A Conversation with Tywanna Jo Baskette
Tywanna Jo Baskette: Hello?
Puremusic: Hi, Ty. It's Frank.
TJB: Hey. What are you doing?
PM: So what I'm doing is, we're going to have our professional conversation.
PM: Well, let's try, anyway. I just read a ton of your propaganda. And I know you've been having a time with interviews, too. So we'll just try to have a more normal conversation, if we can. Like we were saying the other day, it's different if you're playing a song and all of a sudden you look up and the red light's on, it's like, "Oh, shit. Now we're recording. Great." And you start to sweat and you're singing different and your lip is sticking to your teeth and everything. My brain does that. Hopefully where our interview will be different from the handful that you've done so far and the many that are to come is that you and I are already friends.
TJB: Yeah, that's true.
PM: So ours ought to have its own personality. When did you and I first run into each other, anyway?
TJB: With Molly [Felder, half of the hypertalented duo Swan Dive]. Maybe she was with Bill [DeMain, Swan Dive's other half]. It seems like we had sushi. At Shintomi. Is that right?
PM: It must have been. Yeah, Shintomi, late 90s, like when this stuff started happening, I think.
TJB: Yeah, it was around '99 or 2000. I'd have to look it up. I'm sure I wrote it down.
PM: I remember sitting in your wild little pad and listening to microcassettes of your songs, and cassettes, and even phone messages. So I think it was pretty early on. And I guess at that time you were sending them to Clay Jones and stuff. Is that right? That's my memory of it.
TJB: Yeah, it's probably so, around then.
PM: And now, just a few short years later, you're getting flown to New York City to talk with Interview Magazine, as like the new Southern Gothic sweetheart. How does that feel?
PM: Good, right.
PM: It's nice for a change to see somebody do something original.
TJB: Wait. Frank, are you taping now?
PM: Of course I'm taping.
TJB: [gasps] Okay. I have to concentrate.
PM: No, you don't. No, if you concentrate then we won't have our normal conversation.
TJB: Oh, I can't stand being tape recorded.
TJB: Because I hate my voice. That's what it is. Then you can go back and listen to my stupid answers over and over.
PM: But the thing is that no one will hear your voice, which is nice. Yeah, because I hate the sound of my speaking voice on tape. And half the time when I'm on the phone with people, they say "Yes, ma'am."
TJB: Yes, ma'am?
PM: Yeah! And I have to say, "Hey, easy now. I'm not a ma'am."
PM: I must get excited and talk real high or something.
TJB: That's funny. Well at least they don't go, "Is your mom home?"
PM: [laughs] Do they do that to you?
TJB: All the time.
TJB: Like telemarketers, "Can I speak with your mom, honey?" Well, I wish you could, sweetie.
PM: So many artists have difficulty with interviews for various reasons. How have you been finding this process yourself?
TJB: Well, I think it's hard to understand yourself. How can you know yourself when that's the journey through your entire life?
TJB: Trying to figure it out. And I haven't figured it out, and so I don't know what to say, because I don't know really what I believe in yet or what I'm about. I'm still searching for the proverbial silver lining in the dark clouds. And I certainly haven't found it yet, so I don't know what to say. And doing interviews makes me just as sick as rehearsing and doing shows.
PM: That's still making you sick, huh?
TJB: Yeah. But that's getting old. I don't want to talk about that anymore.
PM: Many great artists do still get nervous before every show.
TJB: What can you do about it?
PM: I think you just kind of live with it and walk through it and just go do your show.
Let's see--I think we're smart to avoid some ticklish areas. We don't have to talk about your wild and wooly upbringing, because a lot of people are. But Roger, your dear and trusted friend, wrote such a good bio, capsulizing the key events in your life, that I think we'll just quote that in the setup, if that's okay with you.
TJB: Yeah, that's nice.
PM: So although you've been writing songs--or "pass-alongs" as you've called them for some time--I'm led to believe that you only started to record them in the late 90s when we first met. Is that really right?
TJB: Yeah, that's right. Because Roger started following me around. Well, he'd go, "I love that! Sing that again." And I'd go, "I don't remember it. It's passed on through already," or whatever.
TJB: And then he'd get mad. And then he started following me around with a tape recorder. It was obnoxious.
PM: Truly, but--
TJB: Except that I wouldn't have a record if he hadn't. And so it's a big deal, I think.
PM: How do you say Roger's last name?
TJB: Like a gun. Pistole.
PM: So, yeah, God bless him, because, as you say, we wouldn't be having this particular recorded conversation without him pestering you and following you around with a tape recorder trying to get your pass-alongs in those early days.
TJB: It's true. "Jellyfish" is one that he captured. It would have gone--and I love that song.
PM: Yeah. "But you sting me," yeah. Having grown up a Nashvillian, though, had you been around a lot of music and musicians all along in your life, or--
TJB: No, not really. I just stayed in my room and read books on my big stuffed turtle. [laughs]
TJB: My mom had to force me to go outside to play. And I'd try to sneak a book out then, too.
PM: What were you reading growing up, do you remember?
TJB: All the Nancy Drew books, all the Hardy Boys books.
PM: I liked those, too.
TJB: Then like lots of Gothic mysteries. I read a lot of those.
PM: I'm not sure I know what that means.
TJB: I read a lot of books by this writer Marilyn Ross. And they're like queer little romantic mysteries that you read when you're in fifth, sixth, seventh grade, I guess. I don't know how old. But I was reading them. I always wanted the new one. I don't know, I read all kinds of books when I was a kid. And books about birds. I love birds.
PM: About birds?
TJB: And dinosaurs. I don't know. A lot has happened in my life with animals, like anybody, I guess, that's had a life [laughs], because they're everywhere, the animals.
PM: But it's neat that you write so much about them, or they come up in the songs one way or the other. I like that.
TJB: Thank you. continue