Q&A with Texas-based versatile singer/actor Laura Tate - inspires with her natural compassion and dedication

"The most important lessons I have learned in my music path is perservance. Some believe you get an agent and everything will fall into place. Wrong. It’s hard work and one must practice their craft, write, connect with like-minded musicians and start creating your own success. It’s not an easy path as many do not understand the hard work that it takes."

Laura Tate: Beauty, Heart & Soul

Whether she is singing Broadway hits or ballads, pop favorites or original compositions, Laura Tate brings heart and soul to her performance and recordings. The versatile singer, actor, producer, and community advocate continues to mesmerize audiences in both intimate cafes and huge concert halls, reaching each listener with her smooth sultry torch singer voice and warm stage presence. “I Must Be Dreaming”, released in 2015, the album recorded in Los Angeles at Jesi-Lu Recording Studio, produced by Terry Wilson as a tribute the music of Mel Harker. Laura Tate first charmed audiences with her singing and acting at the age of nine and continues to entertain thousands of listeners today. Born in Dallas, she traveled the country with a number of theatrical and musical companies before settling in Los Angeles to sing and act in stage productions as well as on television. She also began a career in film production, eventually producing an award-winning documentary. Laura is an active member of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, and Actors Equity Association. Today she lives in the mountains of El Paso and enjoys the city’s rich cultural heritage and desert beauty.                                                                              (Photo: Laura Tate)

Laura's lifelong singing career has taken her throughout the country, including singing and acting in theatrical productions. For two years, she performed in a touring theatrical group, developing shows in Dallas or other cities and then taking them on the road with various productions. During her career in L.A, she often took on live theater roles, performing in Santa Monica Theatre and other venues. Laura was trained at Herbert Berghoff Studio School of Acting, and Stella Alder School of Acting, NYC. She has also developed curriculum and taught Acting, Theatre History, and Film History at University of Texas-El Paso. While in L.A, Laura started out working in craft services on set, learning about every aspect of music production, and worked her way up to production assistant, assistant director and eventually directed music videos, documentaries, and commercials. She worked with a wide variety of singers and groups, ranging from Phil Collins and Gloria Estaban to MegaDeath and Cheap Trick. Tate’s commitment to her community and to important humanitarian and educational causes is a driving force in her life. With her ability to move gracefully from corporate fundraising and Junior League social events to singing gigs in hometown bars and cozy cafes, Tate inspires everyone she meets with her natural compassion and dedication. Her fourth  album “Let’s Just Be Real” (2017) delivers one of the most intense records of her career. In her latest album and first live compilation: "Laura Tate - Live from El Paso" (2020), Laura Tate and her band of top Los Angeles-area musicians take us on a tour of the ups and downs of love from sultry torch songs to tough love ballads. With crowd favorites from her previous four albums, this "best of Laura Tate" collection moves smoothly from jazz and blues to rock and Americana, but each section features Laura's own interpretation. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues/Jazz music and Rock culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I grew up listening to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Bessie Smith. The blues and jazz singers of that era had a great influence on me. I loved these artists and there music so much I recorded and album in 2013 called “Songs From My Suitcase,” which featured songs such as Cry Me A River, Round Midnight, Stormy Weather - to name a few. When I perform live I sometimes will pull out songs from my “personal suitcase” these blues/jazz standard that have always influenced me. Later performers like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and BB King would make rhythm and blues an integral part of the pop music scene. By the time the term “Pop” had been coined in the mid-50s, R&B and rock had replaced jazz as America’s most popular music genre. Rock’n roll shook up other forms of music and society as we knew it- and was responsible to wake people up pushing the boundaries of sexuality and traditional social mores. I suppose it gave artist the freedom to speak about social issues the freedom to record an irreverent song like “Big Top Hat” off my latest album “Let’s Just Be Real.”

What do you learn about yourself from the music industry and show biz?

What I have learned about working in “show biz” is that it requires a remendous commitment, often with very little financial stability and recognition. I’ve been professional actress and singer for many years. There have been times when I felt pressure to “get a real job” but even through difficult times I never let go of my true passion - the performing arts.

"I believe that the status of women in music today and in our music history continue to be a tremendous musical force and influence. The best female jazz/blues and singers in music history have a sound that's like no other." (Laura Tate on stage, El Paso TX / Photo by Adriana Roman)

How do you describe Laura Tate sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

I try to bring heart and soul to all music that I love to sing. I’ve always loved to sing all kinds of music genres such as Jazz, Blues, Country and Rock-n-Roll! In my previous release, “I Must Be Dreaming” you hear a touch of each one of those genres that I mentioned.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

The most important lessons I have learned in my music path is perservance. Some believe you get an agent and everything will fall into place. Wrong. It’s hard work and one must practice their craft, write, connect with like-minded musicians and start creating your own success. It’s not an easy path as many do not understand the hard work that it takes. I’ve heard it said that being a musician is not a real job just a hobby, and I say it is a real job!! I’ve never worked so darn hard for so many years in my life. I’ve never stopped no matter what!! There are always going to be the ”profits of doom” but please don’t listen to them!! If music and performing is your true passion and you are willing to put in the work, understand there is going to be plenty of rejections -but keep going!! Success comes when you least expect it so with your hard work you will be ready to deliver when it’s your time to shine.

Are there any memories from the recording night at McKelligon Canyon Amphitheater (Live From El Paso) which you’d like to share with us?

Far from the venues in Nashville, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles where I have performed for years, the McKelligan Canyon Amphitheatre is a national treasure located in El Paso, Texas. McKelligan Canyon is a natural amphitheater situated at the base of the Franklin Mountains, a rugged mountain range that bisects El Paso. We performed under the bright stars of an early summer, West Texas night sky, just a few miles from the Rio Grande River and Juarez, Mexico. The Los Angeles based musicians flew to El  Paso and were in absolute awe of this amazing venue.  We had a wonderful time with a great crowd of my adopted home town with the support of  friends, family and fans. It was a magical night. Listening to the recording of “Live From El Paso,” it becomes apparent that the band and I had a great time as we were energized by the wonderful welcoming audience!!  It was so special for the band and me as our performance was a benefit concert for the El Paso Community Foundation’s Laura Tate Fund for the Arts providing arts education for the underserved. It’s my way of giving back to a city that I love and that has been so good to me.

"I’ve always loved Jazz and Blues music. It is great to listen to and enjoy, and has a wide universal audience appeal. Listening to Jazz and Blues touches on many philosophical, emotional and social issues to diverse audiences that I find very exciting!" (Laura Tate on stage, Texas / Photo by Adriana Roman)

What would you say characterizes Texas blues scene in comparison to other US local scenes and circuits?

The Texas Blues scene compared to other US local scenes is more “swing” based. Texas blues is high, clear singing accompanied by subtle guitar lines that consist typically of single-string picked arpeggios rather than strummed chords. Blind Lemmon Jefferson was by far the most influential Texas bluesman. Guitar legend from Dallas, Texas, Stevie Ray Vaughn came on the Blues scene. Vaughn was the most prominent figure in one style of Texas Blues - Electric Blues. In recent years Texas Blues has become as diverse as the Lone Star State and continues to absorb all styles such as Jazz, Western swing, Honky-tonk and rockabilly, to name a few.  All of these styles have been a great influence on all blues in the US and beyond.

How do you describe previous album “Let’s Just Be Real” (2017) sound and songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?

I would describe the sound and songbook of “Let’s Just Be Real” as a journey of music that combines jazz, rhythm and blues and rockin’ roll. The album has a driving horn section I love and complement that process, creating a new form of the blues that encourage hope. The new album is a journey into the cycle of love that carries us through new love, passion, breakup, and back again with heart and humor. Love is a universal theme and these songs of love are sexy, tough and tender. I have experienced all these cycles of love and many of you have as well.

Are there any memories from “Let’s Just Be Real” studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I am truly honored to work with world-class musicians and wonderful people. We all stayed focused in the recording process, no egos were involved - just pure love and respect for the music with great camaraderie and musicianship. We worked hard yet had fun and with lots of humor and heart!! Terry Wilson led the sessions!! A brilliant musician and bassist. I can’t thank him and all the amazing musicians, Billy Watts, Jeff Pairs, Tony Braunagel, Lee Thornberg, Paulie Cerra, Leslie Smith and Teresa James that contributed to this fun and success of this album!!

"I grew up listening to Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, and Bessie Smith. The blues and jazz singers of that era had a great influence on me. I loved these artists and there music so much I recorded and album in 2013 called “Songs From My Suitcase,” which featured songs such as Cry Me A River, Round Midnight, Stormy Weather - to name a few." (Photo: Laura Tate)

What were the reasons that you start the artistic researches and Jazz-Blues experiments?

I’ve always loved Jazz and Blues music. It is great to listen to and enjoy, and has a wide universal audience appeal. Listening to Jazz and Blues touches on many philosophical, emotional and social issues to diverse audiences that I find very exciting!

What are the lines that connect the legacy of music from Jazz, Rock n’ Roll to Soul, Blues and beyond?

The blues and jazz have much in common, from their origins in the African-American communities of the southern United States at the beginning of the 20th century. The music forms spread internationally with artists developing a media of sound recordings and radio broadcasts, to national and international art forms. Blues, jazz and rockn’ roll have multiple definitions that sometimes go beyond music and speak to different viewpoints that give these loved musical art forms relevance today and beyond!!

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

I was young girl playing a small club in New York City when I spotted Richie Havens in the audience. He stayed for my entire set and graciously made his way to meet me to shake my hand. He said “you got it my lady keep it up.”  He was the highlight of my early career and indeed I continue to “keep it up.”  It’s amazing how someone can change your life and confidence in a brief encounter.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice has given you?

Some of the best advice that I was given when an artist’s life can be unstable and unpredictable was: Never give up on your dreams and don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen for yourself!!

"The impact of blues, perhaps more than any other music, is jazz's greatest influence. From the time when jazz evolved from the sounds of the Mississippi Delta a century ago right up to the modern jazz of today, the blues has been a benchmark for jazz musicians." (Photo: Laura Tate)

Are there any memories from “I Must Be Dreaming” (2015) studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

The recording process involves long hours and hard work. Still, each of the musicians who participated on the album had so much fun with the creative process. I was so fortunate to have top players who went the extra mile to make their musical parts great! Terry Wilson produced the album as well as arranged and played on most every song on the album - what a talent. Terry is versatile musician and the bass player for Eric Burdon. Teresa James a fantastic blues singer and vocal coach. Teresa did wonderful backup vocals, which added a richness to the sound. To work with all these great musicians on “I Must Be Dreaming” was magical.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

The music industry has dramatically changed over the last 15 years. All artists will either embrace the changing times or else find themselves passed over. What I find exciting about the future is an opportunity for those talented musicians who have been shut out of a record deal because of the record label executives who have made the final decision as to which the artists we should hear. Now, with access of digital methods of marketing and distribution, artists are now able to self-produce and to have a career without the need for a major record label.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

There's a strong temptation to get it music for free through file sharing, friends, or downloading it illegally. The problem is, when you steal music you’re also exploiting and hurting the income of musicians you love. If I could change anything in the music world it would be to protect all musicians and other artist from losing the financial benefits of their music.

"What I have learned about working in “show biz” is that it requires a remendous commitment, often with very little financial stability and recognition. I’ve been professional actress and singer for many years. There have been times when I felt pressure to “get a real job” but even through difficult times I never let go of my true passion - the performing arts." (Photo: Laura Tate)

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in music?

As James Brown lyric states, “This is a man’s world but it wouldn’t be nothing without a woman or a girl.” I believe that the status of women in music today and in our music history continue to be a tremendous musical force and influence. The best female jazz/blues and singers in music history have a sound that's like no other. Their voices still today captivate us and keep us coming back for more. Many have been gone for decades, but their jazz and blues vocals will live on forever.

What is the impact of Blues and Jazz music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

The impact of blues, perhaps more than any other music, is jazz's greatest influence. From the time when jazz evolved from the sounds of the Mississippi Delta a century ago right up to the modern jazz of today, the blues has been a benchmark for jazz musicians.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

In 2013 I recorded the album “Songs From My Suitcase” a collection of songs that I had sung in smoky café’s in New York City in my early career. Blue Moon, Stormy Weather, Round Midnight to name a few from that release. So if I stepped into that time machine I would go back to the 1930’s,40’s and 50’s and sing with the Big Bands- put on that beautiful evening gown like that of  Ginger Rogers, Rosemary Clooney, Josephine Baker, Betty Johson, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne. Yes, I would “really wanna go”…but for more than a whole day!!

Laura Tate - Official website

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