An Interview with Blues diva Lady "A", one of Seattle's hottest deliver a mixture of Blues/Soul and Funk

"You can do so much with the blues that it’ll never fade away - Too many layers stories to tell through the blues."

Lady "A": Blues diva makes music gumbo

Pacific NW Blues Diva Lady "A" White heads up one of Seattle's Hottest Bands - Lady "A" & the Baby Blues Funk band who have performed together for the better part of 18 years. This bands delivers untold Blues & Funk not reserved for the faint of heart. You need energy to keep up with this band and with the Lady out front delivering action packed lyrics along with non-stop movement. Lady "A" likes "Audience participation!"

Lady "A" also performs as a solo act when on the road. April of 2012 she toured with Bobby Rush, Eden Brent, Cedric Burnside and Supa Chikan on the Delta Music Experience Tour and recorded her single "Future Ex-Huzbun" at the famous, Sun Studio, in Memphis, TN. 

Lady "A" also performs with her accompanianist and pianist/producer John T. Oliver, Jr. and both worked for her 1st European tour in May 2012 and are currently working on her 2nd CD will be coming out in May. Lady "A" has opened for such artist as Denise LaSalle, the late Little Milton, Shemika Copeland, Dr. John and been on stage with such artist as Bobby Rush,  the late, Michael Burks, Kenny Neal, Gospel favorites, The Lee Boys, Eden Brent, Peter Dammann, Janiva Magness, Charmaine & Charles Neville, Super Chikan, Wylan Thibbideau and Howlin Mad "Bill" Perry.

The Lady's high energy show has been compared to the likes of "Tina Turner" with those legs and that smile, she easily draws the audience in with her sultry-husky voice and comtemporary blues stylings.

Interview by Michael Limnios

When was your first desire to become involved in the blues and soul music?

Blues and soul music are a part of me, as that what I grew up listening to along with Gospel music and since they all interact, there you have it.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the BLUES mean to you?

From the Blues I grew up listening to, I’ve learned that there is nothing you can’t get through in life – There are different shades of blues. When I’m singing “My kind of Blues” (a song from my upcoming CD), I feel free, a spiritual type of reckoning with the music – when I’m listening to a more upbeat blues, Denise LaSalle, I feel like dancing – then there’s the down homes blues – like Honeyboy, Koko Taylor, Big Maybelle, Ruth Brown, I just want to listen and tap my foot.

                                                                                                       Photo by Amanda Gresham

What experiences in your life make you a good musician and songwriter?

I take life a day at a time, due to the fact that my life can be ultra chaotic for a period of time, and then a week of nothingness… which gives me the time to write about the crazy in my life…. And some of the crazy is so funny, that it becomes a song… or so serious that I need to get it out of me…then I take a break from it all and have church time and family time. Then it’s back to the grind, does that make me a good songwriter? I don’t know, but it comes from my heart and it’s real. 

How do you get inspiration for your songs & who were your mentors in songwriting?

I’m a huge, huge, huge, did I say huge? Denise LaSalle Fan, (she is my idol)!  I love Millie Jackson, O.V. Wright, old Ike & Tina Turner’s vibe, Koko Taylor… – Big fan of the late love Johnny Taylor, Little Milton, Ruth Brown, Big Momma Thornton, and of course my two kings - B.B. King and Albert King, …. They inspire me to write and to keep the soul in my particular style of Blues.

How do you describe Lady “A” sound and progress, what characterize your music philosophy?

I describe a Gumbo mixture of Blues/soul and funk – I can get in the alley and low down, or dance a crowd all night. 

My music philosophy - My audience comes to be entertained, listen to, or dance to music they identify with… so I give them a show they deserve… Audience participation… so they walk away feeling like they not only got a show, but were part of the show in the process .

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the music? What is the best ever gave you?

Easy ... Charmaine Neville ! Charmaine told me, Not to give up on MY MUSIC. She took time out to talk with me and I have never forgotten the conversation, the opportunity or her words.

                                                                    Lady A in Netherlands with United by Music 2012

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

Beginning my journey with Barbara Hammerman and Delta Music Experience CEO and friend Amanda Gresham. Barbara and Amanda introduced me to a wonderful program called United by Music which gives musically talented people with intellectual disabilities the chance perform live on stage with a professional band for general audiences. The stage gives the artists a unique opportunity to be treated as equals. In 2009 CEO Joris van Wijngaarden asked Barbara and Amanda to co-found United by Music North America (UBMNA). It has become, as Barbara says, “The Special Olympics of Music”!

As a UBMNA mentor since 2010, I have seen United by Music transform lives. UBMNA is still two years young here in North America so when I went to Europe on tour and actually was able to work with the European Company I got a glimsps of where we could be in a couple years ... what a feeling of true accomplishment musically. It felt good to give back and to also learn something in return. Everybody needs inspiration, and just a chance to do what they love, and these individuals strive for it everyday and meet their challenges head on thru music.

My worst moment was when my long time best friend and bass player in my original Baby Blues Funk band member passed away. Mr. Gary Smith was all-out-Go-Get-em-bass player, music arranger and my best friend... his passing was the worst moment in my musical career because I lost my friend of 25 plus years.

Are there any memories from Michael Burks, Super Chikan, and Harmonica Bean which you’d like to share with us?  

Michael Burks - I was so nervous to get on stage with him after finding out how awesome he was.  It was at the Winthrop R&B Festival 2011 I think, he saw how nervous I was, and when he introduced me on stage he was playing and he whispered, let’s have some fun… and we did. It was an amazing thrill!  

Supa Chikan is my new buddy… on the DMExperience we are partners…. Being on stage with him at Ground Zero was such an wonderful experience – Gracious musician - Chikan is like the favorite relative that comes and visits and you can’t wait to see them!  And then of course his at-home workshop, dubbed, “The Chikan Coupe” – what blast that was to see all those guitars he makes and sit in his yard…. Hard to describe.

Harmonica Bean – I’ve performed at the Juke Joint Festival with Bean playing harp at Red’s Lounge… he is an exceptional person and wonderful harp man. I always love seeing him when I’m in Clarksdale.

      Lady "A" with Super Chikan, Bobby Rush and friends. 2012 Photo by Amanda Gresham

What's been their experience from Bobby Rush, Little Milton, Kenny Neal, and Dr. John?

Bobby Rush or as I call him Mr. Bobby… is a legend I grew up listening to with my momma and grand-momma…. And being on Amanda Gresham’s DME Rockin’ the Roads trip with him last year was the best!  I had written a little song while on the tour bus as I was feeling a little something and he heard me humming it, so I sang a little of it and he said, why don’t you perform it tonight?  And I did “Rockin the Roads with DME” - The audience loved it and I was so happy… the encouragement from Mr. Bobby was uplifting. Stay tuned … you might just hear that track on my next Album!

Little Milton: I opened for Little Milton and still have that picture in my music room... he was another idol of mine and a sweet man.  He was performing in Seattle at this small club called McGowan’s  a long, long, long time ago.. it was my first time really opening for a National artist… I didn’t have time to meet him before I sang, but while I was singing he came out of his dressing room to watch me – I could see him out of the corner of my eye, but couldn’t turn my head or I swear I would have forgotten the words… then the owner of the club took me back after my set, and he told me how much he enjoyed it – he took a picture with me, we talked for a little while before his set.   I think I beamed the entire rest of the night.

Kenny Neal and I were at the Kwandendamme Blues festival in Europe last year. I had just gotten off stage after my set, hot, sweaty, excited because of my 1st tour in Europe, but I knew Kenny was there, and I just wanted to say hi to a fellow statesman, well, he remembered me from a previous DMExperience, invited me into their dressing room (he and his band mates had just arrived), then he asked me to come on stage to sing a song with him… I was so floored and overjoyed, first because he remembered who the hell I was… and secondly, to be able to get on stage with him… Kenny Neal is one generous musician and so much fun on stage!

    Lady A kicking it with Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band. Photo by Mark Sharley

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

Best Jam - I love the Winthrop Blues festival jams, and because of Erika Olsen, producer and the wonderful staff there, I’ve Emceed those jams three years in a row and what fun! Being able to be on stage and backstage with artist like Chubby Carrier, Duffy Bishop, Too Slim and so many others… Now that’s the best Jam I’ve ever done!

Most memorable gigs - The next would be my European tour last year. When I stepped on the stage at the Kwandendamme Blues Festival and just performing in  the Netherlands – WOW –working with United by Music, I just knew I could do this and love it. The audience was so receptive and enjoyed the music I actually wrote or co-wrote with my brother/producer J.T. Oliver III, that I knew I had to work twice as hard to get back to Europe.  So I’m just waiting for a wonderful agency to bring me back. LOL

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES  

Because the blues comes in so many forms – so many styles come out of the Blues such as Gospel, Rock & Roll, Jazz – You can do so much with the blues that it’ll never fade away - Too many layers stories to tell through the blues.

My one wish for the blues is that people in the states would recognize that there is more than one type of blues. Blues crosses many facets and if they would recognize and learn to appreciate all types of blues, then some musicians wouldn’t get stuck in what “certain people” think blues should or should not be. As I said, there are many shades of Blues.

How do you describe your contact to people when you are on stage? Happiness is……

My contact to people is being able to tell them a story about a song or having them sing to me or with me…. I love that interaction with the audience.

Happiness is seeing the audience totally emerged in the show, or singing the words to a song I wrote and they are loving it… There’s nothing like it!

Do you believe that there is “misuse”, that there is a trend to misappropriate the name of blues and soul?

I think “some people” tend to pigeon hole the blues to what they perceive it to be.  Shades of Blues….

Make an account for the case of Washington Blues scene. What characterize the sound of local blues?

I think the Washington blues scene is what it is… it’s NW Blues - a little Rock-a-billish.  But that’s just my opinion – it works. In my case, I sing southern blues, I write my kinda blues, which is a mixture… again the different Shades of Blues.

From the music point of view what are the differences and similarities between Blues, Soul and Jazz?

To me, the differences are how you feel at the time you sing them. I can make a Soul song a Blues song, a Blues a Jazz song, Jazz a Soul song…. It’s about how you feel at the time you capture it in your heart and how it comes out from there.

Which incident of your life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting?

The first time I sang on the DME Sail on Sista Cruise at Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland, Oregon, back in 2008.   The electricity went about 15 minutes before we docked, and I kept singing with no music to the audience.  I would like to capture the smiles and enjoyment on that audiences face as they left the boat after it docked.  No one left unhappy – That’s what I’d love to have truly captured.

You have an interesting project Back Porch Blues show. Would you tell a little bit about that?

Actually Delta Music Experience CEO Amanda Gresham created and produces the DME Back Porch Blues series, which I have performed in and hosted. Lady A’s ~ DME Back Porch Blues Showcase takes Amanda’s story-and-song concept and adds my personal touch of inviting guests and interviewing them so the audience gets to know more about their music, the artist themselves, and then have the singer or musician perform, perhaps songs they normally would not perform on stage.  No one would ever expect me to do a county song, but I love country music, or to find my mother on stage with me doing Gospel. Like Oprah on the back porch.  People enjoy it and the show is quite a success. During DME Back Porch Blues Showcases musicians look forward to being together to create and play music they don’t usually have the opportunity to perform.

What is you miss most nowadays from Motown’s era and old time of Delta Experiences?

From Motown, I miss artist like Marvin Gaye, Original Temptations, Gladys Knight, David Ruffin, Doo-Wop – I guess you could say I miss the writing styles and the simplicity of the music and most definitely how you could understand the words.  LOL

From the Delta: I’m still exploring and learning as I go… I love the Delta and the sound and incorporate it into my Gumbo mix of Lady “A”.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

Be who you are, own who you are and let the music/songs speak for themselves. People who like you, will love you, your music and what you do… so don’t get discouraged by those who don’t. I always say “Just DO YOU”….

Lady "A" - Official website

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