By Mike Kinney
Like the best of Blues artists, Tia Carroll’s voice lifts spirits no matter the level of tragedy in its message. Take “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’,” a can’t-miss cover song from her new album, “You Gotta Have It!” While the song’s lyrics present the plight of victims of gun violence, homelessness, addiction and joblessness, Carroll’s soothing delivery offers wisdom, authority and assurance. So when the chorus kicks in and Carroll sings, “You don’t have to mourn, because help is on the way,” you believe her. And when she adds, “Because ain’t nobody worryin’, no more,” you’re left both hopeful and heartbroken.
It’s next-level storytelling. Hence, it’s not surprising that Carroll, raised in Parchester Village and residing in El Sobrante, has shared stages with the likes of Ray Charles, Sugar Pie DeSantos, Denise LaSalle and Jimmy McCracklin, the latter of whom was honored by the City of Richmond this month for what would have been his 100th birthday.
“You Gotta Have It!,” a mix of both covers and originals, is receiving high praise, with Roots Music Report lauding Carroll’s “powerhouse delivery.”
Carroll’s voice has taken her around the world, but she says singing outdates her career.
“The only difference was back in the day my audience was either my dolls, or my fish or my cat and sometimes the occasional real people — my parent’s company,” she said.
Carroll fondly recalls her childhood in Parchester Village, “when you played outside until the streetlights came on” and “rode your bike around the neighborhood without fear of being taken by someone in a white panel van with no windows.”
“You left your door unlocked and always had a cup of whatever your neighbor needed to borrow, even if you were not home to give it to them,” she said.
Carroll, also a well-known radio personality with “Tia Carroll’s Awesome Radio Show” — airing Wednesdays from 9 a.m. till noon on KPOO-FM — recalls growing up listening to radio stations that had the strongest signals in her neighborhood: KDIA, KYA and KFRC. So, “I grew up with blues, soul, gospel, country, R&B, pop, rock and I sang with all of it as it played out of my tiny transistor radio,” she said.
The practice and influences encouraged a natural transition to a career in singing, during which Carroll has performed internationally with legendary artists.
“I had a rare opportunity to sing with Ray Charles in San Francisco, right stage right time, absolutely awesome,” Carroll said.
Her first trip out of the U.S. was with McCracklin.
“We went to the Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada,” she said. She would later perform in Thailand, many countries in Europe, Mexico, Estonia and Finland, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
More recently, Carroll joined the label, the nonprofit Little Village Foundation, which brought Carroll’s undeniably alluring voice center stage in “You Gotta Have It!”
The title says it all. The label believes the mix of covers and originals will bring Carroll much-deserved attention. The album’s executive producer, Noel Hayes, had known about Carroll for many years and introduced her to the project.
“We both came up with a list of songs that we thought would work well on the project,” she said. “We started with a list of about 18 songs and once we the hit the studio the number of songs morphed into a cool set of 11. I could not be prouder of the work done by the musicians and producers, and their awesome and gentle guidance.”
The album may get the most attention for her rendition of “Ain’t Nobody Worryin’,” a track by Anthony Hamilton.
“This song was presented to me by Jim Pugh, the executive director of Little Village label,” Carroll said. “He had a vision and knew that my voice would be able to convey this powerful message. With the addition of the [Sons of the Soul Revivers on the vocals] and Charlie Hunter on the guitar/bass, we just could not go wrong.”
In Carroll’s songs, everything can go wrong. And yet, it somehow never goes wrong. That’s partly because Carroll carries forward the soul of an inspired little girl in Parchester Village who couldn’t help but to sing along with the radio, and to the people who’d stop by her home to visit her parents. When Carroll sings, ain’t nobody worryin.
“All in all I am enjoying what comes my way and embracing this precious air,” Carroll said. “I am the worship leader at my church and that is a first as well so my musical range is being expanded like God expands one’s territory. I am blessed and happy to spread some love and good vibes everywhere I go.”
For more information on bookings, visit tiacarroll.net or call (510) 253-7036.