When Shana Tucker is singing and playing her music, it’s a heady blend. Tucker calls her music “chamber soul.” It’s jazz, R&B, soul and more– and more than the sum of its parts.
Her music is featured on her album, "Shine."
Shana is also in her fourth year as a singer and cellist in Cirque du Soleil’s “KA” at the MGM Grand hotel-casino.
You played at the Charleston Heights Arts Center and it was this inclusive experience. I noticed music is not a performance. It's a conversation:
"I go into it with the mindset of closing the gap. The audience is part of the performance. We are here together in the experience. It's not performing for you. It's performing with you. And that helps to set the energy flow in such a way that the audience really feels like its part of the performance too."
The conversation wasn't just with the audience but also with the other musicians on stage:
"For me, the perfection that happens is in the imperfection... And the back and forth of soloing. The guitar might say something and I say something. And they play off of each other. The bass and drums might look at each other and start a groove and they'll look at the pianist and there's a lot of eye contact and a lot of nodding and a lot 'yeah!' And it's all conversation. That's what I love the most about performing with different musicians is that the songs are the same. The structure is the same but what they have to say and their commentary changes depending on the player"
Your songs are incredibly personal. Where does that come from? Why do you need to tell these personal stories?
"I don’t have a choice. Most of them are personal experience. I’ve tried writing in 'what if...' or image a story. That doesn't' come easily for me. But a friend of mine... told me a long time ago 'You are a songwriter. You have a responsibility to put to words to the human condition. You can do this in a way that many people cannot but many people will be able to relate to the things that you say because it's the human condition.'"
There was a five year period where the music didn’t come. What was happening that was stopping you and how did you get past it.
"I've never been that prolific songwriter or the one that is so focused they get up every morning and write no matter what. I wish I could, but I think my ego is a little to present for me to write anything and say the fact that you wrote it, not that it is good or bad, its just that the 'doing' is productive. There was a point where life just said it is more important right now to be the best wife that you can be, be the best mom that you can be. And to figure out what music is for you."
What is your approach when you do an existing song?
"I like this phrase that people have been using as of late: rework and reimagining. I feel like every song as guts. There’s a foundation. There's a blueprint. There's a story. For me, as a songwriter, lyrics are paramount. I feel like if you’re going to do a cover, you should do it in a way that you make it yours."
How different is your music from what you play at 'Ka'?
"Certainly the music of Cirque is literally in a world of its own. The music is symphonic at times. It's very far away from what I do as an independent artist. There is a mindset that I have to shift into every show to make sure that there's consistency in the quality and level of presentation. It's not that I wouldn't want the same for my own music, but one of the things that I do with my own show, because I work with so many different players, we have the framework of the same songs but we try to play it differently every time."
She lives and works in Las Vegas, but calls Durham, North Carolina home.
You can catch Tucker Wednesday, Jan. 27, 10:30 p.m. at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. She is part of the Composer Showcase at Cabaret Jazz.
Shana Tucker, Singer and cellist
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