Tianna Hall has a vivid, vibrant personality — both in person and online. She signifies laughter on Facebook and Twitter with a big, blustery “HAAAA!!!!” You can practically see the blinking LED lights and feel the letters quaking.
It’s a sharp contrast to the calm, collected diva she plays on record.
“I think a lot of people expect me to be aloof and low-key. Nothing could be further from the truth,” she says. “I did musical theater throughout my childhood and teenage years. I think that being on a theater stage brings any personality you might have to a bubbling, gurgling, boiling point."
Hall’s newest effort, “Two for the Road,” again boasts lush, velvety vocals and pitch-perfect arrangements. She’s backed by the Mexico City Jazz Trio (bassist Agustin Bernal, pianist Miguel Villicaña, drummer Gabriel Puentes), who also played on 2007 disc “Lost in the Stars.”
“We had such a magical experience working together on our first project and this one proved even more so,” Hall says. “We started planning this new album before the first one had even been sent to be pressed. The fellas were here for a week. It was crazy! But while they were here I had to subject them to our good eats: Burger Palace for their insane Kobe Burgers, Aladdin Mediterranean in Montrose, 59 Diner, Katz’s, Pappas BBQ Mai’s and — I shudder to share this – Taco Cabana when we were crunched for time.”
“Two for the Road” gets a “soft” local release Friday (and is available for presale at tiannahall.com). A wider release is scheduled for September. It includes lovely takes on standards “‘Til There Was You,” “When October Goes,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and standout “Good Morning Heartache.”
It also boasts a few unexpected detours.
How did Radiohead’s “Creep” end up on the album?
I’ve been playing “Creep” on gigs for years with one of my hometown bassists, Steve Brown. We did a music video with drummer Sasha Loukachine, shot by Debora Smail and Alex Luster (of “Stick ‘em Up”), who inspired me to no end. I knew then I wanted to record it someday just like that, with minimal instrumentation of just upright bass and snare drum. The musical vulnerability with that configuration transforms the composition to something completely new. That is just delicious to me.
What about Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun?” (Listen to it, and two other tracks, below.)
I’ve always loved that song. The lyrics are so dark and moody. The original recording by Soundgarden, along with the visually stunning and creepy music video, has stuck with me since it came out in ‘94. I was 14 at the time, and it blew me away.
Has Houston informed your works as a singer?
It definitely has through insanely varied mediums. There are so many exceptionally talented musicians and artists in this town. I continue to be inspired by so many, including the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Symphony, drag queens like Kofi, Main Street Theater; jazz musicians like Mike Wheeler, Marsha Frazier, Mike Nase, Warren Sneed and Dennis Dotson. They make me want to be a better singer, a better musician and a better artist altogether. This town has inspiration coming out of it’s pores.
What’s the balance like of motherhood and music?
It has certainly been interesting. Lex was with me on all my gigs up until two weeks before I delivered him. Thankfully, my husband works a normal 9-5 job that allows me to focus on being a mommy during the day and then get slung up in my jazz diva drag, complete with big false lashes. Those early mornings with an energetic toddler are brutal following a late gig in a loud bar the night before, especially now that baby No. 2 is on the way and making me want sleep all day.
What’s the secret to being a successful working musician in Houston?
Professionalism. That’s definitely the number one thing. Show up on time. Half an hour ahead of your start time is late. Dress appropriately. Have your equipment in working order. Stay sober on the bandstand. If you can’t do those things, it doesn’t matter how good you are — or how good your mama or girlfriend thinks you are.
You’ve made no secret of your love for drag queens. Who’d you love to see do one of your songs?
Shannel from season one of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” or Raven from season 2. Those are some fierce queens.