Tameca Jones has big time talent to match bright future

Claremont welcomes honey voiced soul/R&B singer and songwriter Tameca Jones at 7 p.m. next Thursday, June 27 for another in the free and very fun Levitt on the Lawn concert at Bowling Green, 1030 Columbia Ave., Claremont.

Speaking last week from a tour stop in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Ms. Jones was a refreshingly and emotionally open interview. She discussed motherhood, anxiety, professional jealousy and her newfound appreciation for touring, among other subjects, all with the easy charm that has endured her to audiences in her hometown Austin for more than a decade.

She’s spent the last 18 years at home in Austin, a single mother raising her twins, a boy and a girl, both of whom recently graduated high school.

“It is a relief,” to see them becoming adults, “and I raised them very well, so I do need to trust that I raised them well and they’re cool people, and send them out in the world,” Ms. Jones said.

Between her kids’ school, sports and extracurricular activities, and the 24/7 nature of parenthood, she’s still managed to build a locally successful career as a singer of original material and select covers, which, it’s been said, she makes her own.

The “Queen of Austin Soul” released her debut EP, “Naked,” in 2016. She’s opened shows for superstar Austin singer-songwriter-guitarist and friend Gary Clark Jr., as well as Max Frost, Bob Schneider and other touring acts. Billboard Magazine said she “raised the roof,” with her tribute to the late, beloved musician Ian McLagan at the 2015 Austin Music Awards, and The Austin Chronicle deemed it “show stopping.”

Her talent has never been in doubt, but the time and flexibility needed to build a national or international brand in music has just not been possible. It is now.

“I’m trying to keep my costs down now that I’m touring more,” she said. “I’m still getting used to budgeting and driving and just the logistics involved with touring.”

She’s at that lower mid-level spot in a touring artists’ career, when finances are tight and everybody is doubling-, or tripling-up on duties.

The band is compact, with just Ms. Jones, a drummer, guitarist and a computer. The trio of musicians travel light in a Nissan SUV.

“I have a booking agent—thank God for that—but I handle pretty much everything else, including being the promoter and the social media guru,” Ms. Jones said. “It’s a little scary, because touring is a lot of money. It’s like a new investment in your business; you’re expanding your business, so it’s going to cost some money.”

The current tour is her third such jaunt since her kids left the nest. She was out with fellow Austinite Mr. Clark Jr. last November, playing to big audiences. “It was amazing. I was like Cinderella,” Ms. Jones said. “It was really cool.”

Along with now being the headlining act, this 10-day/eight show leg also represents the longest time she’s ever been out on the road. She never really thought she was missing anything by staying in Austin and avoiding the nation’s highways.

“But now I love it,” she said. “I love being in a different place, and not having to do dishes, or clean and ask people what they want to eat! I’ve never seen America, towns in the Midwest, or crops. There are some areas of the United States that are really cool. It was really eye-opening. Traveling is really peaceful.”

Though the opportunities were there, she refused to tour while raising her kids. “I just didn’t want them to want for love or anything,” Ms. Jones said. “I just wanted to be there. I didn’t want them to go through any weird hang ups. My twins have been my whole purpose for the last 18 years, my sole purpose, and now I have to find my own purpose.”

The transition from full-time mother of twins to touring musician hasn’t been seamless. She was formally diagnosed with anxiety this past November, but had been suffering for years.

“It’s just always been there, in my chest, always this tightness, always just worrying about, ‘Is my son going to have enough food to eat? Why is my son just eating chicken nuggets? How do I get my son to do this?’” she said. “It’s just overthinking things, and I’ve always overthought.”

It all came to a head last November, after an ex-boyfriend died. “We weren’t close, but it was so weird that he died,” Ms. Jones said. “And then the grief over my twins leaving, that came to a head as well.”

She ended up in therapy, and with a prescription for Zoloft, with mixed results. “It got a little better, but not very much,” she said.

Recently though, she’s found a creative method of self-care that has resulted in her symptoms all but disappearing.

“I have not taken any anti-anxiety medicine on this tour, and I have not felt anxious once,” Ms. Jones said. “So I think I have to keep moving. I think that’s what’s good for my brain, that I have to be somewhere different, and not at home, where it can’t catch up to me and I stew over it.”

Ms. Jones is a refreshing interview in that she’s open about her anxieties. She’s also gets real when discussing watching friends’ and peers’ success from the sidelines.

“It’s hard for me,” she said. “I get super salty. Because I’ve been in Austin forever, and I’ve not gotten any big breaks or any looks. It gets me kind of salty when I see people exalting Leon Bridges, from Dallas, and I’ve been struggling this whole time. But I am totally stoked for them. Don’t get me wrong. I love Gary [Clark, Jr.]. I call him ‘Gar-bear’ and he’s been very helpful. He put me on his tour and he didn’t have to do that. He’s reaching back and helping us local yokels.

“I know that’s the wrong mindset to have, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, but I’m human, and I get a little jealous. Time is not slowing down. I’ll be 41 in September. This is a youthful industry, so, everything’s up in the air for me right now.”

By her own account, she could have made a living in playing private parties in Austin, “until I croaked.”

“But that just seems like hell to me,” she said. “Austin’s been very kind to me and very loving, and deifies me, but I do want more. And that’s exactly why I’m taking this step.

“So I’m going to believe, and take a chance for once, and have some faith, because I definitely don’t have faith. I want to have faith. So this is like a leap of faith, this second life for me. And I’m looking forward to it, I really am. It’s a very joyful time. Now that my children are grown I can actually create new music. It’s been a weird transition, but I’m looking forward to a period of tending only to myself, and seeing what I can write.”

We got to talking about a particularly granular topic among traveling musicians: tour van envy, and weighing the options of renting and owning.

“I never thought I would be the type of person who was interested in buying a van,” she joked. “It’s a new world!”

More information on Ms. Jones, including interviews and live clips, is at tamecajones.com.

Her free Levitt on the Lawn show starts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 27 at Bowling Green on the Scripps College campus, 1030 Columbia Ave.

To make reservations, and for more information, visit scrippscollege.edu/events, and follow the link to the Eventbrite page.

—Mick Rhodes



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