Interview with Bay Area blues singer supreme, Tia Carroll – from the heart with passion, emotion, and warmth. Tia’s new album YOU GOTTA HAVE IT! is her first stateside studio recording of strong original blues and soul, and interesting well-chosen covers.
How has the Blues and Gospel music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
That is quite a question and I’m really glad you asked. Gospel music gives me hope and makes me feel protected and safe. Gospel music lets me know that God is always with me, no matter what I may be going through so that means He is with us no matter what the world is going through. It’s a powerful music that makes it’s way through almost all of the genres of music in one way or another. It cannot be denied, nor can it be held in any box that can be checked off on an application for a loan. Gospel music is fair and just and that is because of who it ultimately represents and not who represents it. So, my views of the world as far as gospel music goes it bright and loving.
Blues music is underrepresented by its lineage. Where and why blues started is a long but well-known story. The journey that the blues has taken is a wild and crazy, sometimes tragic ride. It almost mirrors inequality and that is a hard thing to have to say and hear. I feel like the blues is shrinking and it is my job as well as others like me to help keep it’s shape. We have to work together to preserve cultures and traditions and many have forgotten that or forgotten how to do it. My views of the world as it pertains to blues music…We have work to do.
Currently you’ve been working with Little Village’s Jim Pugh. How did that relationship come about?
I always heard Jim’s name mentioned over the years and then we played on some shows over recent years however we never really had time to stop long enough to say more than “hey!” and “ok, see ya later”. We were always on stage or on our way in or out. A good problem to have but not so great for socializing. It is an absolute pleasure working with Jim on this project. He has great insight and a feel for the music, yet I am free to do my thing. You can’t ask for more than that.
How do you describe “You Gotta Have It” sound and songbook? What touched you from the album’s sessions?
Most of all I was so excited to see my original songs come to life. The musicians were so caring to keep the original feel and then enhance the sound. Laying down guitar, bass, keys and piano all being kept tight with the beat and we just went for it. Most of the songs were one or two takes in the studio, it was like magic! It was however strange that as we came together to listen to what we had done we can’t really see each other’s faces as we are all masked up. That of course is a memory that may very well stay current and into our futures.
What do you love most about the live performance? What do you think is key to an exciting live show?
I love to sing, and I love to connect with the audience. As you give energy you also get some back from the listeners. Music evokes emotions and delivery of that musical note, vocal note lyric or drumbeat can spark a memory that leads to an emotion. Good or bad we are connecting with one another and I love that about live performances. People like to see interaction on stage, so I think movement makes an exciting show, live or prerecorded.
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?
The most important are the meetings with the musicians. I have been blessed to meet some of the most talented musicians and honored to play on the same stage with them. Here in the states, South America, Mexico and Europe I have been invited into homes and family dinners and made to feel welcome.
Are there any memories from Sugar Pie DeSanto which you’d like to share with us?
Oh, that woman is a treasure chest of wisdom and knowledge. Traveling with Jimmy McCracklin and Sugar Pie for a tour in Italy a few years back, I will never forget how I watched Sugar just pick up the entire audience and then place them right in the palm of her hand. All eyes on Sugar.
What would you say characterizes Bay Area blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes?
People say we are just too happy here in California to have the blues, West Coast Blues is a thing people, it is a thing. We may be living here in the beautiful Bay Area however, some of our parents were born in the South or on the East Coast and as kids were influenced by our parent’s music and what was playing on the radio. There is a wide range of “Blues” here in this Bay Area.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Be Patient! Be Patient! Be Patient! If you are in it for the money, get out! Sing, write or play because you love it. Negotiate, don’t compromise. Compromise don’t negotiate.
What is the impact of Blues on the racial and socio-cultural implications? How do you want to affect people?
The blues are under represented by the bloodline they came from and that makes the blues misunderstood and not viewed as a powerful tool to promote change. We have work to do to if we want to be seen as movers and shakers in the music industry. Movers and shakers have resources to get things done outside of the music industry. The movers and shakers in the blues are a small pool so that means somebody has to reach out and pull the next one up until we are seen as a larger segment of voices with plenty of fans with voices. It’s not all about the numbers but is about the number of voices that can be loud enough to be heard by the folks who make the rules. I want people to hear the name Tia Carroll and instantly think about kindness and love and laughter and even a little sadness. When people hear me sing the words to the songs it will cause one of those emotions to pop up and hopefully bring some joy.
Interview by Michael Limnios / Photos by Kief Savage
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