Tami Jones: Velvet and Steel by Eileen Shapiro

Singer, songwriter and international sensation is Tami Jones is about to unleash her new album, “Velvet and Steel”, a record laced with blues, soul, disco, and the titanic talent of superstar Tami Jones. Jones has been named # 1 Breakout Artist by Billboard Magazine in 2017 for her hit “Sugar Shack, and peaked on the charts in the U.K. for the same. 

“Velvet and Steel” is already getting rave reviews both here, internationally and in Asia where she has a massive following. Raised in Oklahoma, she originally moved to Nashville to pursue a career in Country song. However, influenced by her father’s choice of music including Etta James, The Ink Spots, and other soulful artists, Jones felt at home singing the songs on “Velvet and Steel.” The album celebrates all types of blues, soul, jazz, and even disco, and will touch the hearts of all. 

I spoke with Tami regarding her release and her career….

Just to be clear, are you country, soul, pop, R&B….? What do you like to sing?

It’s funny that you ask that. I love country music. I started out in the country music biz and moved to Nashville in 1991. I was kind of working and meeting song writers because Nashville is full of the best song writers anywhere. We have such a rich culture of songwriters coming to Nashville from all over the world. So the national songwriting community is very important, and I learned that very quickly. I started working as a demo singer and met contacts through that. People here write songs from their heart and there are many publishing companies out here, and I just learned the business that way. Then I started working with many people and one of them was Bobby Braddock who had enough faith in me to take me into the studio years later. He was originally pitching me around Nashville as a country singer. We eventually had a deal with SONY. I was probably a pretty good traditional country singer.

So then you were a country singer?

I was! Of course I still have those roots but I’ve always loved my father growing up. He would play these amazing artists like Sarah Vaughn, Etta James, Mahalia Jackson, and all of these other amazing singers, so I grew up with a lot of soul and blues and R&B. That was my influence as a child. Even though I grew up in Oklahoma I didn’t realize there was an area for it. I just listened because it was great music. So I get to Nashville and of course I’m singing country music which I love and then we had a deal with SONY. Heartbreakingly it got shelved right before it was going to be released. There was a label take-over at that point. When you’re young you are devastated by it, and I was devastated by it. We had put a lot of work and time into this country record. At that point I just started to rethink my career. I had a good soul-searching with myself and I started to sing R&B and soul. 

That was a big change?

Yeah it is, and I just felt I had to get back to what my heart was telling me, influences I have been raised with.

So “Velvet and Steel”, is that soul?

This is the thing…. it’s kind of non-genre specific. It’s soul if anything. Bobby Braddock came up with this idea. He wanted to just use everything in the blues category. He wanted to use every nod, every type of music that’s typically in the blues category. That would include disco, a little country, it would be hard blues, it would be rock ‘n’ roll, so that’s kind of the area where the record is. It’s not nonspecific too much. It’s definitely got a thread of all those great specific nods. Bobby is considered a genius here in Nashville. He is one of the great, great, great songwriters. Everybody respects him and he’s earned it. He’s had all these great country hits but his love is soul and R&B. He was very excited when I approached him about this album.  I was in Thailand at the time. I lived in Asia for two years, and I sang jazz in China. Then got approached to make this album and I approached Bobby, came back to Nashville because Nashville just has wonderful musicians and the recording industry is great here. I had one of my favorite guitar players from Thailand come with me and he played with the session players. My team from Germany came and it was just like one of these wonderful things. We had the best musicians in the world. It’s a really an interesting album and we are really proud of it. We are getting good response from it, and it’s really a blessing. 

How did you wind up in Asia?

My husband and I are non-conformists. We love to travel. My husband decided to teach business in China at a university. So we went there for two years. We left our farm for two years and went off to the East to explore. To me moving over there for two years and learning about a different culture in another part of the world was phenomenal and changed my life. So I started singing jazz in China. It was the most unbelievable experience because I didn’t speak Chinese that well and they didn’t  speak English so I would just sing them songs and we would just learn from music. It was the musical language that we would connect with. I developed a little following over in Asia, not only in China but after the two years we lived in Thailand. I started singing blues and soul all around Bangkok and now we go there for about seven months every year. My life is very hard to explain in just a few minutes, but we are happy with what we are doing. I’ve been able to come back to Nashville and record this album. This is probably an international album because everywhere in the world people have been so supportive. We have actually had a dance hit on one of the songs on the album already. It’s been an interesting ride.

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