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Rising Stars: Meet Tessa Karrys

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tessa Karrys.

Hi Tessa, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
My passion for music started as a little kid; and while it was something that I enjoyed, I never thought of it as an area of any special talent for me. After moving to rural Arizona from Chicago when I was 11, I attended a small charter school that didn’t have a music program and I stopped playing completely. By the time I was in high school, I felt a drive to play music again and I borrowed my brother’s guitar to start taking lessons. I started writing my own songs as soon as I learned more than two chords. Songwriting immediately became a form of creative expression and it felt so natural.

I began to share my songs with my circle of friends, family, and eventually a local musician/friend, Landon Shill, who ended up becoming a mentor to me. It wasn’t until I started casually playing music with him that I realized not only did I love to sing, but people seemed to enjoy listening to it as well! By my late teens, I was regularly writing music and taking the opportunities as they came. I played some gigs with Landon, frequented open mic nights, volunteered to teach an elementary music class at the charter school I went to, attended music workshops, and eventually started playing my own sets for tips at a local coffee shop on the weekends.

I played on and off while finishing college at ASU, but it wasn’t until working in Cambodia after I graduated that a more serious pursuit of music began to take shape. What started as an open mic night turned into a weekly gig, “Tuesdays with Tessa”, at a small Italian restaurant/bar in Siem Reap. It built confidence bringing in a crowd that wasn’t friends or family, and built my setlist substantially playing a 2-3 hour set every week on my own. When I came home to AZ, something that had been holding me back and keeping me from putting myself and music out there was gone.

I called or visited places to ask about playing shows and a couple opportunities grew into performing all over the state at a variety of venues as well as private events. I played open mics every week to share original music and meet other musicians and began to see my name as an opener on local band tickets and eventually as a headliner. Over the next few years, I continued to play regular shows, write music, and build upon the foundation and connections I had made. We all know this last year and a half made it difficult for musicians to perform live and changed the way we share our music.

As I get back to performing live again, I am even more grateful for the time and energy I dedicated to my music before becoming a mother and before the pandemic. From here, I plan to continue to perform regularly, return to teaching music in a limited capacity, and get back in the studio to record a full length album.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
When I think of my path as an artist and the ups and downs along the way, I think most of my earlier struggles were due to my own personal expectations. Art and creative expression is such a personal thing, but when I began to share it with others and make a career out of it, it became difficult to not compare and place expectations on my music and my path as an artist. Struggles came from thinking I should be somewhere different than I was, my music should be different, or my skills should be more advanced. One of the more recent struggles that I’ve dealt with is physical changes from pregnancies changing my voice and affecting the strength and stability of muscles used for singing.

I never fully appreciated how well I knew and could use my voice as an instrument until suddenly that wasn’t the case. It became a sort of identity crisis having my own voice become unfamiliar and unpredictable to me. It took patience and practice to regain strength and become more comfortable with the changes. At this point, I feel the changes in my voice reflect the changes I’ve been through in the last few years. I’ve become a wife, a mother, and lost my own mother to cancer just weeks before giving birth to my second daughter. I’m not the same person I was and it feels right and authentic that my voice wouldn’t be the same either.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a musician and I specialize as a singer-songwriter and a performer. I think what I am known for is a soulful, heartfelt style and a passion for what I do. Even if I’m playing covers, I try and make every song my own. It’s not as fun to play a song and have it sound just like the original when a person can listen to that version anytime they want! I am proud of the way I put experiences and feelings into a song and connect with others through this medium. I know the difference it makes for me when I read a poem or hear a song and feel like someone has just put words to something I felt but couldn’t name or I feel validated and seen in an experience/time of life/etc. I try to do that through my songwriting and performing, both for myself and for those listening.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I think we all benefit when someone honors their unique voices and shares their gifts with their community. Please share your art and support the artists around you! We need you.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Tiffany Haynes
Bill Goodman
Mike Roessmann

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