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Photo by Shayne Gray

Winter Jazzfest: Modern Jazz-da with Tia Brazda

By Josh Lemoine on February 3, 2017

The last 12 months have been very good to jazz singer-songwriter Tia Brazda, and in 2017, she finds herself in a good place.

“I’ve been having a really good time lately.  I’ve been spending a lot of time reconnecting with friends, going to shows, writing music.  And baking.  I think I’ve mastered zucchini loaf.”30

The Vancouver native, who now lives in Toronto, first burst onto the scene with her 2012 EP ‘Cabin Fever’.  Her unique sound is a modern take on the swing and jazz sounds from the era of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.  2016 saw her take this sound to different parts of the country and the world.

“2016 was actually an incredible year for me.  I got to do a ton of festivals.  I would say the highlight for me was when I went to the Montreal International Jazz Festival and played the mainstage there, which was an awesome experience.  It was nuts.  I really have good luck sometimes.  And then I went to Spain at the end of the summer, which was also a brilliant experience.  I went there for one festival. The Iboga Festival in Valencia, but I made a whole trip out of it.  I did the Mediterranean coast, ate olives and drank wine, went to Barcelona and Madrid…  It was an adventure.”

Photo by Shayne Gray

Photo by Shayne Gray

Brazda grew up in a musical family, but wasn’t exposed to a wide range of artists in her youth.  Instead, she was encouraged to take a DIY approach to music.

“My grandfather, he liked to sing, and my mom likes to sing.  I was very fortunate, she went to a very musical church, and they got me into singing in public.  I had my first performance when I was like 4 or 5, like a solo performance.  And then my mom married the church guitarist, so I got a dad!  My dad was always playing guitar and singing, and he was in a band in the 70’s, so it was very much encouraged to make our own music at home.  My dad listened to a lot of Moody Blues, but other than that, we didn’t really listen to that much stuff, we were always making up our own stuff.  At home it was very musical, but in a ‘make-your-own’ kind of way.”

Photo by Shayne Gray

Photo by Shayne Gray

Brazda started making her own music when she was ten years old.  It was in university that she began to record in earnest, using some of her student loans to pay for studio time.

“I was in school studying, and I was going to the studio at night.  Once I started recording and having a product that I could actually share with people, that’s when things started to expand for me.”

Photo by Shayne Gray

Photo by Shayne Gray

Tia’s unique sound and style is heavily influenced by the great jazz singers of the 1950’s.  It wasn’t until an introductions to the music of that era by a high school teacher that Brazda connected to the sound.

“I’ve gone through many different musical phases.  When I was just about to finish high school, around grade 11 or 12, I had an amazing band teacher, and he gave me a bunch of recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.  You know the picture of Billie Holiday where she has the tear coming down her face?  The very classic image of her.  I was in his office and I saw the picture of Billie Holiday and said ‘who’s that?’  He said ‘well, that’s Billie Holiday.’  The next day he gave me a burned CD of all the female great jazz singers.  So I took that home and I dug right into Ella Fitzgerald like crazy.  I studied it on my own for years.  And then I started singing in clubs, but I was also interested in other types of music too.  I spent many years experiences all sorts of different styles, seeing what I liked, experimenting.”

While Brazda has a strong affinity for the bygone era of jazz (she points out that there is a worldwide renaissance of sorts going on in the genre), she once felt that maybe she was a victim of being born in the wrong time, but no longer.

“I used to, so much.  You know that movie Midnight in Paris?  I totally felt like that guy.  I have such a fascination with that era, because I not only love the music, I love the art, I love the furniture.  These days I feel like we travel with so much more ease, we have the internet, we can communicate globally.  They didn’t have that.  I think you had to be wealthy to be able to travel.  From what I understand, the people that I read about in the history books, they seem to be funded, or totally broke, one or the other.  I mean, I wouldn’t be going to Paris.  I’m happy being here now, I think we’re lucky.  And antibiotics!  We’re so lucky.”

Tia has already enjoyed a great deal of success so far in her career.  Her first EP “Cabin Fever” debuted at #1 on the iTunes Canada Jazz Chart, and received play on BBC and CBC Radio.  Her most recent album “Bandshell” debuted at #1 on the iTunes Canada Jazz Chart and stayed in the top 10 for some time.  But for Brazda, the challenge of performing is what has brought her the most joy, and a level of personal growth she did not expect.

“I didn’t expect that performing would help me get to know myself better.  You have to face your fears when you go out and perform in front of people.  Maybe some people are born with the nerve to do it.  I am not one of those people.  I had to work very hard to get comfortable.  When you have to build that confidence, you have to open up, and you really have to build a relationship with the audience.  You have to be open to them.  It takes a lot of vulnerability to be that open with people.  In a way it’s kind of weird, being open makes you stronger.  In my daily life I feel more content.  I just feel more connected with people when I perform, in a way that I hadn’t expected to.

Tia Brazda performs at the TD Ottawa Winter Jazz Fest on February 10 at La Nouvelle Scène.  Tickets are on sale online, at the festival office at  294 Albert Street, Suite 602, or by phone at 613-241-2633

Apt613’s full interview with Tia Brazda aired on CHUO 89.1fm on Tuesday, January 31st, and is available to stream on our Soundcloud.