According to her website, Grammy nominated artist, Mindi Abair, has sold a half million records as a solo artist, has been a featured saxophonist for American Idol for two seasons, and has had 10, #1 radio singles and 6 major label solo releases that have topped the Contemporary Jazz Charts. She has hosted the internationally syndicated radio show “Chill With Mindi Abair” for 8 years. She is the President of the Los Angeles Chapter of NARAS and has won numerous awards, including the Best International Instrumentalist at the 2011 Wave Awards in Toronto, and Best Female Artist of the Year at the 2011 Oasis Contemporary Jazz Awards. She has authored the book “How To Play Madison Square Garden” and toured with a long list of artists including Aerosmith, Keb’ Mo’, Lalah Hathaway, Duran Duran, Lee Ritenour, the Backstreet Boys, Mandy Moore, Max Weinberg, Bill Champlin, David Pack, Mocean Worker, Adam Sandler, Rick Braun, Teena Marie, Bobby Lyle, Jonathan Butler, and Peter White.
Here we go again! In the second part of our two part interview with Mindi Abair, we get to talk to Mindi about her upcoming album Wild Heart which is due out May 27th. Mindi shares some behind the scenes information about her new album and once again, she gives information for up and coming talent! We hope you enjoy part two of our interview with the talented Contemporary Jazz Artist, Mindi Abair:
TTN: Your new album “Wild Heart” arrives on May 27th. What can we expect and how does it differ from your others?
MINDI: This record is definitely a departure from my last few records with regard to its sound. This is on purpose. It took me a couple of years to figure out how to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. During the last couple of years I’ve been moonlighting from my usual job and was getting a little bored with myself and wanted to grow and integrate some of what I had been doing on the side. When I would come back from a tour I would moonlight, going out to play with my rock and roller friends. I ended up playing with guys from Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks’ bands, and I loved it. Rock and roll to me is just zen. I love the loud guitars and the blues aspects. I was also playing with singer-songwriters. I’d say it was all just more rootsy and organic. Then I went on the road with Aerosmith, which was sheer rock and roll where every time you play you have to play with such abandon…you just have to let it all go. I’m looking at this new record and wanting to use that abandon, no-holds-barred sort of playing. There is a lot of mojo and intent to it. There is nothing left after a night of performing like that. But how do you put that sort of spirit into a record? It’s going to take the right songs and the right performances. I am going to have to go out there and not care, and pretend there are fifty thousand people in front of me. So that is the spirit I started writing the record in. It was just more organic and more like what I would play live.
I wasn’t trying to make a jazz record or a rock record or a retro record. I was just bringing together elements that have influenced me in recent years; blues, rock and roll, organic kind of singer- songwriter, indie band, kind of stuff. It ended up being a record of old school sound, like real instruments, and real gutsy sounds that are the real thing. There’s not a lot of fluffy reverb or delay, but after we recorded the basics we would go in and put some ear candy on it. We’d use some effects and add some fun to sound kind of cool.
I brought in Keb’ Mo’ and friends to add vibe. Max Weinberg who I played and toured with, was wonderful enough to get me into playing with Springsteen! He played drums on one song and we brought it to the moon and back! Joe Perry was just so nice to say he’d play on the record. He killed it! It was the jazziest thing Joe Perry has ever done, and the most rocking thing I’ve ever done. Booker T ended up playing on three songs. He was in the room playing with me and had such a beautiful spirit. We wrote a beautiful ballad and people will feel the love in the room and the beautiful vibe we had recording this song. I have worked my way into recording a record that feels exactly like what I was trying to accomplish.
Pre-Order Wild Heart–Click Here!!
TTN: One of the things that is most admirable about you is that you support music in the schools. You are a truly an artist who gives back. Can you talk a little about that and the organizations you are involved with?
MINDI: Absolutely. I am a product of school band programs, and I cannot speak highly enough of what you can learn in a school or band environment. It gave me a place where I felt I could grow and feel special. It gave me an identity. A lot of kids struggle to find themselves starting in the early teens and going through high school. I look back to the music program at my school and think, what would I have done if I hadn’t been in those programs? I learned music and life lessons. I learned discipline, and integrity, and teamwork, and those things don’t just work in a musical setting, they work throughout your entire life. So I know I learned many of the things that have made me successful in band…and they weren’t music! So I am also very supportive of charities. I am involved with VH1 Save The Music, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, and the Grammy Foundation, which is an outreach that the Grammys have created to go into schools and inspire kids. They give money to the schools and opportunities so kids can go to Grammy camp, where they bring in artists like Keith Urban or someone like me to teach songwriting and how to perform. They help you if you want to become an engineer or producer. It is great to take kids who are in high school, middle school or college, and show them the full world of music. We show them that you can be a producer, mixer, engineer or manager…so many things that aren’t always apparent from high school.
TTN: You have worked hard to bring students into the musical experience, even on stage with you!
MINDI: Kids that learn music and the arts perform better in other subjects. Musical training creates a better student. It creates something superior. I constantly find ways to get through to kids. I’ll do clinics sometimes at schools or music stores. I’ve even brought in a marching band to play, onstage, at some of my concerts. I’ll go meet with them and work with them. I’ve had them play with us at the Hollywood Bowl, at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival and at my hometown for the Clearwater Jazz Holidays. We’ve done it at quite a lot of places, and the kids start out kind of shy, then we work with them. They get more confident and get in front of a large audience with a national artist and go away with a success syndrome. They say “I just did that, I can do that again!” It is really important to give kids the opportunity to perform and expand their horizons.
TTN: Mindi, we often hear people talk about “making it” in the business. Anyone who has followed your career would definitely say you have “made it.” Do you think as an artist you ever really reach a point, personally, where you feel that you have “made it?”
MINDI: Interesting question. I don’t know if you ever reach a point where you feel like you’ve made it. I always feel, and I can only speak for myself, like I am constantly creating and working toward new music and trying to better myself. Music is one of those life long pursuits and I feel like I have accomplished a lot. I feel as though I have accomplished the goals that I set out in high school and college. I’m climbing a ladder, and a ladder that I love to climb. I try to keep growing and expanding to better myself and keep myself occupied and interested in the music that I am making. Each record has a little different flare and different feel because I am growing and expanding and reaching for more. So yes, some people might say “we’ve made it!” but it’s not in my DNA to feel that way.
TTN: I’ve heard you talk about “paying your dues” as a young artist. Yet I’ve heard musicians who are just starting out talking about being selective with their opportunities. Do you think there is merit in every experience to develop yourself musically or do you feel it is best to be selective?
MINDI: It’s really better to start out with goals, but there are no clearcut rules for becoming successful as an artist. In the beginning I took every opportunity to play. I knew I needed to pay the rent so I thought I could either be a waitress, work in a clothing store, or I could play the saxophone on the street because, in the beginning, no one was going to hire me. That is how I chose to spend my time instead of doing day jobs. That played into my goal because it got me there. I met people and formed relationships that allowed me to meet other people with similar goals. I suggest you spend your time working at your craft. Do that as much as humanly possible and be sure to socialize as much as possible. “It’s who you know.”
I always tell people who are out there that it’s not about having pride and getting exactly what you want when you want it, it’s about being open for a journey, and doing things that are out there that may in some way work toward your goals. Some of the craziest things I’ve done, like playing on the street, turned into relationships that got me in front of people and gave me chances. I would never have gotten those chances if I had not done those things!