I first met Tywanna Jo Baskette (Ty to her friends) in the late 90s in Nashville. Striking and eccentric, that just happens to be one of my favorite combinations. She was also funny and creative, and had a bunch of songs. I wanted to investigate a little further, and I chummed her up some, we did a little hanging out and swapped some songs and stories in the weeks and months to come.
I'd never run into a songwriter like her. She had a little suitcase full of these one minute snapshots and vignettes about goat cheese and parakeets, lung cancer, a man who broke into her house while she was in the shower, very unusual material. She'd play me these little microcassettes that she'd send down to a producer named Clay Jones in Oxford, MS, and I think she even played some phone messages that went back and forth between them. All in all, I certainly felt like I was looking through a window into a world somewhat unfamiliar to me, even as the less than sheltered person that I am, let's say.
In terms of a biographical sketch, you could scarce do better than to quote a section from a bio by her longtime friend, video and film director Roger Pistole:
"Ty was adopted and raised by a Protestant minister and a Catholic nurse who, for a few years, lived in the country with some cows, a pet pig 'Pricilla' (who was killed by her Dad while Ty was at school one fine day) and several other critters This album reflects this past through the eyes of a child, brutally innocent yet wise and wary from her tenuous existence from the get-go: adoption, the death of both adoptive parents to lung cancer, the death of her childhood best friend, life without parole for two first cousins who killed Opry legend Stringbean Akeman and his wife Estelle, and eleven years of ballet abruptly ending with the death of her instructor."
So, you see that Ty comes by the distinction Southern Gothic honestly, innocently, almost inevitably. And you can see by her photos that she is a beautiful person, and expert in front of the camera. In fact when I was shooting some fruitless pictures (rookie syndrome) at her recent World Cafe taping, I was amazed to see how she behaved in front of the camera. It was as if somebody turned on the music, and she began to move seductively. I hope to try again before we go to print, at a rehearsal or at her digs, if she gets back from Oxford in time. See, she's already begun her second record, even before this one hits the street.
Her band is two fine players and the artist on very quiet vocals. Derek Greene plays tasty and commensurately quiet drums (a Papa John's pizza box with brushes at the World Cafe taping) and the superb John Jackson is on guitar, one of Music City's best.
Ty's a very complicated person, moody and brainy, she's interesting to be around. It certainly looks like she might make a run at some well-deserved attention on a scale far larger than her hometown. I hear Rolling Stone has been calling, for lyrics and other details.
The music of Tywanna Jo Baskette is totally original, and really amazing. I'm not saying it's for everybody, but everybody oughta check it out, like you can do right now on the Listen page. We believe her name is about to spread far and wide, for very good reasons. continue to interview