my voice (based on my various pursuits and wide interests in music), I remain a woman whose vocal range is undoubtedly feminine and who enjoys dresses and high heels and bling and theatrical compliments, in a traditional way, aside from those tangible aspects, I gravitate towards male musicians who respect that I have formal music training and the soul to pour my heart into my art.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I wish for humans a pause before dismissing any music at first hearing.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

I’ve coined my own phrase when it comes to musical paths: what is noble in making music is making music. Music is like eating. It’s never wrong to eat. Some folks will covet certain music more than others, and as with cooking certain universal truths relating to physics and aesthetics will prevail, but the quality is always personal, for listener and for performer.

What is the impact of the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I have sought to learn all I can as I go through my musical life; music is no doubt shaped by socio-cultural factors and understanding that is part of being educated. I have challenged any notion that any other person should or would tell me (or anyone) what kind of music I can or should do. Of course, the sensory experience of listening to music is also the choice of the hearer, so it’s a two-sided coin. It’s always a quest. I want people to connect with being alive when they encounter music. I value the serendipity of when it is my music that helps them connect with life that way.

Interview by Michael Limnios

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Interview with Lady A: I miss the different influences of blues: Video, Photos

Interview with Seattle-based diva Lady A, known as the “Hardest Workin’ Woman in Blues, Soul, Funk & Gospel”.

How has the American music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My personal view as a Black woman, Songwriter, Producer and Entertainer in America is we still have a long way to go and that’s unfortunate; however, keeps me rooted in my passion to spread a message of hope and encouragement through my music because although slow the change may be, I constantly see a shift as I live my truth in my many communities. Whether it be neighborhood, church, work, music or activism communities; the journey leads to a better destination. So, I keep moving towards that mark.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

My sound is eclectic – when I write it comes from my roots in gospel, blues, soul and jazz influences. The music is ever evolving as I work with some of the best musicians and bandmates in Seattle and we all kick in; my music philosophy is to keep sharing, as I am blessed to bless others with hope, music to dance, laugh and remind us of love; whether self-love and/or the love for others. I create out of the circumstance I’m living or going through at the time. I’m not an artist who writes everyday… (I know that’s awful I’m told… LOL) However, it works for me… I write what I see and feel coming from where I am and how it affects me and/or the people around me.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My being able to meet my idol, and now friend and mentor, Bobby Rush is the most cherished meeting of my life. Meeting Denise LaSalle whose songs I began singing when I started singing blues. Best advise came from my friend Bobby Rush – always take care of myself as a woman in this industry and know my worth.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

WOW… where do I start. I cherish memories with my band members, they are a cast of characters, and we are family and laugh a lot together during rehearsals, and before a gig. I remember when I opened for Denise LaSalle back in the early 90’s in Seattle – I sang her song “Real Sad Story” and the manager of the Esquire Club came to take me back to meet her (this was the first meeting) and I couldn’t say a word. She told me I did a great job, I nodded and went away. The next time I met her was at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, when my Mississippi producer, Dexter Allen re-introduced me to her and I reminded her of that story.. she laughed, hugged me and sat and talked with me for a good while. I cried (of course after I walked away) I was so happy. I will never forget that.. may she Rest in Peace. Her music was a big influence on me.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the different influences of blues being played on radio stations from the past. I love Muddy Waters, Pinetop Perkins, Keb Mo’s, Taj Mahal, however, I still want to hear the Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, Nina Simone’s thrown in – My hope is to be able to touch 1 persons life at a time through music. If I reach more, I’m happy. My fears.? Fears come and go… I try to be cautious and not afraid.

What does to be a female artist in a Man’s World as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

Knowing your worth is important in this industry that is largely run by men; then adding tax. That’s one of my motto’s. The Status of women I believe is that the Future is Female. I see women coming together, networking and encouraging one another as we continue to level up in Blues, Soul and Jazz. I belong to a network of women who gather together since Covid and have been a tremendous support system and networking community. Women are “Comin for it”

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

To keep God first in my journey because even if the destination changes the outcome is for my good. To continue to be kind to people along the way because everyone is not where I am and I was once where they are. To be honest living in my truth about what’s happening in this world and not let it deter me from my goals and my obligation to help others.

What is the impact of Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?

Blues came out of a time of Muddy Waters, Rev. CL Franklin who came from the south, so the whoopin style of preaching and Blues came out of pain. Historically those folks were living the blues, which came out of slavery… like Bobby Rush with his Rawer than Raw CD, with him and a guitar telling stories in truth. The Blues is our way to express ourselves, and out of the call and response and field hollers of gospel transitioned into the pain of most blues songs.

How do I want to affect people: As I’ve said… I want people to walk away from my show different than when they arrived. I want a story I’ve told thru song or something I’ve said resonate with them so they can stay encouraged when they listen to me sing “Satisfyin” or “Brighter Day”, that they understand the importance of loving yourself when I sing “Big Momma” or remember the soul of the blues when I sing about “Miss Buela Mae’s”

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to travel with my band Anywhere there are people; there is no more fear of Covid and spend an entire day with audiences and musicians I love and admire just playing music and talking. Because it’s about the people you meet along this journey, the place is where you are.

Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Dawn Lucrisia-Johnson

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All images & transcripts are of Fair Use and copyright to their respected & collective owners. Some images copyright AP, Clipart.com.