Chicago Blues Festival Preview: NELLIE TIGER TRAVIS

Picture this Post (PTP) spoke with a number of artists performing at the 2017 Chicago Blues Festival, happening June 9-11 in Millennium Park. Here, Nellie Tiger Travis (NTT), a blues and soul singer performing at 5 PM on Saturday, June 10 at the Pritzker Pavilion shares her thoughts about the Blues and more.

Travis, an established star in the blues community, has performed at blues festivals across the globe and regularly plays at Chicago venues like Kingston Mines and Buddy Guy’s Legends. The following is a transcript of our interview.

Read our full preview of the Chicago Blues Festival here

PTP: When and how did you decide to pursue music professionally?

NTT: Next year will be 30 years of doing music professionally.

PTP: Why is the genre important to you?

NTT: It’s a part of my heritage. I connect with the blues because of my upbringing. I grew up in the Mississippi Delta region, so I really grew up in gospel. But blues was a still big influence on me. Gospel was mostly my thing, but blues is what it is now. Blues is more heartfelt.

NELLIE TIGER TRAVIS
Photo: Nellie Tiger Travis

PTP: What are your biggest musical influences, both blues and otherwise?

NTT: Koko Taylor was a huge influence on my life. We were actually good friends. Other music… I’d say Gladys Knight, Tina Turner were some other favorites. But Koko is queen.

NELLIE TIGER TRAVIS
Travis scored a hit with "Mr. Sexy Man," which inspired a popular line dance Photo: Nellie Tiger Travis

PTP: Besides gospel music, what are your biggest interests? Do you draw artistic inspiration from these non-musical pursuits?

NTT: At this point it’s all about the music with me. I like television and movies, but with music, you get to travel, you get to do everything. I’ve traveled abroad – it’s like a paid vacation when I travel. (laughs)

PTP: How have you seen the world of blues music change in recent years? What future do you envision for blues music?

NTT: Well, I’ve seen it change tremendously. The future of it could be devastating. I teach at Columbia College, where we’re trying to get kids to still be instilled in the blues. I could see it going away as a part of our culture. That’s why I am one of many that are striving to keep the blues going.

PTP: What should we expect from your set this weekend?

NTT: I’m gonna be doing all originals. I’m gonna shut it down – that’s what I do. (laughs)

PTP: What projects are you currently working on? Any plans you wish to let Picture this Post readers know about?

NTT: I just finished what they call a “Southern soul” album, and now I’m working on a blues album.

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