ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we meet folk and soul singer Tina Vernon who recently released her debut EP, Flight Risk, an eclectic mix of soul, folk, country and rock.
ESSENCE.com: How would you describe your music?
TINA VERNON: My music is quite an eclectic brew. At the heart of it, it's soul music, with very strong influences in folk, jazz, and some rock. I grew up in Texas, and definitely feel my sound was informed by that landscape. In one moment it's wide and open, and in the very next, complicated and hilly.
ESSENCE.com: What's the brief you gave yourself when you decided to make Flight Risk?
VERNON: I just really wanted to allow myself the freedom to explore musically without feeling like I had to be so certain of a sound in the beginning. It was more about my personal journey, against the backdrop of how I was feeling about our collective freedom. Flight Risk was done at a particularly challenging time in my life, and so I didn't want to run away from those darker elements either. I was also working on the play, WANTED, and imagined some of the music might become part of the play. So, my deal with myself was to take some creative risks.
ESSENCE.com: You're also a playwright and actress. Do these disciplines help you as a singer/songwriter?
VERNON: I didn't realize how closely acting and singing were related until I began doing more live music shows. Characters allow you to explore a song from different points of view. And this is true whether you embody the character, or imagine singing to someone in particular. It definitely keeps it fresh. As far as writing goes, I believe being a playwright means that I think about structure and form a lot, how I want the listener to feel. And also, how songs fit together like scenes to create a story.
ESSENCE.com: Who are some of your musical influences?
VERNON: Lyrically, no one has inspired me like Joni Mitchell. Her music is just so emotionally rich. The attention she pays to story and the details of a moment resonate very deeply with me. Beyond that, I would say my influences are really diverse. I listen to everything: soul, house, roots, country, alternative....you name it. My family is always teasing me about "the strange stuff" they hear me playing.
Tina Vernon's EP Flight Risk is available on iTunes.
Listen to her song "The Dreamer" below and let us know what you think.