Mothers In Jazz (30): Tierney Sutton

Mothers In Jazz” is a new series, started by vocalist Nicky Schrire. The initiative aims to create an online resource for working jazz musicians with children, those contemplating parenthood, and jazz industry figures who work with and hire musicians who are parents. The insight of the musicians interviewed for this series provides valuable emotional, philosophical and logistical information and support that is easily accessible to all. “Mothers In Jazz” shines a light on the very specific role of being both a mother and a performing jazz musician.

Known for her impeccable voice and imaginative treatments of The Great American Songbook, Tierney Sutton is heralded for her abilities as both a jazz storyteller and an impeccable musician, really using her voice as an instrument. The American vocalist has released fifteen albums, nine of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards for “Best Jazz Vocal Album”. In 2016 she and her bandmates composed the original score to Clint Eastwood’s film “Sully”, and her recent work as a producer and vocal coach includes multiple projects for French soprano Natalie Dessay. Tierney splits her time between Los Angeles and Paris and has a 25 year old son.

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Tierney Sutton. Photo credit Tatiana Shoan

LondonJazz News: What is the best advice you received about balancing/juggling motherhood and career? 

Tierney Sutton: Having a child enriches you as an artist and having a career enriches you as a parent. It’s really hard (especially for women) but it’s good in both directions.

LJN: What information or advice do you wish you’d received but didn’t (and had to learn through trial and error or on-the-go)?

TS: You need to have very clear conversations with your partner (assuming you have one) about the exact tasks and time commitments of parenting. It’s a career in and of itself.

LJN: Your top tip(s) for other mothers in jazz:

TS: My biggest advice is to HAVE a child and not to avoid parenthood for the sake of one’s career. Also, to prioritize your partnership (if you have one) because that helps everything.

LJN: Best general travel/tour-with-child advice: 

TS: It’s the same as touring without a child. Plan, plan, plan. Pack ahead and pack as light as possible. And DON’T check anything important.

LJN: What has surprised you about becoming a parent and remaining engaged with your professional activities and ambitions? 

TS: It surprised me that my real success came after my son was born, and not before.

LJN: What boundaries have you set for yourself as a mother in jazz (could be related to travel/touring, riders, personal parameters, child care decisions, etc.)?

TS: I think this is so personal as it has to be done on a case by case basis. For all of us, our careers and schedules are so varied and change from year to year. And the needs of your kids will change too.

Tierney’s  fifteenth album came out on 6 May 2022 and is called “Paris Sessions II”. Like the first volume, it features guitarist Serge Merlaud and bassist Kevin Axt, but this time flautist Hubert Laws as guest.

LINK: Tierney Sutton’s website

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