By likemindblog



TESSA SOUTER has been referred to as “a vocal butterfly”, captivating her audience with sensitivity and emotion that reaches out and touches the soul.  

The child of musical parents, TESSA SOUTER started singing as a small child. At 12 she taught herself the guitar to accompany herself singing folk songs and original compositions. Her earliest influences were the folk-jazz fusion groups Pentangle and Fairport Convention. She left home at 15 and by 17 was married with a baby, which meant putting her dreams of a musical career on hold, although she continued to sing for herself and for friends.  In 1999, by this time relocated to New York from London, via San Francisco, she had her first professional gig in a Greenwich Village bar. Around that time she briefly attended Manhattan School of Music on scholarship before meeting and being mentored by jazz legend Mark Murphy for four years and developing as a musician “on the job”. In the past eleven years she has performed at major venues all over the world, from concert halls in Russia to the Blue Note in New York. She is signed to the New York label, Motema Music. Her fourth CD, Beyond the Blue, to be released in by Venus Records in Japan this summer, is an album of jazz interpretations of classical repertoire with her own lyrics, recorded with jazz greats Steve Kuhn, David Finck, Billy Drummond, Joe Locke, Gary Versace and Joel Frahm.

Tessa, welcome and thank you so very much for participating in this project.  I sincerelyTessa b appreciate you taking the time in your incredibly busy schedule to answer these questions which can be challenging!   Without further ado, shall we begin:

No. 1)  What is music to and for you?  (generally and personally)

It is different things at different times — refuge, solace, spiritually uplifting. When I’m expressing my own music it’s all the experiences I have ever had in my life synthesized and rolled up into one entity finding its way out. I love how it brings you totally into the moment. I’ve heard that race drivers feel like that too, or those people that do extreme sports. It is one of the few places you can completely forget yourself and just exist. Actually performing is very cathartic but so can just hearing music be. If I feel down, going out and hearing good music can totally flip my mood.

No. 2)  What inspires you?

Music. Love. Happiness. Sadness. Nature. Children. Words.

No. 3)  When you are singing, creating or playing an instrument, where does it take you?  I mean where does your mind travel?

When I first started singing professionally I would try to imagine certain scenes or memories or emotions, but then I realized that I express the wordless feelings inside without actually having to give those feelings names. Sometimes things that have happened to me or people I know or have known come into my mind when I am singing, but these memories are not in words, they are impressions, just feelings. And then I sing them out of me. This is also why I make it a rule to only sing songs I can really mean.

TESSA 22240_546615800904_51304709_31998560_129787_nNo. 4)  Do you feel music, and in your case singing, visual arts and health are related and if so, how?  What makes you think it does?

Many years ago I read that Schopenhauer said “all art aspires to the condition of music” and that totally makes sense. To express and evoke emotion is the very essence of art, I think. The best art does that for me, whether it’s a novel or a painting or even clothing or a building. I suppose they are related in that they all strive to communicate a story. And yes, I think music is good for your emotional health, and since that apparently impacts your physical health it must be good for that to.

No. 5)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level?

I think probably all musicians identify themselves with their music. We say “I am a singer” or “I am a drummer”. It is what you are and who you are. I used to be a features journalist and even though I was successful at it, it always felt like what I was doing was once removed from me — although I enjoyed the musicality of the writing process and some of the subjects I wrote about really interested me. But even back then, before I was singing professionally, I identified myself to myself as a singer.  It isn’t just something you do. It is something you are. I was talking about this with a filmmaker friend recently and he said he felt like that about filmmaking, so it is probably the same for all artists, whatever their personal form of artistic expression.

No. 6)  How do you feel when you are singing?

On those occasions when everything is right and I forget myself, I feel in absolute integrity. You don’t care how you look, or if you are pulling stupid faces, or (ideally) who is in the audience. At one’s best gigs you become the music, the song, the audience and actual you disappears. It’s weird to describe it like this because, you are singing in front of people who are looking at you, but it’s like being invisible. It’s all about the feeling. It feels very free.

No. 7)  Under what conditions do you work best?

The most important is to hear yourself properly. There is nothing more off-putting than aTESSA F bad sound system. Almost better to have no sound at all than something coming out of the speakers that doesn’t sound anything like you. It’s in my mind because I recently did a gig at a concert hall where the sound was so awful in the PA, and the sound guy somewhat inept at fixing it, that I sang way back from the mic (which I normally use a lot) and afterward some people told me they couldn’t hear me. But when the system is good and the sound comes back to you and it sounds like you, it is the perfect base from which to start. I used to think it was just me that was so thrown by it but then someone told me that when they played with Sonny Rollins even, he would be so put off by bad sound that it would throw (even!) him off too. Next, it is FANTASTIC to have an enthusiastic audience, whether big or small. It is really inspiring. If you want to get the best performance out of someone, cheer!  Then watch them go from strength to strength.

No. 8)  Do you find singing helps you connect with your “higher self” whatever that may be for you?

I’m not sure. I definitely, when I am singing at my best, feel whole and in integrity. I guess that’s my higher self. I love that feeling of just pure expression when you disappear and become just your essence.

No. 9)  How do you feel about creativity in the public school system?

I think it is appalling in America that more focus is not put on creativity in the public school system. Creativity, in all its forms, is absolutely cathartic for one thing. I believe there would even be less crime if people had a creative outlet. Like boxing used to “save” street Tessa Skids. I don’t think it was the boxing (which I hate) so much as the physical expressive outlet and the discipline. I think sports teaches people that too, but in a different way, so you need both. I would love to see Arts subjects it put back on the curriculum. I also think we should be teaching art appreciation. My nine year old goddaughter loves jazz, and it’s simply, I think, because she’s heard it. So many people say “Oh I don’t like jazz!” or “I don’t understand jazz!” Then they hear some they do like (maybe of a different genre than they heard before) and they say: “Oh, that’s jazz? I Like that!” Or, “I don’t like jazz but I like you!” Schools need to offset what we are “fed” by society, endless repeat TV shows or the same ten songs in constant rotation on the radio in order to force feed us the advertisements which TV and radio stations get paid from. We need to give children the tools to appreciate books, art, music which are actually illuminating, not narcotic-izing. Popular culture has become the new opiate for the masses and it is horrible. I fall prey to it too, sometimes, and then I feel cross with myself for wasting minutes or hours watching TV, literally flickering my life away. Yikes.

No. 10)  In your opinion, what could be a simple solution to improve creativity in the public school system?

Put it back on the curriculum, not as an extra curricular activity (although that is at least better than nothing). Focus also on teaching literature, visual arts and music appreciation, which may inspire children take it up, as an outlet, as well as be educational.

No. 11)  What is jazz to you?  What attracts you to jazz?  Why jazz?

To me, jazz is freedom. It’s not about choice of repertoire as much as what you do with that repertoire. Having said that, I don’t particularly like gratuitous what I call “clever dickiness”TESSA E for its own sake. It is wonderful when someone has amazing facility and uses it, but it has to be in the service of the music, not just of oneself or to show off or whatever. All art forms express you, of course, but it is also this thing that is bigger than you. It’s almost like a separate entity which you want to take care of and love, and nurture and bring to fruition, like a baby, kind of. It is from you but outside of you. It’s almost as if it comes through you. Your job is to channel something that is already out there in the ether. Maybe like children.

Tessa, again thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us with such generosity.  This is a most enlightening article and it has been a genuine pleasure doing this with you.  Until our paths cross again, I wish you well, my friend, be blessed!


You are codially invited to visit Tessa’s website to discover more of this wonderful artist and her music.  Your comments are sincerly appreciated.  Enjoy!



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Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, July 1st, 2011

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My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours