Roxy Roca is a nine-piece original soul/R&B band based in Austin, Texas. The band is fronted by Taye Cannon, a “soul-shouter” who definitely connects with the audience. In my interview with Taye, you’ll learn about his childhood in Alabama and the influence of his father, Motown Records, and 70′s African-American sitcoms. You’ll also learn how he became the voice of the darkwave/punk group, Mocktigers, and how those performances groomed him for Roxy Roca. First, enjoy the video for Roxy Roca’s single, “Try My Love”, from their upcoming album.
JW: You’ve referenced on the Roxy Roca website how the Motown 25 special as a watershed moment in your of interest of soul music performance. Were your friends at that age into R&B/soul as well?
TC: I don’t remember my friends being into it. I was pretty young when it aired. I think I was 7. I remember it being a big deal, the reunion of the Four Tops and The Temptations — that had my Dad pretty fired up all day leading up. Funny story. My father kept referring to Michael Jackson as “your boy” when he was talking to my brother. In my head that meant that my brother knew MJ. I remember watching in awe when he busted out the moonwalk — thinking he was my brother’s friend!! What really struck a chord with me was when Marvin Gaye came out and sat down at the piano. That moment was life changing for me. He was discussing what made Motown the music of yesterday, today, and forever — his playing was so captivating — it was poetry — he was talking about old wooden churches and rent parties — I hung on his every word. Marvin Gaye has to be one of the coolest entertainers ever — he could walk outside to get the morning paper in a robe and shades and be the baddest dude on the planet.
JW: You’ve also mentioned in other interviews that your father really inspired your sense of style. How did he influence that?
TC: He was a sharp dressed man. He wore a suit Monday through Friday and on Sunday. He always took the time to point out style to me when we were out. He had a Steve McQueen thing going on. My father was always playing music and singing candidly around the house to my Mama. I always thought he just came up with these lines until I would hear them later on a record or the radio. His enthusiasm for soul music influenced my cousin, my brother, and me. My brother and I would always play his records and I would just sprawl out on the floor and marvel at how dapper all the dudes on the albums were. The “Gettin’ Ready” record cover of The Temptations sticks out in my childhood memory. I have his record collection now.
JW: For many R&B/soul singers, an affiliation with religion (particularly Christianity) is a part of the ritual of developing the emotive skill of performance (particularly vocal). Is this also true for you, or was there another source?
TC: I would say that is true for sure. I grew up in church, my Mama played piano in the church up until I was born. Gospel has always impacted me heavily. Occasionally we would have a guest singer in the choir that was from a gospel church and those moments hit me like a freight train. If you wanna see a grown man get emotionally stirred up, just put on a good ole gospel record around me.
JW: What haven did punk rock music provide for you as you got older and how did a soul music kid become the voice of the darkwave/punk outfit, Mocktigers?
TC: For a guy that didn’t excel at any one instrument, Punk Rock was the gateway to my dream. When I started out all I really had was an unrelenting desire to express myself and perform — that, accompanied with a heavy dose of rebellion. You didn’t have to have a lot of singing experience to sing Punk. The guys that I started Mocktigers with patiently allowed me to come into my own. I like all kinds of music — soul is just closest to my heart.
JW: How did the experience of performing in Mocktigers groom you for Roxy Roca?
TC: It was training, and I hit it hard. At a certain point the music takes over my body and I take it out on the stage — that part hasn’t changed much. I needed the reps — I don’t think I would have been ready for ROXY ROCA right out of the gates.
JW: Up to this point, when you asked guitarist Errol Siegel to join you in creating a soul band, had he or anyone for that matter heard you sing soul?
TC: No, I don’t think anyone had — maybe a few girlfriends and my brother. I was really shy about it — because it means soo much to me — I think I was afraid to screw it up. You can only bottle up a dream for so long; after a while it is gonna come out whether you like it or not.
JW: The name of the band is inspired by the late actress, Roxie Roker (mother of Lenny Kravitz), known best for her role in the Jeffersons. What inspired that choice?
TC: In terms of equality, that show had an effect on me. Racism was not in my home but I did grow up around it. I had peers at a young age that were not even allowed to watch my favorite shows: The Jeffersons, Sanford and Sons, Good times… I couldn’t understand that. The relationship between Helen (Roker) and Tom Willis really stuck with me. I loved how they let all the name calling and ridicule just roll off their backs — in the name of love. That stuck with me in all kinds of uncomfortable situations growing up, and gave me the strength to stand up to people that were telling racist jokes around me in school or whatever. Later in junior high I was really into what Lenny was preaching, “Let Love Rule,” only to find out that Roxie was his mother, and there she was again. When it came time to pick a name for the band her name simply popped up in my head. BAAM! Roxie Roker just has that ring to it, like Foxy Brown, ya know? We decided to make it a play on her name to make it less confusing, and ROXY ROCA was born. Now we do what we do in the name of love.
JW: What the best compliment you’ve received after a live show from someone you didn’t expect to receive a compliment from?
TC: We close out our shows with a song called “Happiness is a Choice.” It is basically the band getting really funky while I connect with the people — it’s all about feeling — and feeding off of each other– some call it preaching. I have had people approach me in tears after the show, explaining that the song and the message helped them get through something that had been holding them down. That is what it’s all about for me. It’s what Rev Al Green referred to on one of his gospel records as “The Pleasant Tide” and I have adopted that as my mission: to bring as many people as I can to a Pleasant Tide of Life — not in a religious way — but uplifting for sure — spiritual.