“Being ‘The granddaughter of the Blues,’ people often tell me that I’m touched by my grandfather. They say I have a natural ear for music and I always reply by saying ..You’re right…it’s definitely in the blood--you see, my grandfather never died, he lives on through me"!

From generation to generation, America’s blues has enhanced the international music scene and who is more aware of that phenomenal expansion than Chicago-based Tomiko Dixon, who resides in the legendary home of the blues.

She began her career as a vocalist/songwriter in 2009 and only a year later formed ‘Grand Blues Music', her publishing company, which led to The Grand Blues Music Heritage Foundation in 2015—that same year she was Honorary Grand Marshall in the Chicago Defender’s 86th Annual Bud Billiken Parade (the largest African-American parade in America). Outside of her hometown, she is a long-standing member and supporter of Blues Foundations in Memphis, TN., Vicksburg, MS. And Helena, AR.

In addition, Tomiko has performed alongside and/or produced and recorded with a peer group of luminaries which include: Mud Morganfield, Barrelhouse Chuck, Buddy Guy, Gene (“Duke of Earl”) Chandler, Shirley King, The Chicago Blues Allstars, Billy Branch, Sugar Blue and too many more artists to list in this short space.

On a purely voluntary note, Tomiko has worked tirelessly on behalf of Chicago’s Light House for the Blind. She is also an advocate and voting member of the Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy.

Being both the granddaughter of a legend and a successful artist and entrepreneur in her own right, Tomiko has also been a featured subject in photography exhibits such as The Howard Greenblatt Legends in the Blues Exhibit (Blues & Root) in Chicago and St. Louis and In The Blues Around The World Exhibit, The Lynn Orman (Women in The Blues Photo Exhibit) but perhaps Tomiko is best known for her vivacious personality and ability to bring friends and strangers together (at fests and clubs alike) with her dynamic range, delightful sense of humour and heartfelt songwriting. Pennyblackmusic welcomes Tomiko Dixon for her first interview…

PB: When did you first realize you wanted to sing professionally and who were your influences?

TD: I realized that I wanted to sing professionally in 2008. I was 28-years-old. I called my uncles and professed to them that I wanted to sing the Blues. My influences were My Grand Father Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, Etta James, Moms Mabley, Denise LaSalle and others. I wanted to listen to and learn their songs

PB: You refer to yourself often as “the granddaughter of the blues.” In a video interview, you talked about your grandfather, Willie Dixon, and said, “I have to add on to what my grandfather did.” How much do you feel that your grandfather, Willie Dixon, influenced your career as a singer, songwriter and business person?

TD: Yes, I am, in fact “The Grand Daughter of the Blues.” It was one of the many names given to me by the Media, Press, family and the Blues Community. I’m sure that it was because the world will always consider my Grand Father Willie Dixon as "The Blues" or "The Grand Father of the Blues" and since I'm his most favored and talented Granddaughter I went on ahead to dominate that role because it was needed and appropriate. I am keeping this blues going, singing and writing just like he wanted me to do, so he influenced everything about me, from the way I think to the way I honor my family and represent myself.

PB: Willie Dixon once said, “The blues is all about the facts of life.” He had a very honest approach to songwriting. What is your philosophy about storytelling through music?

TD: My music is life, my inheritance and I simply write about all the things I’ve learned, observed and experienced in my life.

PB: Your songs are very powerful. On ‘My Inheritance’ (2010), ‘Living in the Hood’ deals with urban violence. On that same album, ‘Looking for Love’ reveals a vulnerable and reflective woman in the lyrics: “I thought it was real/I thought it would last…”. What are the back stories behind these two songs?

TD: ‘Living in the Hood’ was about what I saw and experienced growing up on the Southside of Chicago in the Englewood and Woodlawn Areas. ‘Looking for Love’ was about others and my experience with ‘Looking for Love’ in all the wrong places, like most of us have, I'm sure.

PB: When you write a new song, what do you usually come up with first?Melody, lyrics, theme?

TD: Well, it all depends, but most of the time it's the theme.

PB: You started a publishing company, Grand Blues Music, as well as the Grand Blues Music Heritage Foundation that same year. How do you juggle these commitments and still have time to perform?

TD: It's a piece of cake for me, my true calling, so I'm enjoying every moment and I’ve learned to pace myself.

PB: In 2015, you took part in the Chicago Blues Fest Tribute to Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. Both artists performed at Chicago’s first outdoor blues fest in 1969 and influenced future generations of rock stars and writers, What classic material drew the best audience reaction?

TD: Well, My Grand Father Willie Dixon actually produced that fest in 1969 and the first ever Negro Festival known now as the Folk Fest in the UK in 1962 with Horst Lippmann & Fritz Rau. Now at the Chicago Blues Fest Tribute in 2015, the biggest reaction came from my performance of ‘My Babe’ written by my Grandfather, Willie Dixon for Little Walter and a cover by Elvis Presley.

PB: When you perform a Willie Dixon cover, do you feel an emotional connection?

TD: Yes.

PB: Last year ‘You Don’t Wanna Mess with the IRS’ or ‘The IRS Blues’ appeared on a video. Who came up with the idea behind the song and the production of the video?

TD: I came up with everything myself. What inspired me was my actual dealings with the IRS two months prior to writing and recording the song.
I did, however, get some assistance from Larry Williams of the Mike Wheeler Band on the bassline for the song and video editing assistance from my friends at V2 Media in Memphis.

PB: What kind of reactions have you been getting on this project?

TD: I’ve been getting so many great responses for ‘The IRS Blues’ song.. I knew when I wrote it that it would be the talk of the town (laughs), because everyone at one point has or will deal with the IRS.

PB: This year, you released ‘Living in the Blues’ on which the track, ‘Heartache Blues’ appears(“Genre: Memphis Blues”),Was this song based on a real experience?

TD: Yes.

PB: How do you define “Memphis Blues?”

TD: The song was recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios with Memphis Musicians. Need I say more.

PB: The song ‘Golden’ shows you have a dynamic vocal range. Have you studied voice professionally?

TD: No, my singing and writing come naturally.

PB: How do you keep your voice in shape?

TD: I practice for one hour each day and it also helps to relax me so I find myself singing all the time.

PB: Is there any news you’d like to share in terms of future projects?

TD: Yes, I am one of the performing Headliners in this year’s up and coming Chicago Blues Fest 2018. I was handpicked by Delmark Records to perform in a tribute to Big Time Sarah. It's June 8, 2018 Millennium Park. The Showcase Tribute starts at 7 pm. My exact performance time is 7:30. Please arrive early for the best seating. The event is free and sponsored by the City of Chicago DCASE.

PB: Thank you.

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