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Teachers and/or influences? Life. Living in the French Quarter when I was small and hearing jazz and blues all around me in the fifties. I have had many influences from my dad to John Lennon and the Beatles, and Barbara Streisand to Peggy Lee, Julie London, Dinah Washington, and Cab Calloway to mention just a very few.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I sang "Shrimp Boats" on a bar in the French Quarter (Louisiana) and came out with my petticoat full of money as a baby under three.
Your sound and approach to music: I don't try to sing the song. I find too much ego gets in the way. I want the music to speak to me of its motives and needs. I try to let the song use me to invest itself with a life of its own. I am the instrument the music plays.
Your teaching approach: As above. I try to help singers to divest themselves of the need to control what is going on and instead allow the music to flow from them in its own unique way. I endeavor to engage them in discovering a unique style beyond their thoughts of technique, blending their own individual strengths with songs that can bridge the gap between their expectations and their ability to discover nuance and dynamics beyond what they thought they could achieve.
Your dream band: How can one limit oneself to one when there are so many I would love to have a chance to work with. So many have passed on. I would have loved to have worked with Cab Calloway. His sense of fun and his style were charming.
Anecdote from the road: One day I was standing on a corner behind Spice waiting for the rest of the band and Wizzard to do a gig there. I had all my costume pieces with me and was in a blue jean outfit. A really nice car kept coming around the corner several times and slowed down in front of me, then went around the corner again. I noticed that the car was very expensive and the man driving it was very attractive, but other than that, I just wanted to get to the dressing room to change before the show. The next time the car came around, I saw it coming and thought to myself how odd that it should keep circling, when it pulled up in front of me and the man rolled down the window and asked me how much I charged. I burst out laughing, I was so shocked and surprised. I can't imagine what he must have thought. I mean I was also on another level, kind of flattered, but I looked at him through my tears of laughter and said, "I am so sorry, but I am a singer waiting for my band for a gig at Spice." He apologized profusely, but I certainly will never forget the day I was mistaken for a prostitute and propositioned while waiting for my band behind Spice.
Favorite venue: We really enjoyed playing Roxy every time we were there. Spice would get a bit too rowdy for our tastes.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My favorite recording on Goodnight Train is "Cool Water." It was a collaboration between Nick [Robertson, partner and fiancee] and me, and I was able to write the lyrics for the song he wrote.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? Just a perspective unique to me, I guess. My voice, my thoughts, something of a gentler nature.
Did you know... Nicolas died in my arms. My world changed forever. I changed forever. But I have more faith in the existence of an afterlife now than I ever had before. Nicolas gave that to me as his last act.
How do you use the internet to help your career? I haven't used it too much yet. It has taken me a while to get back to the music. I was devastated by Nick's death and couldn't do anything for a long time.
Desert Island picks: AKA, Goodnight Train (SonofaBeat Music).
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.