Cali Tucker Determined to Make Her Own Place in Country Music
The music industry is full of performers who like to drop names and try to ride their way in on the coattails of others, especially if they can drop a name that’s part of the family. On the other hand, some artists would rather make it on their own and not rely on a family name.
Cali Tucker is one of the latter. When people in Nashville know you’re Tanya Tucker’s niece and may have seen you on stage with her, however, that can be easier said than done.
Cali Tucker is indeed the niece of Tanya, and the daughter of Tanya’s sister LaCosta, who enjoyed her own successful recording career some 30 years ago. For nearly a decade Cali has been performing at one venue or another, be it as a former Miss Teen American, a singer at Dollywood, or as a backup vocalist (with cousin Presley Tucker), and performing on the Grand Ole Opry with Tanya. Now, after years of touring, making demos and learning to write songs, the vivacious blonde is ready to break out on her own in some unorthodox ways. But then again, in the 21st century, the same old business model doesn’t work the way it used to anyway, and Cali is taking advantage of those differences.
“We’re doing an EP, and it’s going to be great,” Cali said, holding court at the Nashville Music Guide offices with her promotions manager, co-writer, and pretty much whatever else it will take to launch her career, songwriter/musician Mike Todd. “It’s going to sound they way it should, the way it should always have sounded during years of recording with friends or in people’s studios for a hundred bucks or whatever. That was all great and that was what it took to get me here, but now it’s really important for me to do it right.”
Tucker said that much of the team for the recording, which at press time looks like it will be done at Black River Sound Stage Studios, managed by Nick Autry, is in place. “I’m working with the best people and we’re all in the same corner,” she said, “and we plan to come out with a great CD that people will love. I never want to do what’s going on; I want to do what’s going to be the next step in country music. I see myself as, for lack of a better comparison, the Katy Perry of country music. Great songs, crazy outfits, real fun, sassy, energetic, girl power. But I love ballads too, and I love the minor melodies, real dark, eerie, emotional and edgy songs as far as lyrics and subject matter. “
To achieve these goals, Tucker has started her own company, a bold, but not altogether uncommon, move in a 2011 business environment where the old way of doing things—find a label, get a deal, sell some CDs, repeat five years later—is almost obsolete.
“To finance all this, we’ve started Mother Tucker Music,” she said, “and we’re accepting investors at $100 per share to help fund the EP project. It may seem somewhat ostentatious of us, but you have to think big.” Tucker said the goal is initially to raise $100,000 and see what happens from there.
As far as material, Tucker has been writing with Todd—a co-writer of Jason Wyatt’s Christian hit “Jesus Loves You” —for the past couple years. But both are smart enough to know that, in a city with the greatest writers in the world, they also have to be open to the material of others.
“When she came to me and said ‘I want to do this myself, this is my time,’ we started writing,” Todd said. “But I felt that, while what we’re writing is good, maybe even great, there are songs out there that we need to hear. I think we’ve been to just about every publisher in town looking for songs, but now we think we have them.”
Cali said that being the niece of a major star has been a blessing in some ways, but at the same time, she’s had to be careful how she plays her cards.
“I’ve kind of stayed under the radar, never sang much around Nashville because I know how critical this town can be,” she said. “I know how important first impressions can be. But now is the perfect time to move forward. A lot of people think that having a name can make it easier, but it’s just the opposite. They think I’ve got it easy. But there’s a lot more pressure than people think.”
The confident Tucker said she not only thinks there’s room for her on country radio, but that someone like her might be just what country radio needs.
“Out of the box, fun, sassy, sexy, I want to be for those girls who can’t always express themselves that way,” she said. “I want to break out of that box, and I want to break country music out of that box.”