The latest band on the rise out of Memphis, Tennessee is Southern Avenue. Named after a street that runs through parts of the city and ends in an area known as Soulsville, the home for Stax Records (the label that signed them), their sound truly captures the heart and soul of Memphis. The band is simply on fire and is wasting no time getting the music out to the masses.
They released their self-titled debut album in February, and the group has been nonstop ever since. We chatted it up with the band’s drummer, Tikyra Jackson, also known as TK, to get a more intimate scoop on how this band formed, as well as getting a personal look at one of the members.
L4LM: Who were your biggest role models growing up and helped shape who you are today, musically?
TK: My role models growing up definitely had to be my parents, first and foremost. They are both ministers and they had me in church almost every day of my life. They are also musicians. My mom’s an organist and my dad plays guitar, so growing up I was watching them. My older siblings are musicians and singers as well. I’m the sixth child out of seven. Those are my biggest influences – my family.
L4LM: Your sister, Tierinii, is also in the band. Growing up, were the two of you creating music together? Was that a natural thing that morphed into a band? What is it like working with your sister?
TK: Our parents had all of us singing in the church choir every Sunday. Southern Avenue is our first project together. Working with her, it’s fun. I get to wear her clothes all the time.We’re already close because we’re sisters. Being able to share this experience together makes everything so much more fun.
The band itself feels like family. We all feel like family, not just me and my sister. Only occasionally we get into arguments.
L4LM: Who are your most inspirational drummers and what drew you to playing the drums?
TK: Steve Gadd is one of my favorite drummers. My big brother is one of my favorite drummers as well. Funny story though. There’s a Beyonce concert from 2008, The Beyonce Experience, and she had an all-female band. That was the first time I saw a live band and a live show. That was the first time I thought, ‘I want to do this. I want to play drums and perform for the rest of my life.’ That was probably the biggest influence.
L4LM: Where do your ideas come from and what is the creative process when forming a new song?
TK: It’s different each time for each song. We all have different angles. A lot of the songs in the beginning were from Tierinii and Ori [Naftaly]. When we would be in rehearsal, I would just hear them play, then I would play whatever I felt and envisioned for it. That’s pretty much how the songs come about for the drum part. It also involves a large box of pizza, as we always get that during rehearsal.
L4LM: Your debut album has been really well received, and you’re gaining new fans daily. What has been the most surprising part of this journey so far?
TK: We created our music, so we understand what it means to us, but when the fans come and tell us how it got them through their day, how it means a lot to them, or how it resonates with them, that’s probably the most rewarding thing to hear. We’ve been creating music our whole lives and to finally be able to share and have it be received so well is a blessing. We also like to travel, so getting to meet everybody in different places is a lot of fun.
L4LM: Southern Avenue has a unique blend of musicians from different backgrounds which only adds to the unique flavor of your sound. Was there a defining moment when the band was forming that you said, ‘This is it. This is the group of people that is going to make this band’?
TK: That’s hard to say. We’ve been together for almost two years. I know when Tierinii and Ori met, they instantly felt the connection as music partners and being able to write music. From the beginning, Ori had a dream to make it as a musician. When he met me and my sister, he told us his dream and we believed in him. It became a group effort and not just a one person thing. Southern Avenue is all of our making.
L4LM: Now that your tour is well underway, do you have any great van stories, or stories from the road?
TK: O.M.G. What’s the rating of this interview? We definitely have had some amazing experiences. One of which is my favorite. We went to Colorado and we played at this festival called Blues From the Top. Eric Gales headlined but Samantha Fish and a lot of other great artists were there. The festival took place over the whole weekend, like four or five days, and each night was something different, like a jam session. The guy that put the festival on, his name is John Catt and he has cancer, so it was a very spiritual event for everybody. To be able to share with so many people, that was probably one of the most memorable band stories. We have so much family in Colorado now because of that.
L4LM: Southern Avenue is lined up for a bunch of festivals coming up. What are you looking forward to most this summer?
TK: I’m definitely looking forward to meeting more musicians. That’s the most fun for me. It’s cool to meet other people who are on the same road as you, doing what they love. It’s exciting. You play music, you do your show and then you get to relax and hear other bands. That’s the most exciting, and creating more music. It never gets old.
L4LM: Has there been a band that you connected with really well?
TK: That’s hard to say. We played with Marcus King and that was amazing. He’s amazing. My sister and I sang on stage with him and they are great people.
We played with this band called Gedeon Luke & the People, who are actually from Memphis, but we met them in New York. There’s been so many great bands and opportunities for us.
L4LM: Do you have any words of advice that you would like to say to any young drummers out there, and more specifically, female drummers out there?
TK: First, to the female drummers, I would like to say, always know who you are. Always keep your head up and stand your ground. Men cannot exist without women in this world. As a woman, you can do anything, whether it’s playing the drums or doing whatever it is that you want to do. To all the female drummers that are coming up, keep the beat going and never give up.
For the young musicians out there, anything is possible. Anything that inspires you to write music and create music, always go for it. Always believe in yourself and know anything is possible. All of these fantasies and movies had to come from somewhere. They all came from somebody’s story, so it’s achievable for anybody.
L4LM: Any last thoughts to the fans of Southern Avenue?
TK: Southern Avenue loves our fans and we always keep you guys in mind. We love you guys and thank you for the support. We definitely feel it and appreciate it.
Check out their music below and be sure to visit their website for more information, including tour dates.
Southern Avenue – “Don’t Give Up”
[Video: Concord Records]