Tami isn’t just another country music-centric artist.
A native Oklahoman, she moved in 1991 to take advantage of the opportunities Music City had to offer. “The content we were recording was very country music at that time in the ‘90s,” she said of her early career. “I loved it but didn’t feel deeply, innately it was me.”
“Velvet and Steel” recalls the era of soul music that her father exposed her to, noting inspirations Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole among others. “I felt that I would sing soulful music because that’s who I am,” she said.
Coming to the Nashville scene she was told to contact L.C. Scruggs, also known as Lovechild, a prolific figure during the Jefferson Street music era with the likes of Joe Tex and Little Richard.
She sang in his band for more than a year before moving to China for two years with her husband for his new job, where she fell in love with the culture, sang blues and eventually began performing for international audiences by singing blues in Thailand.
Asked to record an album, she put together the songs for her 2018 release “Velvet and Steel” which she describes as “a 52-minute journey of blues and soul.” The 13 tracks are a nod to the blues, to history and to perseverance, she described. “I put out my dream blues CD,” she said proudly. “I think it will always be my best music that I ever created.”
The album was produced by Bobby Braddock (George Jones, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette), who wrote its first track, “Strong Woman” for her. “Breaking into the business as a young single mom, I just wanted my music to matter and I wanted to use my voice,” she recalled.
Her son Saxon is a New York-based singer, songwriter and actor who wrote the album’s “Fly On” and Tami worked with blues artist Joe Bonnamassa on tracks “Dust Bowl” and “Bridge to Better Days.”
Also featured is a rendition of Percy Mayfield’s “River’s Invitation” and “Love’s Been Rough on Me,” a song originally recorded by Etta James. Also featured is “Lovesong,” one of the biggest hits of new wave 1980s band The Cure.
She included the EP “The Sugar Shack” on the album, a song that spent time on the charts for 12 weeks, she said. Though she never saw herself as a dance artist, the track is a nod to disco.
The album also features Nashville artist Deborah Allen on the track “Ready to Be Rescued,” a women’s empowerment song, Tami said.
When the novel Coronavirus began to grip America, she was preparing for music festival SXSW, which was cancelled. She recorded the Together Apart EP last April and another, Christmas Together Apart, last December.
The team went in to record “Together Apart” one at a time, Tami said. “We wanted to document what we were feeling,” she continued, explaining she felt anxious about the uncertainty of the pandemic and the political turmoil occurring in the nation.
She tried to stay as busy as she could, so she traveled to Thailand to shoot travel videos with Thai musicians to put together a package based around the country and its culture for six weeks, making sure to get vaccinated before she left.
For Tami, music accents the positive in life and can create meaningful commentary on society to facilitate dialogue. “This is the time people are having a conversation and there’s a lot of conversations out there. Why can’t we have empathy and commitment to what’s right? We should be sticking up for people,” she said. Ultimately, it comes down to one question, Tami stated: “How are we treating our brethren in this world?”
Recalling Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come,” the artist pointed out contemporary events that solidify the relevance of the track today. “These are defining moments in our life,” she said. “These issues are important; they’re big.”
Braddock was looking for the right artist to record “Maybe Someday,” a song written by Joe Babcock a half-century ago, and he believed Tami was the one to take on the role. “Things are still going on the way they were when it was written,” Tami stated of the song’s relevance.
The track ends “Velvet & Steel,” which draws from her experience working with Scruggs and the musical influence of Jefferson Street that continues inspiring artists from all over.
For more on Tami, visit tamimusic.com, or you can follow her on Twitter (@TamiMusic), Instagram (@tamimusicofficial) and Facebook (@OfficalTamiMusic).