Hello VENTS MAGAZINE! Thank you for having me! I’m very well. I just got back from Asia three weeks ago, and now I’m currently promoting my music in the U.S.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Sugar Shack?”
My producer Bobby Braddock and I wanted to make a compendium of blues songs encompassing genres of blues, soul, rock, jazz, and a little country. Bobby had an idea to make “The Sugar Shack” a disco! The demo was definitely bluesy. Then Bobby arranged all the strings and other instrumentation into a disco version. Before my team and I knew it, we were on the dance charts! So fortunate it went to dance clubs in 65 countries, and we charted on Billboard and Music Week U.K. It was a completely unexpected, but a wonderful surprise
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
The writers of the song are Beth Hart and James House. They are both great artists and songwriters. When my production assistant sent the song to us, I was drawn to the way the demo sounded. I fell in love with the dance mixes from DJ’s, too. DJ’s like Tracy Young, Dirty Disco, Angel Manuel, Rick Cross, and many more gave it a lot of love.
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
It was great fun filming in the Los Angeles area. We were in 3 different areas of LA for three days with a young, wonderful director named Miles Alva and with a crew of great actors. I even had a stunt double on a motorcycle.
The single comes off your new album Velvet & Steel – what’s the story behind the title?
The album title Velvet and Steel comes from a line in the opening song “A Strong Woman.” Bobby [Braddock] wrote this song for the album when he and I were talking about songs. I suggested that I was not looking for victim songs. He said, “I have an idea!” Two days later he sent me “A Strong Woman.” The line in the song seemed perfect for me and the album title.
How was the recording and writing process?
We instantly went into song-searching mode. Nashville is a vast songwriting community with millions of songs in its publishing belly. Bobby has been a writer with Sony Music Publishing for many years, and we both are so familiar with the songs that come out of this town. We literally had Nashville gold at our fingertips and being able to ask for songs. I think we went through over 1000-1500 songs in the search for the album. The recording process was amazing. The two and a half weeks in the studio at Sony Music Studios in Nashville was a dream.
What was it like to work with Bobby Braddock and how did that relationship develop?
I met Bobby about eight months after I moved to Nashville in 1991. I was working as a receptionist in a publishing company that housed a few producer publishers when Bobby came in for an appointment to meet another producer there. He asked me why I came to Nashville, and I told him I was a singer. He then said, “Well, drop a tape by Sony Tree Publishing and I’ll have a listen.
The next day I, of course, did take by my demo tape to Sony that I had previously recorded in Wichita.
About two weeks later, he called me up and said that he had heard my tape and really liked my voice and thought he could use me on some demos, which led to a development deal at Sony Publishing and Sony Records. Fast forward 18 years when I was in Asia working/performing with my business partners in Thailand. I was contemplating an album, and who do I call 9,000 miles away — Bobby!
Bobby is a perfectionist and genius when it comes to music — every word, every note is carefully thought about and intentional. He is a sweet, warm, wickedly funny genius. I’m very careful as to not encroach upon his creativity, but he is so open to ideas, too. He treated me as his equal in the studio. It was really a creative wonderful scene.
How much did he get to influence the album?
He wanted the album to be a concept album. He was effusive in ideas and songs that would fit my vocal style. When we finally decided upon the song list, he went to work on the arrangements, the exact musicians he wanted to use, and he had it produced and sequenced entirely in his head.
You also got to work with the likes of Chris Stapleton – what was that experience like?
Chris Stapleton has been successful in Nashville for a while now in the Nashville Music Community. He is a great musician, writer and he was in the band The Steel Drivers before he hit it big as a solo artist. We luckily had booked Chris a couple of months before the recording date and during that time he was blowing up as a superstar. I think the night before we recorded vocals on “The Cure,” he was on Jimmy Kimmel or something like that in NYC. We expected him to be tired, which if he was, he didn’t show it. He came in with his iced tea and said he loved the track Bobby had produced. Chris co-wrote “The Cure” and also put his vocals down with me on the track. I think our vocals work well together.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?
When you are collaborating it’s so important to listen and visualize what the other person is emoting all the while exchanging your ideas. Working alone, I tend to get tunnel vision. I am a take-charge person, but when you are collaborating, it’s a teaming of love and ideas. I love working as a creator and having other creators giving you their take. I’ve really enjoyed this whole process with this record. But as you know, there are so many different facets of the music business. It would be impossible to do it all yourself. It’s very much a big team effort where everyone has amazing passion and talent.
How has your time travelling and getting to meet all these different cultures have influence you as an artist?
When we first moved to China it was both challenging and fascinating. I had travelled Europe and Mexico and Central America before we moved, but when you physically transplant yourself in another country, it’s visceral and for me life changing. I was able to see the history that we have been taught from a different perspective. For instance, the cultural revolution in China left a huge impact to the netizens of China and their art reflects it. Even the young artists today in China, the revolution is still present in their creations and in their families. Jazz as a genre was outlawed until 1952 through 1976. It was called capitalist bourgeois decadence. Therefore, when we would go to the jazz rooms, it was relatively a new art form and was so fresh. This started opening my eyes to what other countries experience and reach for, as well as how they are governed, their passions, their losses, and their love of music. I like this quote: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
Every time we come home my eyes have had a new perspective. I wouldn’t trade what I’ve seen and learned, and I carry it with me always.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
This album conception was a journey through the trials and joys of my life and experiences along the way.
Any plans to hit the road?
That is what we are doing now. We have gotten the word out about the album and now we are bringing it live. The response has been phenomenal. I just played a fun show in New York City with some all-star musicians.
What else is happening next in Tami’s world?
Travel and song – that’s what happening next. Velvet and Steel has sold in 65 countries, and we are looking forward to bringing it live to all of those places. Our family’s calendar is pretty interesting when we put it together because we are just all over the place. It’s always a fun challenge to figure out how we are going to gather. It’s so joyous with many stories to be told when we do!