We sat down with the fantastic and experienced imaginative soul musician Tabitha Booth. She showed us deep inside the creation of Wolf Moon Live, the American gypsy life and recording in Jersey City.
Where in the world can we find you today and do you remember the first time you were on stage?
Self-referencing as a Jersey Gypsie, I have traveled cross-country 4 times; and grew up all along the east coast with my siblings. Usually, people then presume I am from a military family; however, this is not the case. You would have to look up the lives of a modern day, American gypsy to really understand what it might have been like growing up. Ultimately, all of this contributed to my outlook on life in the day to day, as a performer, what I write about and the legacy I wish to leave when I’m gone. Morbid, I know; but, it’s kind of a “live life as if it is the last day you have” kind of mantra. Some people might take that as a pretext to be a total A-hole without consequence. Others take it as an opportunity to leave the world better than we found it; or, just to live. The first time I was onstage was when I was 5. I sang the alphabet; there are a lot of old family videos with me singing the alphabet; so, I guess that is where my stage enthusiasm first was groomed. I remember using markers to draw my father’s portrait on a giant cardboard box and putting it over his head. Somehow, it was a narrative. As a kid, I enjoyed writing screenplays. At a summer camp, my sister and I co-wrote a screenplay about aliens having an intergalactic conference about Earth problems and what to do about it. Following our play, we sang a duet. We were 9 and 10 years old. From there, I actually developed a huge phobia for singing on stage that followed me through college. I didn’t get over it until I was 23.
Please tell us all about Wolf Moon Live at Cocoon Studios?
Wolf Moon is a conglomeration of influences. I am married. We hate it. It has been a long reconciliation and we still don’t know if we will get divorced or not. We are just so different and actually come from different cultures entirely. It is almost like our desire for the potential of what we could be, both as musicians also, outweighs the clean-cut ending. It’s weird. Life is weird. My partner resonates with the wolf totem; as I did, back as a teenager. I was more contemplative back then; and am becoming more so, again. Being said, reconciling some time off between my partner and I — it was very painful — the only thing I could do was transform my feelings into music. I asked my band friends if they would join me on doing a cover of the song that my lover had sent me. It was a way for me to heal. Not only did the band join me on this song; but we agreed to present a full live set for an intimate listening session. We found the perfect place. Cocoon Studios in Jersey City. The engineer, Corey Zack, is a really great audio engineer and brought our live show recording to live. It is my favorite recording over the years of producing music. So, there are semantics, as well, with the name of the studio. My partner would always call me, “Mariposata,” which means butterfly. Not only that, but since the engineer and I share a background in carpentry, we were able to present the audience with a unique set design to enhance the performance and become more immersive. We performed the show in January, a week after the Native American Wolf Moon, the full moon. There is wisdom in the phases of the moon… if you seek it out. So, our set became a combination of original songs, the cover song I mentioned previously, a rendition of a Ukrainian folk song (made famous by the actress Milla Jovovich) and a curation of poems, written by my grandmother, set to music. The show was all ages and that was a very cool thing.
Improv, spoken word and freeform. What makes these 3 skills so special to you?
Something I would always belabor over as a trained classical musician was… perfection. There is something magical about striving for perfection when you come into it with low self-worth. There is a sense of value which you gain when you win; or, when you perfect what you are trying to do. However, it can take a toll on relationships and your own happiness and how you experience life in general. There is something equally magical about letting go; and that is where improv comes in. It is uninhibited. Further, and this is something that my music theory professors, Dr. Gradone and Joe Bilotti, would stress to us. You have to know the rules explicitly so that you can then know which ones to break — the intentionality behind it. I have learned that there is a certain grace to it. A silent wisdom. A sense of self-control and self-trust to be partnered with the creative spirit in a way that brings forth raw, creative energy through a tunnel of experience — and practice. Not only that, but in my view, it really is about the breath at the end of it all. Creation, creativity, sex, life. A spiritual teacher I follow commented that creativity and healing are the same. It’s like, some people become whole when they have kids. I feel whole when I create full songs and performances. There is a catharsis in it; a sense of satisfaction. But, going back to improv, spoken word and freeform, these skills are special to me because they measure my ego and how much it dominates or can surrender to the flow… which requires breath. So, to break out of the perfectionism, I found that audience engagement is crucial to leaving my ego at the door and also becoming more inclusive. Before the end of nearly every show, I will ask the audience to offer up 3 words. With those words, I improvise a story in spoken word form, backed by a seriously talented band.
Please tell us more about your band and who it contains.
First of all, my band is awesome. The main reason is because they are active in the scene with other great projects. This inspires and add a feeling that I am working with some of the best. Edwin Lopez Villada is a regional piano instructor; in fact, we were piano duet partners in college and have remained great friends ever since. Tory Anne Daines is a charting violinist who performs regularly throughout the east coast and Nashville Radio. Naomi Smith, upright bassist, has just signed on as touring manager for Wolf Moon and we are actively underway on this effort; Raphael Notte is my supporting vocalist who has worked with celebrities such as Madonna and Heidi Klum. I swear he has perfect pitch. Our drummers are on rotation, depending on the venue. We have a laid back vibe, as a group and have worked with amazing drummers and percussionists, djembe players such as Yahaya Kamate who is also a master choreographer of traditional African dance styles from the Ivory Coast. Every musician in the band is astoundingly creative with their arrangements and talent. I am deeply honored… is an understatement.
Who are your heroes in the music world?
My heroes! It is good to have heroes. Role models. I am a huge fan of Beth Gibbons of Portishead; absolutely iconic. Her in-the-pocket- vocals in a downtempo style. I would die to meet her. Huge fan of Norah Jones and the diversity of her genres; it was her album, “Come Away with Me” which coaxed me out of my stage phobia when I was 23. Many of the major rock singers, such as Geoff Tate, former frontman of Queensryche, who has such command of vocals and presence. Lastly, Nina Simone. The unapologetic power in her voice and presence. She represents a real, true, depth and authenticity that transcends layers in an otherwise largely superficial world.
Do you enjoy your job and please describe to us a normal day in your life?
So, I spent many years working under my father’s guidance, Paul Booth. He is a recognized master tattoo artist, a multi-disciplinarian in the underground arts industry and technology. It wasn’t easy working for him. I learned a lot, though, and it moved me into owning a house painting business – to finding my own desire in creating art, taking interior design classes, transitioning into scenic painting for independent theatre, music videos, fashion and major network tv. I use this resource called ArtCube for freelance art department gigs. They rock. In the residential world, I picked up carpentry skills and carried that over to the art department. I regularly work in Chelsea, Manhattan as a scenic carpenter for product photography sets and off-broadway theatre. Freelancing is a different cut of financial fabric. Some people call me a Renaissance woman. Some people call me other things. My bills are paid and so is my studio time. A lot of friends have helped me along the way, believing in my visions and I will never forget this. In June, a theatrical piece about a holocaust survivor is premiering in New Haven called History of Now. I just signed on as the Props Manager. All of this diversity of art production and project management has opened up possibilities in becoming a Set Designer and the role is beginning to take shape through various productions. For Wolf Moon, I was able to debut, “Crimson Clouds” which I rendered on Sketchup 3D modeling software; and we installed it at Cocoon Studios with the help of my grandmother, Paula Patrice, audio engineer Corey Zack, videographer Scott Abbott and Randy Wolf, my muse… and my heartbreak beat.
Lastly, where is your favourite venue to play live music?
To date, my favorite venue has been Tammany Hall in NYC. It was the first show I performed in NYC in 2012. There is a second-tier open mezzanine and I remember feeling the audience grow quiet when we started our set. I performed as a duet with my colleague, Fiona Barton. I will never forget this experience; doing yoga in the “greenroom.” In Paterson, NJ, where I was born, there is a kinda new venue. They are very cool. Really cool, funky fresh stage design already in place. We have a Wolf Moon tour date coming up there. Stay tuned on social channels.
Turn this up loud on Spotify.
Interview by Llewelyn Screen