Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Tia Fuller On Growth, Artistic Vision & Leading By Example

Tia Fuller

Photo: Jerris Madison


Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Tia Fuller On Growth, Artistic Vision & Leading By Example

The jazz saxophonist and former member of Beyoncé's touring band talks about her tears of joy for her first GRAMMY nom, her journey to get there, and the personal meaning behind the title of her nominated album, 'Diamond Cut'

GRAMMYs/Jan 26, 2019 - 06:55 am

Jazz saxophonist Tia Fuller recently earned her first GRAMMY nod for her fifth LP, Diamond Cut, becoming the second-ever female solo artist to be nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. Growing up in a musically inclined household, music, especially jazz, runs through her veins, and her vision of playing sax was set at a young age.

Realizing that vision has taken Fuller many places. From touring with Beyoncé as part of her all-female backing band to teaching at the prestigious Berklee College of Music to recording as a successful solo artist and touring as the bandleader, Fuller has an inspiring story.

We recently spoke to Fuller to learn more about her journey, what she learned from working Queen Bey (hint: it's a lot more than just how to perform in heels), and at what age she knew she wanted to be a musician. She also shared how emotional the GRAMMY nomination felt, how she sees her role as a female in jazz music, and the powerful meaning behind the title Diamond Cut.

How did you hear the news of your first GRAMMY nomination? What was your initial reaction?

Oh, goodness. I heard about it from my publicist on the morning that the results were out. I was lying in bed, checking my phone, and she had said, "Congratulations." And I thought, congratulations for what? And then she screenshotted my category [Best Jazz Instrumental Album], and I just started crying. It was one of the most emotional moments ever for me.

I called Terri [Lyne Carrington, who produced Diamond Cut] right after I found out and I was crying so hard that she couldn't even understand me. I finally I told her, and she was like, "Oh gosh, I thought somebody had died. That's amazing!"

Shortly after that, I saw one of my best friends who teaches with me at the Berklee. She's like a sister of mine; her name is Mimi Jones. She asked if I was okay, so I told her and she said, "See Tia, I told you!" And then she started crying; we were just celebrating and praising God. After that, it was an influx of emails and text messages saying congratulations for the rest of the day, which was really amazing.

Any time I think about it, I start tearing up and realize it's really a combination of my whole trajectory as a musician, from the very beginning of when I started playing and all of my goals that I set. It's truly a blessing.

What made you want to pursue becoming a jazz musician?

My parents are musicians, my dad is a professional bass player and my mom is a singer. My sister is a great pianist who worked with me my last couple albums. I come from a family of musicians so I was surrounded by music my whole life. I am thankful because growing up I was so exposed to jazz in particular.

I've taken ownership over being, and not proving who I am, or trying to prove who I am; allowing myself to be in the process and embracing every aspect of being a woman, an educator, a musician, a woman of color in the male-dominated world.

Have there been major moments that validated your path as an artist?

There's many more moments, but [one] notable one is the Beyoncé gig. If that week had played out any other way I wouldn't have been able to audition for her band. To make a long story short, I was preparing to go into the studio to record my first album with my record label that had just signed me, Mack Avenue Records. Earlier that week I was coming from rehearsal for the recording, and I went to the audition for Beyoncé band. It was a long line outside of Sony's studios, so I cut the line because it would've been an eight-hour line and I had to get back to my studio. I played Beyoncé's "Work It Out" for the audition.

The next day, I went into the studio to record my album, over three days. On that Friday evening, my last day in the studio recording, I got a call back from Beyoncé's people saying I made the first callbacks. I was able to go to the second call backs on Saturday and then the third call backs.

If they would have called any other day that week I would've not been able to be able to go, because being in the studio would've taken precedent. So I kept seeing these small blessings as to how I was able to do both. And that to me was a very clear indication that this is what I was supposed to be doing.

What was the biggest thing you learned from working and touring with Beyoncé and that amazing experience as a whole?

Well besides being able to walk in heels on stage? [Laughs.]

It was really empowering to see her function as a woman, a woman of color, as a leader, as a bandleader; seeing how she worked with her staff of 50 to 60 people—outside of the band—who traveled with her. I saw how she would always turn no's and into yeses, as far as being able to really walk fervently with her vision for her show, and for her life.

I observed how meticulously she put her shows together and how her shows were seamless. The way that she created the set list was extraordinary. It had everything in it genre-wise, music for an actual audience. These are all things that now I consider, and it's enhanced my process as far as creating set list for my band of 10. She showed me how consistency leaves room for spontaneity; everybody knows what they're supposed to do within the framework of the template set up for the show and how things are supposed to move in this show. It works even though I'm playing a different genre of music.

Diamond Cut is the first solo album you've put out in six years, since 2012's Angelic Warrior. As you mentioned, you've also taken on the role as a professor at Berklee—how have you grown or changed as a recording artist and as a musician over this time period?

Oh goodness, there's definitely been some growth. I've taken ownership over being, and not proving who I am, or trying to prove who I am; allowing myself to be in the process and embracing every aspect of being a woman, an educator, a musician, a woman of color in the male-dominated world.

Early on a lot of interwoven issues were brought to the forefront when I was out there playing, when I was really just trying to focus on the music. A lot of people would come up and say, "Oh, well maybe you need to smile when you're playing on stage." Or someone goes, "Why don't you come over here and help with this and that," but they're not saying anything to the other musicians.

I think that I have evolved, especially in the past six years, that I have been able to really come into the fullness and oneness of what I have to offer and am not trying to prove myself, instead allowing myself to be who I am and and celebrate that and in every aspect.

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I read that the title for Diamond Cut is a metaphor for the time you've spent developing yourself and your artistic craft. Can you speak to that a little bit more?

I was looking for a title for some time and diamonds just kept coming to me in the process. The first reason for using diamonds in the title is celebrating legends of the community. That's why I included Jack DeJohnette, the legendary drummer, and Dave Holland on bass, celebrating our diamonds in the community.

The second reason, which is more personal to me, came from when I started reading up on diamonds. There are three things I realized. The first thing is that when a diamond is embedded in the earth's surface, it knows that it's a diamond upon extraction even though it's enclosed in ore. Once the diamond starts to rise to the earth's surface it has to endure an extreme amount of pressure and high temperatures to get to the earth's surface.

That relates specifically to my life as far as I know that I got put on this earth for a purpose. And like I said before, I took ownership, knowing that I'm a diamond but that I definitely had work to do. I still am doing the work, all the formulating and then all of the things that I've had to in order to rise to the top. Now the third part is really the catch, the term “diamond cut” doesn't pertain to the size or the shape of the diamond, but it pertains to how much light is reflected in the diamond; that's where the brilliance of the diamond lies.

What does a GRAMMY nomination for Diamond Cut mean to you personally and your artistic journey?

Oh my goodness. Wow. [Pauses] Emotional. It allowed me to see that all is possible.

No matter how it looks upon the inception of the diamond, you'll go through good times, and you'll go through bad times, and it's important to maintain a crystallized vision of your purpose because everything is possible in life. And it may not happen when you think it's supposed to happen, but to know that in the midst of my life, I realized that everything had its place and I'm walking in my purpose, being a light for others, and it's been reiterated. Whether it be on stage, whether it be in the classroom, whether it be for your family, it's you who is opening up opportunities for others and you who is letting them see that it is possible.

In my category, in the 61-year history of the GRAMMYs, I think I'm the second woman to be nominated, after Terri Lyne Carrington was nominated and won in 2014. So me being there is making a statement, now for women it's an equal playing ground. We're showing our presence, we're out here, and we have always been out here. In the history of music, specifically jazz, we've been pioneering this music, and now we are more so being seen. So this is giving me the opportunity to be a vessel for women, for other young women who are out there and now were saying, "See, we're doing it."

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/


Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images


Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

Lady Gaga

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images


Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes

GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program

GRAMMYs/Oct 12, 2017 - 11:03 pm

On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.

Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.

"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."

The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.

"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards


Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.