Renee Price
Calgary Bluesfest (2009)

Renee Price is the winner of the "Singing the Blues" competition at the 2009 Midwinter Bluesfest.

Following is an interview with Renee by vocalist Cindy McLeod (Bluesfest Producer)

When did your love for singing begin and what inspired it?

I don’t ever remember not singing.... although growing up in Gillette Wyoming there were very few opportunities aside from the school choir. In my teens I started going to church. The attraction was the music… and I found opportunity to lead worship and sing every Sunday.

My girlfriend and I used to listen to gospel Sunday every week on the local radio station. It was a syndicated show from the southern states. We were introduced to Bebe abd Cici Wynems (spelling?) The same Radio station played a one hour jazz show every Saturday afternoon. We listened to that too… and it was there that I fell in love with Nina Simone and Betty Carter.

I moved to Vancouver my second year of university. My first day exploring Vancouver I came face to face with a poster of Betty Carter in a bus shack. She was playing in Vancouver the following week. I didn’t get to see her that year but went to a privately owned music store. I bought my first CD that day. It was the only Betty Carter CD they had in stock. They did have an extensive collection of Nina Simone… and I bought one of each that they had. I listened to those CD”s over and over and over again… and I still do.

I was out on a date with a guy who took me to Grand Sasso. Russell Jackson was on stage. I had no idea who he was. We started dancing and Russell broke into a solo. I stopped dancing. I walked up to the stage and soaked it in. His sound was so familiar… and so soulful. Music became the center of my life for the next two years while I lived in Vancouver… I went to every jam session I could. Russell learned some of my favorite Nina Simone tunes for me and I was able to sing them where ever he was. Of course he also always invited me to sit in with him if I showed up at one of his gigs.

Then I moved to Winnipeg, and Music left my life completely. I met and almost married a man who didn’t want me to listen to crazy devil music… he also didn’t want me to be a lawyer… and encouraged me to learn how to do hair. So for the duration of our relationship I kept the peace by sacrificing a part of me that made me complete. My voice was silent. And it remained silent for the next 15 years… long after I met and married my husband.

Then one day in Calgary a neighbor invited me to go out to see some Blues. My husband pushed me out the door… and said You love the Blues… go on. I went to the Iron wood and listened to Tim Williams. I listened and my heart ached for what I had left behind. I cried as I listened to him play and I knew that I needed music to be complete. So after 15 years of sitting on the couch…. I gave my heart to the blues. Thanks Tim. One night watching him perform truly changed the course of my daily life.

Who were your first influences?

My first influences were in the church, southern gospel music. Nina Simone is probably the biggest of my musical influences.

Did you study formally?

I studied one year of classical voice while at the Black Hills University… but remember very little of it.

When did you begin singing?

I started singing after hearing Tim Williams play…. That was the spring of 2005.

Name some notable performances. I have had only one gig…. It was April 17 of this year. Russell Jackson and Theo Brown flew into back me up on that.

Who are your influences today?

I seek out the divas to listen to. Billy Hollliday, Ruth Brown, Susan Tedeschi, Lynn Jordon, Janiva Magnus, Janis Joplin, Ruthie Foster, Candye Kane, , Roxanne Potvin, Sue Foley, Helen Humes, Etta James, Aretha, Bessie Smith, Maria Muldaur, Little Miss Higgins, Diana Krall, Eartha Kitt, Jully Black and Norah Jones to name a few.

I love Delta and Acoustic Blues… and celebrate every opportunity to do an acoustic set. I listen to Tim Williams, and Amos Garret. Alot for their acoustic stuff…. I love to listen to local musicians.

How would you describe your sound?

To answer this, think of some of the things people have most often said after hearing you. Maybe they've used words such as raspy, breathy or powerful - these are examples only and not necessarily the words I'd use... I want your words. Has anyone told you that you remind them of another singer? If you think about the comparisons that people draw, there are certain qualities they are being attracted to. Also, describe your music ie: jazz, blues, funky, traditional, acoustic, electric, etc.

People often tell me I have a big voice. I am often told that I sound like I do jazz… not blues.

I guess you could say I’m old school with an edge. I’m not about the Chicago blues… My sound is something reminiscent of my days in the church, mixed with a little Nina Simone, a dash of Jully Black, and a whole lot of swing.