Take Five With Tracy Mothershed

Tracy Mothershed BY

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Meet Tracy Mothershed:
I use to listen to my mother play the piano and try to follow her... I would listen to my Grandmother sing and Grandparents dance. My uncle Douglas and I would sing and sing... play records and I would pretend to have a microphone and be a famous jazz singer.

I was incredibly shy but I was always singing. i would put on shows with my sister in front of the view-finder that would create a spotlight and we would sing.

I dreamed of living in NYC and being a jazz singer and now—I am grateful for every moment that I am able to sing and touch a spirit.

I went to school for music but my real education came in the form of moving to NYC and even now I'm learning and growing as I travel more and meet different musicians from around the globe. I'm grateful to be an artist and pray to be and do more, learn more and grow more...


Teachers and/or influences?
My Grandmother and Mother are my musical influences ~ Grammie sang with a style and soul unique and sassy! She is the voice I hear in my head and who would say "You might want to learn this... or that."

My cousin Roland Carter whose musicianship and brilliant gifts continue to show by example

Robert Ransom, my mentor, teacher and adopted father figure continues to advise and support.

Weldon Irvine showed me the way through and continues to be in my heart. I'm forever grateful to him and Larry Willis who believed in my talent and gave me courage to be a jazz vocalist.

Derrick & Vincent Gardner, my brothers from a great Mother & Father who continue to love, support, teach, guide and encourage me! Of course there are those whose shoulders I stand upon, Billie, Sarah, Ella, Dinah, Dakota, Mr. B, Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams, Jimmy Rushing, Ernestine Anderson, Abbey Lincoln, etc. Dizzy, Coltrane, Bird, Johnny Hodges, Coleman Hawkins, Clifford Brown, Milt Hinton, Ben Riley, Ray Drummond, Kenny Barron... it can go on forever.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
I was seven years old and proclaimed to my Mother, I wanted to be a jazz singer and go to Hampton Institute!

Your sound and approach to music:
My sound is warm—I'm not a belter. I try to visualize in the form of pictures, how I want to approach the sound. My tones are round and range is an alto with the ability to sing in the soprano range.

Your teaching approach:
I have had both good and bad teachers and I try to approach a student first finding out what they want to accomplish, what is their approach to singing and then go from there with breathing, placement, tone, support, and tools that will support their goals and objectives.

Your dream band:
Alain Jean-Marie, Alvin Queen, Gerald Cannon, James Genus Ben Riley, Kenny Barron, Ray Drummond Derrick Gardner, Carlos Henriquez, Dado Moroni, Ali Jackson, Sherman Irby, Vincent Gardner, Lou Volpe, Gary Fritz, Buddy Williams, Larry Willis, Elio et Boulou Ferre, Olivier Gatto, Camélia Ben Naceur.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:
I had been in NYC for about a year and would buy pictures of musicians that I loved... I had just purchased a photo of Ray Brown from this shop I loved in the Village. I was walking across from the Blue Note with my new photo and ran right into Ray Brown. I asked him to sign for me and he made a joke about how did I know who he was there... he signed it with a great deal of humor and kindness... and I gave the photo to a dear friend who is a great bassist!

I was sitting in at a jam session at the Blue Note and Jimmy Scott was in the house. He had refused to sing (without being paid)... I had had problems with some musicians who refused to play with me. Gerald Cannon and David Hazeltine bailed me out and played with me... Gerald feeling sorry for me and was a hero to me that night. I sang "Embraceable You" and the next thing I know Jimmy Scott was asking to shadow me.... "Me!" I was prepared to give him the mike and he said "No, I want to shadow you" Which he did... at the end of the song, we kissed. It was the music!!! The music... it was a dream... one of my best experiences!

Favorite venue:
Every venue is my favorite -I get to be in the moment. I've never been ill treated... If I had to give a favorite though maybe the Half Note in Greece or Altxerri Jazz Bar, in San Sebastian, Spain.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?
Well, I'm about to record my debut album so I'll get back to you on this one!

The first Jazz album I bought was:
Billie Holiday, Don't remember the title of the album... it had Strange Fruit, Don't Explain... You've Changed...

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
Hopefully, love, joy and romance... to make the person's spirit sing, smile, kiss, laugh... all of the positive emotions that can reach a person. That would be the most important thing ever and what I strive for every time I open my mouth and heart.

Did you know...
I love all kinds of music -from classical, R&B, Soul, Country, Rock, Folk... but my hear is always with Jazz!

Desert Island picks:
1. Sarah Vaughan, At Mr. Kelly's (Verve Records)
Billie Holiday, Lady in Autumn: The Best of the Verve Years (Verve Records)
Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane, Johnny Hartman & John Coltane (Impulse Records)
Roberta Flack, Chapter Two (Atlantic Records)
Earth, Wind & Fire, All N All

How would you describe the state of jazz today?
It's around and thriving... there is really wonderful talent in every corner of the world. I wish it did not have the stigma of being "elite or high-brow" but rather human—for every human! It was created out of the most human of emotions and should still strive to reach that and be played with that in the heart of both the musician (not just a gig) and the audience (dance, sing be apart of the music).

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Play without fear, without compromise and with heart, joy, humor, and soul! Know the past of the music and nurture the future. Teach even if it is by example... don't be selfish as a musician and you don't know it all... always learn, grow, listen and be in the midst... I think if that happens the music will live and grow forever.

What is in the near future?
I'm working on my debut album which is a dedication to the people who have influenced me the most. My grandmother, grandfather, and mother... along with other family members and friends.

I'm playing with Alain Jean-Marie, which has been a long time dream of mine. It's with piano and voice. I want it to sound intimate and go back to the origins of music for me. I use to play with Weldon and the love of piano and voice is magical.

What's your greatest fear when you perform?
That I won't touch the audience's heart but mostly God's heart! I aim to make God, my Grandmother, Grandfather and Mother proud!

Technically, that I won't sound good or entertain... but Grammie always said to embrace my fear (which is always when I step out on stage). She said "If you're not nervous you don't want to do your best... so nerves are good."

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Lush Life, Corcovado, Dreamer... but I want people to laugh, dance and sing... not really a funeral but a celebration!

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?
It changes... not one but several... make up songs, Dreamer, I'm Glad There Is You, September Song, I'll String Along With You...

By Day:
I work at Sports Illustrated three days a week.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
I really don't know! A writer... maybe an interior designer?? I wouldn't be happy!

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