Americana Highways got to sit down with Jessica Pyrdsa, better know as Datura, to discuss her ravishing cover of everyone’s favorite Christmas Carol, Tom Waits’ Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis and her annual Tom Waits Tribute which will be live streamed December 14th at 7pm (CST).
AH: Hey Jessica, tell us a bit about the Tom Waits tribute night?
JP: Our Austin Tribute to Tom Waits has quickly turned into what may be my favorite night of the year. As we’re all aware, 2020 brought challenges to us, so this year I am hosting the event virtually with Austin Folk Festival. We have over 15 musicians/bands on the lineup so have your drink of choice near by and your surround sound on and get ready to settle in to your couch for a couple of hours.
AH: How long has your Tom Waits Tribute been going on?
JP: There have been other pop up Tom Waits Tribute nights over the years – naturally – but for us, this is our Fourth Annual! We always hold it in December, right around his birthday (which is Dec. 7) and each year it has gotten to be a bigger and bigger celebration.
AH: Where would the tribute normally be held?
JP: The past three years we have hosted the show at Stay Gold in front of their dreamy sparkly gold stage curtain. They have always been so great to us…Justin the sound guy putting up with 15+ set changes, Emily and the bartenders creating themed Tom Waits cocktails (i.e. Grapefruit Moon, Bad Liver & A Broken Heart, Jockey Full of Bourbon, etc)…the venue gets filled to the brim. It’s always been one of my favorite venues to play. Hopefully we will get to go back in 2021.
AH: How do you decide which artists perform?
JP: Year one, I just reached out to my musician friends that I knew shared the same affinity for Tom as me. As word spread each year, I get more interest from other artists wanting to play and to be involved in the night. Knowing how deep the love for Tom Waits runs, I try to include everyone, hence last years 3 hour show (eek!).
AH: Why Tom Waits?
JP: He’s one of my all time heroes and main influences for songwriting and piano playing. It brings so much joy to me to tip our caps to him and to be able to provide a platform for other people who feel the same way I do. Everyone has their own reasons why TW means so much to them; to their musical careers and to their personal lives and every year on one night, we all get to get together in the same place to share that love with each other and raise a glass.
AH: Any memorable highlights from the past years?
JP: Oh man, so many. I cry at least 3 times minimum from being overwhelmed by the emotion and energy of the performances. Not to call out favorites but here I am; Tom Waits in life, reincarnated in who have now become some of my favorite people, Gary Lindsey (of The Pleasure Tide), Guy Forsyth, and Clif Tipton (of Bluesqueezebox) – and all from different time periods of his career. They are some characters and some performances never to miss.
AH: Tell us a bit about the song you’ve covered?
JP: The song I covered, Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis, has always been one of my go-tos. It’s from one of my favorite albums “Blue Valentine” (1978). I enjoy singing it because it’s a character piece. To me it encompasses the romanticism I have of the time period. It’s one of Tom Wait’s classically written lyrical stories from the point of view of a hooker writing to a past lover. Although not a classic Christmas tune to most, for me it is, so I decided to release it for the holidays.
AH: Where did you record it?
JP: I recorded it here in Austin, TX at King Electric Recording Studio with Justin Douglas. He’s a good friend and a master at what he does. On the record is Phil Spencer on upright bass, Paul Deemer on trombone and myself on piano and vocals.
AH: How can people tune into to the show this year?
JP: We will be streaming live from Austin Folk Festival’s Facebook Page on December 14th from 7pm to 9pm CST. I will be hosting it and joining me via their location of choice will be 15+ musicians/bands.
Datura is the stage name of Austin’s Jessica Pyrdsa. Check out more of her beautiful music at http://www.daturamusic.com.