An interview with the Scorch Sister: Scorchin' Hot Blues with Women's Scent !

The Scorch Sisters: Bringing the Heat

The Scorch Sisters consist of three formidable women who have been friends and bandmates for many years in different situations, and have finally decided to strike out on their own together with their unique blend of fierce, soulful vocals and seasoned, blazing instrumental prowess.

Francesca Capasso (vocals, percussion,), Alicia Morgan (vocals, keyboards) and Kimberly Allison (guitar) are each at the top of their game professionally, and because they are such fans of each other's talents, as well as close friends through many years of ups and downs, in 2011 they decided to join forces as the Scorch Sisters - a combination of world-class talents rarely found in the blues world in one band.

They say it's a man's world, but the Sisters beg to differ. They bring a woman's strength, determination, heart and soul to the blues, and they share their passion, heartbreak, joy, and raw, down-home realness with their audience every time they hit the stage. Each one of these women is a headliner in her own right, but when they come together as the Scorch Sisters, there is a synergy that defies comparison, and defines them as a true musical force to be reckoned with. 



The Scorch Sisters are ready to bring the heat, and they have talent, energy and soul to burn!


Interview by Michael Limnios


Tell me about the beginning of Scorch Sisters. How did you choose the name and where did it start?

Francesca: Kimberly, Alicia and I originally met at a WOMEN IN BLUES show which lead to the formation of an all female Blues and Soul band called SOME LIKE IT HOT  1998-2008, here in Los Angeles.  Since then, Alicia has played keyboards on Kimberly's CD and I have been the lead singer in Kim's band, THE KIMBERLY ALLISON BAND for several years now . In 2011, Alicia and I were working in another blues band together that broke up, so we decided to start our own project It was great when Kimberly decided to come on board!. Alicia came up with the name "SCORCH SISTERS" to describe our style of blues- "SCORCHIN' HOT BLUES" since our former band was called SOME LIKE IT HOT and my former band was called FRANCESCA and the FLAMES, it just made sense.  And the "SISTERS" part is because we have been like family through some of life's difficulties - DEATH, DIVORCE, CANCER. We are close like family as we have all come to L.A. from around the country to pursue our musical dreams.

(Kimberly is from Kansas, Alicia is from Florida and I am from Texas)


When was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?

Francesca: My first desire to sing the blues was when I was 15 yrs/ old growing up in Kingwood Texas. I started listening to Janis Joplin. Then I started reading about her life and I realized that I was experiencing some of the problems that she had growing up in Texas. (feeling misunderstood and a bit of an outcast, no outlets for my creativity....) She sang the way I FELT!!!

I read about Janis's influences- Big Mama Thorton, Bessie Smith, Etta James, Tina Turner. THAT'S ALL IT TOOK- I WAS HOOKED!

In my first  garage band at 15, we had a cool guitarist from Chicago who was a great blues player. That was when I learned and sang my first blues song "SWEET HOME CHICAGO".  This lead me to KoKo Taylor who was one of my BIGGEST Blues influences!

Then a few years later Stevie Ray Vaughn hit big and he BLEW me away! I saw him 3 times in concert and got to meet him here is L.A.  I have been a big Lou Ann Barton and Fabulous Thunderbird fan. Love my TEXAS BLUES!

Kimberly: I was first introduced to blues around the Kansas City area, where I grew up.  The first blues song I learned was Stormy Monday.  I sat in at my first blues jam at age 16.  I was by no means an authentic blues player.  At that point most of the blues I had heard came by way of rock guitarists like Jimmy Page.    Later on I was introduced to contemporary blues artist like Stevie Ray Vaughn,   Albert Collins, and Robert Cray.



Where did you pick up your style, what were the first songs you learned?

Alisia: I’m mostly self-taught although over the years I’ve had some lessons from some amazing piano players – if you add up all my lessons over my lifetime it’s probably about a year and a half. The first song I learned off  the radio was “Layla”, the piano interlude. I found out about chords from a ragtime piano player at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor when I was about 11, I guess. Then I used my ear to pick out songs I liked. 

My first piano inspiration was Thelonious Monk. His music was something I could physically play with my rudimentary skills, unlike Art Tatum or Dave Brubeck, yet it was so harmonically and rhythmically rich and sophisticated that it captivated my heart.  Straight-ahead jazz was the foundation of my love for piano. I can’t say my style comes from any one piano player; I spent a large part of my career before moving to LA playing Top-40,  which meant I had to learn 5 or 6 new songs a week exactly like the record. I worked 6 nights a week, 5 sets a night, 50 weeks a year for 10 years. A lot of people turn up their noses at ‘copying’ other people’s music, but it gave me a set of tools in my toolkit that have served me well in developing my own voice as a player and singer. The more you learn from other professionals, the more vocabulary you have to choose from as an artist.  My main focus as a player is to be true to the idiom, and to not play notes just for the sake of playing notes, but to make sure every note is necessary to say what I want to say. When in doubt, leave it out! My main focus as a vocalist is to ‘sing the song’, and make sure I’m emotionally honest.


How would you describe your contact to people when you are on stage?

Francesca: To me singing is a spiritual experience, as well as MY mental therapy.

When I sing I release ALL my emotions in a BIG way! I am not afraid to show my passion in a song.

Must be my Italian and Mexican Blood! hahaha!

Anyway, like Janis, I want to sing the way people FEEL! I want to stir their emotions!

I guess it has been working because, I have been getting lots of feedback from fans about our songs STILL REMEMBER - Which is Kimberly's soaring Carlos Santana type instrumental guitar ballad. and my song NAKED. Which I wrote when I was going through my seperation from my ex-husband, German Actor/ Singer REINER SCHOENE.  I have witnessed tears from many in the audience when we play those songs,  even from grown men!

 

Do you think that your music comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?

Kimberly: It is a combined process. In the beginning stages the brain does the slow hand programing necessary to play effortlessly. By the time it reaches the audience, I feel and hear what I am playing. That is the heart and soul.


 

What does the BLUES mean to you & what does Blues offered you?

Kimberly: The blues is my emotional outlet. The blues is the musical embodiment of the highs and lows of the human condition.

 

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Francesca: That is a hard one, as there are a few interesting periods in my life.

When I was a kid we traveled a lot with my Dad's job and we lived in Puerto Rico where I did my first recordings and a T.V. Commercial for CHICKLETS ADAMS gum. I had the BEST family memories from this time of my life!

The time I spent in Europe with my ex-husband Reiner, was especially interesting to me because I got a chance to see Europe and meet so many wonderful people, especially right after the "iron curtain" fell, it was SUCH an interesting time to be in Europe which I LOVE so much!. These experiences have helped me define who I am and where my place is in this world. Reiner showed me the world in a very interesting way!


 

What was the first gig you ever went to, what are some of the memorable gigs you've had?

Francesca: The first concert I went to was to see SANTANA when I lived in Florida as a kid.

I also saw Stevie Ray Vaughn 3 times and shouted out to him  from the crowd at THE GREEK here in L.A. and he answered me back, we had this banter going on....it was surreal! haha

Singing back up with Motown Legend Bobby Taylor at THE CINE GRILL at THE world famous HOLLYWOOD ROOSEVELT HOTEL. I didn't have any rehearsals with the band and the bass player (LUTHER RAAB) fed me the lyrics on stage.....it was a crazy way of "jumpin' into the fire with both feet!"

I got to open up for one of my favorites SUGAR PIE DESANTO at THE SCARAMENTO HERITAGE FESTIVAL that was awesome, but the most memorable gig was aboard the USS CARL VINSON out in the pacific ocean off the coast of San Diego. It was an ALL STAR USO show with  drum legend HAL BLAINE (The Wrecking Crew), Tony Franklin and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter  (Doobie Brothers) We flew out to the water off the coast of San Diego and landed on the Aircraft carrier! The troops went CRAZY!!!

Also the gigs with CARMINE APPICE and FRIENDS at LA VE LEE' in Studio City CA.!

The LONG BEACH BLUES FEST in 2009 with THE KIMBERLY ALLISON BAND as it was my first BIG gig after surviving Breast Cancer!

Kimberly: My first band experience was playing in a ’50 s and ’60s  rock/pop band doing Elvis and Beatle tunes among other oldies.  I was working with adults at the time.  They were old (mid 30’s , ha, ha!).  I was 16.   We had our first gig at a park dedication for downtown Lawrence, KS.  We played on a flatbed trailer.

 

Three words to describe your sound & progress, in which songs can someone, hear the best of your work?

Alisia: Blues with groove, I guess…most of my music is available on my website


 

What does “88 black and white keys” mean to you?

Alisia: When I look at the keyboard, it’s like an old friend. I see those keys in front of me and I’m home. I still am filled with gratitude that after 35 years, I still get to wake up every day and do my favorite thing for a living. I still love the keys as much, if not more, than I did when I first started. It’s like a good marriage – you have the infatuation stage, when you’re just besotted with every aspect of it, and then over the years it deepens into understanding, respect, perspective and true love, and yet keeps that spark and magic alive.

 

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD artist, how do you want to be remembered?   

Francesca: All the experience that I have performing LIVE- BY FAR,  makes me a good artist! As well as my experience with the "BUSINESS" side of music. I have always understood not to take a failed business deal personally. The business side of things can always fall apart for MANY reasons but who I am as an artist really has nothing to do with a deal not working out. I want to be remembered as an artist who felt the world's pain and who wrote songs and sang from a deep passionate HONEST place, And as a singer who could stir emotions in even the coldest heart!

 

Are there any memories from Carmine Appice, which you’d like to share with us?

Francesca: I met Carmine Appice at the NAMM SHOW, when I first moved to L.A. many years ago .

As it turned out, his manager was interested in a band I was in at the time and I asked Carmine if he would produce some demos for my solo project. He said yes and we went into CHEROKEE STUDIOS in Hollywood and cut 5 songs. One of which was the first blues song I ever wrote called "IN MY DREAMS". Which I had written for my father who had just passed away.

I became good friends with Carmine and his wife at the time. The Appice Family (Carmine, Sarah and their two kids Binaca and Nicholas) were all in my wedding when I married Reiner Schoene.

In 2011 Carmine asked me to sing in his Jazz/Funk/Rock Project CARMINE APPICE AND FRIENDS. This was a year and a half of gigs every other month at LA VE LEE' in Studio City.  We had Jimmy Haslip from the Yellow Jackets on Bass as well as Vail Johnson from Kenny G and Keb Mo' on Bass ! The band was INCREDIBLE and I had to REALLY kick it up a few notches cuz I was playing with the BIG BOYS!!!

Such a great experience to work with Carmine, I have learned so much from him thought the years! I am very honored to be one of the only females that he has worked with.

The SCORCH SISTERS look forward to having Carmine play on our up coming CD as he and I have remained good friends. He is like a brother to me!



What made you fall in love with the blues music?

Kimberly: After going to my first jam at 16, I became more interested in the genre.  By age 19 I was jamming and playing in many of the Kansas City clubs.  I really liked how the blues touched so many people of various backgrounds.  It expressed the emotions that were common to all walks of life.

 

Are there any memories of these entire GREAT musicians which you’d like to share with us?

Francesca: One New's Years Eve in the 90's Carmine was going to sit in with Greg Allman and friends at the Ventura Theatre here in California. So we loaded up Carmine's family and friends and my ex husband's family from Germany into Carmine's tour bus and we headed up to Ventura! Was a thrill to hear Carmine play with Gregg Allman, one of my favorites! When I was introduced to Gregg he just shook my hand and grunted something...never quite figured that one out...hahaha!

Another time I was on my way to sing with Spencer Davis and Carmine at the LA MUSIC AWARDS in Hollywood, and I got into a minor car accident on the way there and broke off the heal to my shoe. Went looking frantically to find a shoe store that was still open and DID finally make it to the show on time, wearing Doc Matin's! LOL

 

Which artists have you worked with & which do you consider the best friend?

Alisia: I have played or sung live or recorded with Al Wilson , Bobby Womack, actress/singer Sally Kellerman, rock-n-roll duo Don & Dewey, Billy Vera & The Beaters (At This Moment ), smooth-jazz guitarist Norman Brown, Matthew & Gunnar Nelson, Delaney Bramlett, R&B/Gospel singer Táta Vega (The Color Purple), blues singer King Ernest, Peter Tork, and Chuck Negron (Three Dog Night), Neil Young, and Rod Stewart.  I would say that of the ‘name’ people I’ve worked with,  Delaney Bramlett was my closest friend. We lost him a few years ago, but he was family to my husband and me. When my husband David and I first moved in together over 20 years ago, I was sick, and Delaney came over and he and my husband moved all of my stuff. That’s how I met Delaney. My husband played piano and sang with him for many years, and also wrote extensively with him, and I played B3 for him from time to time, and recorded him at my home studio quite a bit. Táta Vega is also a dear friend – David and I went to Paris to play with her in ’93, and we brought our kids along – our son was almost 2, and her daugher was 3, and we had the best time imaginable with our families. We’ve been close ever since. Táta is one of the most amazing singers I have ever known, and has the biggest heart as well.



Do you have any amusing tales to tell from your work with Joe Houston?

Kimberly: Working with Joe provided real old-school experience. We played some great venues, along with many dives. Some of the most hilarious examples of traveling with a blues legend and 3 other broke musicians are not fit for public ears, however…….

One of the many times we were stranded because of weather or mechanical breakdown, we picked up a gig in Hood River, Oregon. We got a gig with one of Joe’s old friends in the Shirelles . Their backup band, The Boxtops, got held up by a snow storm. Anyway, at the gig I realized that one of the back-up singers was kind of manly looking. One of the guys in our band was chatting with the singer and found out “she” did auto-body repair in Compton when not out on the road with Shirelles


Of all the people you’ve meet, who do you admire the most?

Alisia: I would have to say Neil Young, although I only met him very briefly during the session for his Living With War album. It was such an honor to be a part of that record, and I admire him for continuing to speak out through his music. I wish more artists of his stature would do that.


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst? 

Kimberly: The best was playing the Long Beach Blues festival with my own group…not as the nameless side person like so many before.

It is hard to pin point the worst. I have had a few setbacks. One that I thought that was the worst at the time ended up being a good thing.  

When I was getting ready to go back to college for music, I was devastated by my rejected application to the California Institute of the Arts. This prompted me to audition for USC where I ended up graduating cum laude.


What’s your passion?

Francesca: Music is my MAIN passion, it has been as long as I can remember!  But other passions are animals, cats, dogs, horses, and my passion to give back to the cancer community which has been so good to me during my breast cancer battle. Cooking is also another passion of mine! Teaching and mentoring up and coming singers has become a new passion!



Tell me a few things about your work with Don & Dewey. What kind of a guy was Don “Sugarcane” Harris?

Alisia: I started playing with Dewey Terry in the mid-90s. He was living in a guest house on Johnny Otis’ property in Altadena. He had a gig at a local restaurant in Glendora called the Golden Spur, and I played with him every weekend for several years – basically until he got sick. Dewey gave us an acoustic piano – my husband and I had spent so many years traveling that we didn’t actually own a real piano, just keyboards. We still have and use that piano today. When I first started playing with Dewey, Don was not in the picture – he was kind of a shopping-cart-pusher at the time. Then Dewey found him and took care of him, got him off the street, cleaned him up and we started doing Don and Dewey gigs. Don, even at that point, was an amazing musician and a very sweet guy. On stage sometimes it would seem as if he wasn’t even there, until it was his turn to play or sing – then the heavens lit up and the light just shone from him. He’d play something magical, and when he was done, he’d just ‘switch off’ again, and stand there waiting for it to be time to play again. I am so grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to play with them. “Pink Champagne” is the song I like to do as a tribute to them. I learned so much from playing with Don & Dewey – those guys were the real deal, and I definitely learned how to ‘keep your eye on the money’ – Dewey would just go anywhere musically that he felt like, depending on what the crowd was like and what they wanted, and I had to go there with him without any warning and be right there at all times. He was a master entertainer, and it was always all about what the audience wanted, not what the song list said, so you definitely had to think on your feet every second.

 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is?

Alisia: As long as there are hard times or a broken heart, there will be the blues. No life is exempt from pain, and the blues is about making the pain easier to bear by owning it and sharing it. It’s something that everyone has in common, no matter what your station in life, and it resonates down in the deepest part of our hearts.

 

What’s the best jam you ever played in?

Kimberly: There have been many great ones and can’t narrow it down to one.



.

With such an illustrious career, what has given you the most satisfaction musically?

Francesca: By far, performing my own songs LIVE . Performing with musicians that INSPIRE ME and those who are near and dear to my heart. is such a great satisfaction!

Having the opportunity to travel and sing in other countries has been a great satisfaction. I love different cultures and meeting new people!

I also get great satisfaction collaborating on songs......writing sessions double as therapy sessions for me sometimes...

I get great satisfaction doing studio work. I recently sang on TV jingles for Mini Cooper (Mini vs Monster) and MATTEL'S UNO SHUFFLE, UNO ATTACK.


Who are some of your favorite blues musician of today & what was the last record you bought?

Alisia: There are so many out there it’s hard to even pick – my friend Teresa James just knocks me out; I love Coco Montoya, Chris Cain; and of course there’s B.B. King and Taj Mahal still out there doing it; I love Keb’ Mo, Robert Cray, I love Denise LaSalle and Marcia Ball. There are so many phenomenal blues musicians out there doing their thing, both local and international, that I’d need to write a book! The last record I bought was probably a Marcia Ball record – “Let Me Play With Your Poodle”.


Any of blues standards have any real personal feelings for you & what are some of your favorite?

Kimberly: Albert Collin’s “Frosty” and “Gatemouth” Brown’s Okie Dokie Stomp are a couple favorite instrumentals for my early years of listening to the blues.



From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?

Alisia: The secret is that there are no ‘secrets’ to blues music – except to just get in there, pay your dues without whining  and be real. Shut up, respect your elders and pay attention.  Then pass it on to those who are young and hungry, like the old cats did for you. Don’t be intimidated by great players – be inspired. Don’t think you know it all. Never stop learning. I’ve learned from every one I’ve ever listened to or played with – either what to do or what NOT to do. Both are equally important.


What do you think is the main characteristic of you personality that made you an artist?

Francesca: Hummm...good question......  I have always been very SENSITIVE to people and what make's people happy and what makes people sad. Having spent two years in San Juan, Puerto Rico as a kid, was so beautiful and I fell in LOVE with latin music and latin rhythms and the culture of the people and how much MUSIC is such a BIG part of their culture.  This was HAPPY MUSIC, Then the sad times .....I REALLY STARTED SINGING THE BLUES AFTER THE DEATH OF MY FATHER


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