Tia Fuller, 34
Have you even been to Central Pennsylvania? I think I played the (Central Pennsylvania Jazz Festival) four or five years ago with Lauren Evans. I'm really excited to be part of the festival this year. When Tim Warfield reached out to me, it was a definite go.
How did you meet Warfield? I actually met him about 10 years ago. He was playing with Christian McBride's band in Boulder, Colo., and, at the time, I was in grad school (there). That's when I initially met him and heard him play. Through the years, we just stayed in contact. I ran into him (recently) at a jazz club . . . in Philadelphia.
Did you come from a musical family? I grew up in Aurora, Colo. I come from a family of musicians. My dad (Fred Fuller) is a bass player. My mom (Elthopia Fuller) is a vocalist. They started up a band, Fuller Sound. Both of my parents are retired educators in the Denver Public School District, so on Saturdays, they would have rehearsals for different gigs. Later on down the line, when I started playing saxophone, I wanted to be part of the band and now it's a family band. My sister plays piano and . . . my younger brother plays drums and then my sister's husband is also a great drummer.
When did you figure out that you wanted to be a musician? The first time I knew . . . I was 9 years old and my dad asked me what I wanted to do and I sat back in a chair in our kitchen and I said, "I want to play the saxophone." I didn't really get my first saxophone until I was 12 and didn't really start playing until middle school. I really found my way to being serious with music in high school and more specifically on the saxophone when I went to Spelman College in Atlanta.
Who were your influences? Other than my family of course, I particularly remember Cannonball Adderley's "Somethin' Else." I think the first album I ever purchased was an Eric Marienthal album. Wynton Marsalis' "Black Codes" is another one (I liked).
You recently toured with Beyoncé. How did that opportunity come about? She actually had . . . nationwide auditions for an all-female band. At the time, I was recording my second album. I went to the auditions right after rehearsal. While I was in the studio, I received a call from her management and they said, "Come back for the first call-backs." That's pretty much how I made it.
What was being on the road like? It was really amazing. I would have to say that it was grueling at times. A lot of times . . . we would be on planes probably four or five times a week and in different countries. Being a part of the female band was truly empowering because everyone in the band I feel are geniuses in their own right musically. We function as a family. We learned a lot from each other and we learned a lot from Beyoncé . . . and the high work ethic she has as well. It's a dream come true.
Was it cool for you to reach a wider audience by fusing jazz with pop and R&B? What I'm really trying to do with (my new album) "Decisive Steps" is broaden the audience of jazz through my association with Beyoncé and really trying to merge the two worlds and, more importantly, bring the level of awareness of jazz more to the urban world, the pop world (and) the hip-hop world. In most cases, people are using jazz, and they're sampling jazz. (Jazz) is all around us all the time.
Do you want to talk about the process you went through for "Decisive Steps?" The theme of the album is moving through life in faith, not fear. That specific saying has been an affirmation for myself and was actually erected from lyrics (from my song) "Life Brings." Looking at those lyrics helped me conceptualize the idea for the album and (helped me) strive outside that place of being comfortable . . . and move forward aggressively in the direction I want to go and all the goals I want to obtain.
Is it important for you to be a jazz educator? As much as I said I didn't want to teach . . . when I was younger . . . it's funny how now I'm teaching but on a different level (with) clinics and workshops. I wouldn't be where I am today without the help of other people and the mentorship and education. I want to do the same for others.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
On the Web
For details about Tia Fuller, visit www.tiafuller.com.
Read an interview with Fuller's friend and York native Tim Warfield as well as other artist interviews at www.flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory.
If you go
Hear Tia Fuller perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Central Pennsylvania Jazz Festival at The Hilton Harrisburg, 1 N. Second St., Harrisburg.
Tickets for all Saturday events and concerts cost $65 for adults and $30 for students. Admission is $55 for Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz members. For details, visit www.pajazz.org.