The Newspaper Interviews: Tia Brazda
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Shaw
We got a chance to sit down with the contemporary jazz vocalist and ask for her opinion on the state of jazz
N: What drew you to jazz and what are your jazz influences?
T: I first started listening to jazz more when I was in high school and my teacher heard my voice and was like, “you should be singing jazz so here’s this CD”. This has happened to me a lot in my life, people have identified my voice with a jazz singer long before I was actually singing jazz [laughs]. I was finally like, “Okay! I’ll do the jazz!” I really fell in love with it. Ella Fitzgerald especially. Her voice is so precise and lovely. Billie Holiday - I love her grittiness; I love her authenticity. When she says a word, you believe it, you know. And their backstories too were so inspiring to me. If you read the biographies of Billie Holiday like wow — her life was unreal.
N: What inspired the shift in energy between your last album Bandshell and Daydream?
T: My goal is to always grow as an artist, so I wanted to try some different things this time. I wanted to experiment with new sounds I hadn’t tried before and I wanted to sort of—I would say that my albums have gotten progressively more… Yeah I don’t know. My first album was super hyper. “Cabin Fever” is like, “Man Up!”, it’s just really hyper and then my next album after that, Bandshell, was still moderate. This album is probably the most chill album I’ve done to date. I always strive to make albums I would buy, or download, [laughs] and this was where I was at, my mood is more chill. That energy shift is definitely very thoughtful. I was thinking about where I was from, where I was at in my life, who my friends were, [and] what was important to me. I feel like that came through in the subject matter. Like “Right on Time” for example. That’s all about telling people that it doesn’t matter if you’re 60 or 65—where you are right now versus where you think you should be or where your self-expectations are—let that stuff go. You’re right where you need to be. Sometimes life is winding, so you just have to go with it. You’re right on time. That’s the idea of it.
N: Our next question is drawn from La La Land because there’s the famous quote that “Jazz is dead”. Classical jazz isn’t as popular with younger generations, as they aren’t exposed to it with many believing that the genre has been dead for quite some time. Do you think jazz is dead and, if not, what is contemporary jazz?
T: It is different for sure. I think contemporary jazz is what I’m doing. I was intimidated at first with jazz. Before I got into jazz, I thought it was all a different type of jazz. I didn’t know that it was something I liked until I was in high school and discovered it. But basically, I feel like every generation has to take [jazz] and make it their own. People who are more old fashioned may not like that, and that’s fine. We need to take it into our own hands and do what we want to do with it.
I don’t think it’s dead at all. I think it’s constantly evolving. It’s funny that you mentioned La La Land. I was really excited when I saw that movie was coming out because I thought “‘oh it’s presenting jazz to a mainstream audience, like swing dancing”. And the solo in “Moondust Baby” was inspired by La La Land. If you listen to the album, it’s super synthy and you know when he gets up and does the solo in the movie and the guy’s like ‘what is that?’ We sort of were inspired by that so we wanted to something fun.
N: What’s the best advice you can give to young aspiring jazz artists?
T: Go out and meet people. Know the standards, and always bring your charts in your key to the jam. [laughs] Show up at the jams. You won’t get as far as you could when you’re just sitting in your res. You could be the most amazing singer in the world, but if you’re hiding in your residence room then you’re not going to get out there. You need to go and look. You can Google ‘open jazz jams’, places like The Rex in Toronto. There’s actually a Ladies’ Night Out—Girls’ Night Out which is hosted by Lisa Particelli. That’s a jazz jam for young women. You don’t have to be professional by any means, you can just come and sing a song. Show up, know the standards, look up the standards if you don’t know what they are, and then learn them - at least 10. Bring your charts, and then imitate [jazz singers] before you. Imitation is a great way to learn. Eventually you’ll find your own voice too.
N: What do you think are the jazz essentials?
T: I would say “Summertime” [by George Gershwin] is an essential. I like “Caravan” [by Duke Ellington]. I find it kind of edgy. But you know what I really like? Cole Porter’s “I Get a Kick Out of You”. If you listen to the old songs, there’s some innuendos to look for and some pretty blatant badass stuff that’s in there.