Her nights ended in music.
And they still do. As a child her parents would sing her to sleep with the gentle, tender strains of harmonized folk music. All grown up, Miss Tess and her band The Talkbacks regularly shut down venues with something a little rowdier. Infused with classic country and honky-tonk, southern blues, New Orleans jazz and swing, sounds of swamp pop and early rock & roll, she and her band take pride in the fact that they are able to blend so many different styles of American roots music and call it their own.
Comprised of herself, Thomas Bryan Eaton, Matthew Meyer and James Gascoyne, Miss Tess and the Talkbacks have travelled through all fifty states, playing in just about every one. This summer found them on the road West, slipping past the Grand Canyon, pulling a U2 at Joshua Tree, and sailing smoothly on the Puget Sound. September took them to Nashville for the Americana Music Awards, and October leads them into the Deep South, all the way to the bayous of Louisiana.
While claiming Brooklyn, NY as home base, the band itself seems to be from both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Between the fusion of their music styles and constant shows on the road they are the embodiment of everything that is still good, free and homegrown in America.
Their newest album, The Love I Have For You, features six covers and one new original. It pays homage to some of Tess and the band’s most treasured singers and songwriters. With nods to Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Neil Young, and Hank Williams, Tess explains how the band decided which songs to feature, “Each artist we covered has held a special place in the history of our lives, as well as in the history of American music.” She continues, “These folks are all musical giants who dedicated their lives to music, and for that I hold them in the highest esteem.”
If dedicating your life to music is the standard, then Miss Tess and the Talkbacks deserve to be held in that same esteem. Growing up with musicians for parents, Tess began taking classical piano lessons at age 4. In high school she picked up a guitar and learned a few chords. It wasn’t until she was 20 that she became more serious and started studying jazz guitar while learning to sing tunes at the same time.
Forever traveling and road tripping for months at a time, it was during a moment driving away from the Rocky Mountains after a Colorado bluegrass festival with a handful of songs written during her sojourns that she decided music was her art.
When she returned home to her native Baltimore, she immediately put together a band. Eventually, she moved to Boston, took a couple semesters at Berklee School of Music, and won a slew of local music awards. Following her successes she put her first itineration of the band together, most notably picking up her drummer. They started touring in 2007 and haven’t looked back.
What Miss Tess and the Talkbacks serve up, exactly, is a little sweet, and a little spice. A little soul, and a little rock n’ roll. A veritable melting pot of influence and inspiration. When asked about the future of their music, Tess remains vague, seemingly leaving the question open ended for a will and a way, “I’m not sure, but can only hope for the best! I plan to keep writing and playing music with other folks for the rest of my life.”