By Ken Wallis.
When Garnetta Cromwell takes the stage, you’re in for a special treat. Kenny ‘Blues Boss’ Wayne nailed it when he said: “If Aretha Franklin & Tina Turner had a daughter, her name would be Garnetta Cromwell.” She can belt it out with the best of them and her voice crackles with electricity that almost makes your hair stand up on end. She’s a remarkable musician who’s both serious about her music while at the same time wearing a badge that should have the word fun engraved on it.
Ken Wallis interviewed Garnetta Cromwell for the radio show BluesSource Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview, edited and amended for clarity and length.
We've got our hands on a brand-new album. It’s Garnetta Cromwell and it’s called Time To Shine and what an apt title that is. Joining us is Garnetta Cromwell.
Hi Ken, how are you?
I'm doing just fine. Just great getting together with you. So, tell us a little bit about the album. How did you come about the title?
I decided on Time To Shine because I've been singing since I was a little girl and I’ve never really been all into it because life gives you so many obstacles. I had to raise my children and just things that were coming my way, and I wasn't really focused on my music until recently. My kids are all grown now, and they said Mom, it's time for you to get out there and shine. So that's how I came up with Time To Shine. So hopefully that works and I love the album.
How would you describe your music for someone that hasn't heard it yet?
My music is happy-go-lucky music. I love dancing and I love singing, so if I can get somebody up through my music to dance, and sing, and be as cheerful as I am, then I've achieved what I wanted to accomplish. Most of the music is soulful blues. I was raised with a lot of soul and blues. Actually, my mother raised me with a lot of genres like country, blues. I wanted to take all of what I've grown up with and put it all into one. It also speaks about parts of my life that I was going through, so each song actually talks about certain parts of my life.
That certainly comes out. Tell us about the song Miss Marva Anne.
That song is about my mama. My mother was a very strong woman, may she rest in peace, but she loved music. Ken, I'll tell you, and it doesn't matter how mommy was feeling on any day, when she played music, everything was totally forgotten. It was all about music and you can see that in her. As soon as she played music, she got up and danced. She was in much happier spirits no matter what was going on in the world around her, or what was happening to her that day, just anything that was happening in her life. I saw that and it reflected off of her unto me. I remember I’d go to school and I knew what type of mood my mother was in by the time I even touched the door to walk in. Honestly if I heard music playing, I knew she was in a good mood and I could probably get some money to run down to the store and get some candy.
The other song that really sticks out for me is Weekend, and I think the lyrics really mean a lot to you. Tell us about that one.
I wrote that one when I was working at a steel plant in Burlington, Ontario, and I was on a 3 week rotational shift. You work one week days, one week afternoons, and the following week on nights. You really had no chance to adjust to anything. So, on a Sunday, I knew I couldn't be having my weekend, my weekend Sunday was shot as I had to go in on Sunday night. When it comes to the weekends, I would love the weekends because this is when I went out and to find open jams to hang out with, making new friends, I just had fun. I was able to let my hair down when the weekend came, everybody gets excited for the weekend. When I’d go back into work on a Monday I'd walk up to my co-workers and say hey how you doing, and they’d say it's Monday, you know living the dream. And I'm thinking to myself, this is living the dream? Well no, on the weekend I live my dream, and this is how Weekend came along.
And you've got a pretty darn good producer on this album.
Oh, do I ever, he's a one of a kind man, Ken Whiteley, what a masterpiece he is. I tell you, him and his engineer Nick, I can't pronounce Nick's last name, so Nick please forgive me this, but I'll spell it out for you t-j-e-l-i-o-s. He and Ken Whiteley together are such an awesome team. They catch sounds. I was there during the mixing and I didn't even hear anything wrong with it, but Ken and him picked it out and I was like wow. The ear that Ken Whiteley has is amazing, the attention to detail that Ken Whitely has is amazing. The patience that he has is amazing. The overall vibe that he gives off to you is that he's trying to pull up the best and he does that very, very well.
And you're got a solid backup band, Dagroovmasters.
They work very, very hard. We did our album live off the floor. We weren't sure how it was going to go. Ken was kind of sceptical, but once we started playing he liked it. Ken came to a few of our rehearsals to check us out, talk to us, get to know us. The band worked really hard and once we got to the studio, and you know what happens in the studio, magic! Magic happens in the studio. and that's like I said, the vibes that Ken Whiteley gives off we were so relaxed that we just played music for the love of music, and he hit record. It was fantastic and the guys are right in sync. They're hard-working and they're all like fantastic musicians. They've been around for a while, even before I even met them.
The album just reeks of fun!
It does [Laughter]
The more I read about you, the more I am amazed by you. You were a drummer in a reggae band, you're a gold medal weightlifter, you went to the International Blues Challenge. How was that?
That was quite the experience for me, and you know Memphis, believe it or not, was on my bucket list way back when. Now I never knew I'd get there. I was thankful enough and grateful enough that we got to go there. Now we didn't win, but you know, deep down in my heart, I won because I got to go there and I got to see and hear such fantastic Blues musicians. I met a lot of people there and my favourite part was when I went to visit Aretha Franklin's homestead. I just learned a lot about where blues music came from. Soul, pop music, country music, all that was there in the Stax Museum. When I went to Memphis I caught like three birds with one stone. It was fantastic, it was quite the experience and I hope to go there again especially on Beale Street.
Again, the album is Time To Shine, and Garnetta Cromwell is certainly shining right now. Where can folks get a hold of your album?
The album is not being officially released until Friday September the 8th. But, through Spotify, Bandcamp, SoundCloud, all the digital platforms. You can go on my website and order off there, or you can just come down to our shows, hang out at our shows, and buy the CD there.
And that's my next question, What shows do you have coming up in the near future?
September the 2nd I’ll be at the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club. September the 16th I'll be back in Port Dover, a place called Gator at the Norfolk. We're heading over to Montreal and Kingston, and Wolfe Island in October. Plus, we’ll be showcasing at Folk Music Ontario in London.
You're a busy gal.
Yeah, we've been quite busy which is fantastic. They say when you're busy, you're doing well.
Well that's for sure, you're doing very well, and I hope to catch you live soon. I thank you so much for your time it's been great chatting with you.
Thank you so much Ken, and I really appreciate this interview.
Beach Bash Party
02 Sep 2023
Saturday 555 Bay Street North, Hamilton, ON, Canada
CD Release Party in Hamilton, ON
08 Sep 2023
Friday11 Lansdowne Avenue, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Gator at the Norfolk
16 Sep 2023
Saturday200 Main Street, Port Dover, ON, Canada
Jazz Vespers Series w Ori Dagan
30 Sep 2023
Saturday 2550 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada
12 Oct 2023
Thursday1237 County Road 96, Wolfe Island, ON, Canada
13 Oct 2023
Friday397a Saint-Catherine Street West, Montreal, QC, Canada
Folk Music Ontario
14 Oct 2023
SaturdayLondon, ON, Canada
Toronto CD Release Party at Redwood Theatre
24 Nov 2023
Friday1300 Gerrard Street East, Toronto, ON, Canada
Special Guest @ Jo Blos Roc n Woks
02 Dec 2023
Saturday2 Pelham Rd, St. Catharines, ON, Canada
Photo Credits: Ken Wallis.
FOLLOW GARNETTA CROMWELL