Tammi Savoy and the Chris Casello Combo are going to be playing at the Bello Winter Music Festival this year, coming all the way from Chicago in the US. Their music takes you to another era, and they’re sure to be a stand out at the festival with their unique style of music. We spoke to Tammi about the show, how she and Chris came together to form the band, and what we can expect to see.
What drew you into the music industry? Were you singing from a young age?
I started singing in the church choir when I was three years old, so I’ve been singing all my life. But as I got older, I still sang a little, but it wasn’t something I was really serious about until recently. It wasn’t until 2014 that I started singing professionally. Before I would sing for church, weddings, talent shows for fun, things like that, but it wasn’t anything serious I was trying to pursue. I started out doing backup singing first, and then that just sort of led in to me singing lead. But, I’m really enjoying it; I love it!
How did you and Chris cross paths?
So, I was actually singing backup with a band that I’m a part of called Lance Lapinski and the Lovers, and he was a sub on guitar for our show, and we met then. But then afterwards he had a show of his own; I was actually out with my husband on his birthday and Chris was performing, and he asked me to sit in on a song. We did Jim Dandy, because that was one of the songs that I sang in the show that he subbed in, so we both knew that one – but we didn’t have any other songs. Everybody was like, “Encore! Encore!” and we were like, “We don’t have anything else though!”
After that we talked. I told him I wanted to come out with a 45, and he said he could help me with that. We started rehearsing and we recorded some things in his basement, and now those songs we recorded are on our EP. From there we just started doing shows together, and we’ve been doing that ever since.
So how long have you been working together now?
We started rehearsing last October/November I think, but our first actual show together was last year at the Nashville Boogie. That was at the end of May last year.
What have been some of your favourite venues or shows so far?
Oh my goodness! That’s kinda hard, because there have been a lot of good ones! But I would say, we did a show that was at the Arcada
Theatre; we opened for Tommy James, and then we also had our own set after that at the speak-easy they have upstairs. I really enjoyed that, being able to play at both venues at the Arcada Theatre. And I really like the Arcada Theatre,because it’s really fancy and it has that old-school feel to it! It’s a very historic place; I think it was built in the early 1900s, and they kept the old decor and everything. I just love being there.
Listening to your music, you get taken back to another time almost. What era of music are you most inspired by?
What I do in my set is music from the ’50s, mostly. But, I sing all kinds of music from all different eras, and I feel like they all influence my sound. When I was younger, my best memories are of being in the car with the family and listening to old-school music – things like Motown, old soul music, jazz, just everything from every decade! But in my set I do mostly ’50s songs by artists whose songs were more obscure, maybe that a lot of people don’t really know much about, and I want to bring attention back to those songs.
How do audiences respond to that old style of music? What sort of fans do you get coming to the shows?
It’s weird to me to even say “fans”! To me, I feel like I’m just doing what I love! But I feel like a lot of people who come to see the shows, even if they don’t know what the songs are, I feel they still enjoy it. But every crowd is different and every venue is different, so it’s always a different reaction.
People come up to me and tell me they love it and often they say that they find it quite mesmerising. A lot of the time, if they’re able to, they dance to the music, so I can tell when they’re enjoying it.
The feedback I get is good; a lot of the older people let me know that it brings them back – a lot of the songs they remember from when they were younger, and it makes them happy to see someone from my generation bringing it back and trying to keep it alive. I feel like that is a good response.
Can you tell us a bit about your wardrobe? You often seem to be wearing these amazing, old style dresses. How extensive is your wardrobe, and where does it all come from?
The funny thing is that people often think that they are stage costumes, and they’re actually just clothes that are in my closet already! I’ve always loved vintage style since I was younger. I would look at old Hollywood films from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s and also the women who used to sing back in the day, like Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee, and they all dress like that on stage with the big band behind them – and that just stuck with me! I always liked that style, and I just wanted it for myself!
So, even before I started singing professionally, I already had a lot of these outfits in my closet! It’s a style I love, and at first I started dressing up for special occasions, but then after a while I was like, “This is me; this is what I do!” and I figured I might as well just dress like this all the time!
I’ve noticed that Chris and the band get all kitted up too. It makes it quite a show – not just about the music.
And the crazy thing is, I don’t ever tell them what to wear – they pick their own clothes. I know a lot of times with bands they want to coordinate and make sure everybody looks the same, but I’ve never told them what to wear – and I’m fine with whatever they choose! And it’s funny, because with Chris Casello, it seems like his clothes always seem to end up coordinating with mine, even though we don’t talk about it beforehand or plan it; it just works out that way!
Is this your first time to Australia? What are you looking forward to?
Yes, it is! And it’s Chris’ first time to Australia as well. It’s very exciting. Having never been there, I don’t really know what to expect, but I know that people have told me that it’s nice there even in the winter – so I’m looking forward to nice weather! I’m sure it’s nothing like winter in Chicago!
Tammi Savoy and the Chis Casello Combo playing at Bello Winter Music on July 11th until 14th. Tickets available from www.bellowintermusic.com